AI To Impact

PODCAST: COVID 19 | Redefining Digital Enterprises

Episode 8: COVID-19 and Changing Facets of Customer Engagement

Listening time: 11 minutes

COVID-19 and Changing Facets of Customer Engagement

In this episode of AI to Impact, Jitendra Jethanandani, Director, Enterprise Tech at BRIDGEi2i, discusses how the current COVID-19 pandemic spreads waves of uncertainty across businesses and their customer base requiring a renewed focus required on customer engagement. It’s important for B2B enterprises to stay engaged with their customer as they go through the scenario planning exercise. They will need to drive an integrated effort to prioritize and stay relevant across the customer life cycle. Capturing data about the customer and making these insights available for the customer-facing business functions will become invaluable in the B2B enterprise’s integrated customer engagement drive.

Anushruti: Hi, everyone. You’re listening to AI to Impact by BRIDGEi2i, a podcast on AI for the digital enterprise. My name is Anushruti and I’m part of the CEO’s program office at BRIDGEi2i and the custodian of data around the sales pipeline. In our AI to Impact podcast, we’ve been chatting with repulated AI and analytics leaders, digital transformation advisors and BRIDGEi2i business heads to gather their view on the current crisis, its impact on various industries and also discussing some of the tactics to address the business challenges.

Today we have with us, JJ short for Jitendra Jethanandani, he leads the enterprise business practice at BRIDGEi2i. And his main focus is on helping enterprise technology and manufacturing companies to harness the power of AI and automation technologies, realizing business outcomes of growth and operational effectiveness.

He has over two decades of industry experience across high-tech B2B organizations, such as Cisco, HP and Gartner. He has led country business and sales operations, established an analytics series and themes across various functions of market insights, competitive intelligence, sales, marketing, customer experience, and managed various technology market research programs.

Hi JJ, I’m glad that you’re here with us today. Thank you for making the time and welcome to our podcast.

JJ: Thanks, Anushruti. Always a pleasure.

Anushruti: Thank you. So, to begin with this crisis has brought in a huge shift in customer behaviour. And given this change, does customer engagement look very different in these times?

JJ: Yes, Anushruti. There is definitely a renewed focus required on customer engagement, especially as the current COVID-19 pandemics spreads waves of uncertainty across businesses and their customer base. And as this crisis continues to unfold, it is important for the B2B enterprises to keep their customers engaged through these perod. And then how these B2B enterprises plan to engage their customers today will actually determine the success during the recovery period and the post COVID-19 free world.

Anushruti: Agreed, and customer engagement has always been a priority for companies, but has it become more relevant now? If yes, why?

JJ: Well, it has, and to explain its relevance first, we need to understand that strategy and finance teams of various companies are working through scenario planning with other business functions to really ascertain how the situation will evolve and further impact revenue and then thereby impact operational expenses.

So, there are several parameters being considered. And these companies will be evaluating their current investments and spending across various business projects and initiatives. There could be analyzing, projected ROI versus alignment of these initiatives to either operational or strategic objectives, or even start with a zero-based budgeting.

Therefore, it’s important for B2B enterprises to stay engaged with their customer as they go through the scenario planning exercise.

Anushruti: Sure JJ, And as you mentioned, B2B enterprises need to stay engaged with their customers during their scenario planning exercise. So according to you, what are the steps enterprises need to take to enable customer engagement?

JJ: Well, today B2B companies generally will find their customers at three stages of the life cycle.

And I’m just going to simplify it Anushruti first, it would really be existing customers. Second, it would be prospects or even existing customers who are expanding relationships. And these two are at the late stages of the sales cycle and then new customer acquisition or existing customers at early stages of the sales cycle with upsell and cross sell potential. Now the customer facing functions of sales, marketing, and customer experience have operated based on their respective objectives, processes, incentives, and have accordingly prioritized focus on these three stages differently. Um, however, the need of the hour is a strategy to drive an integrated customer engagement that will require sales, marketing customer experience function to really wear a unified lens and reprioritize their areas of focus.

With the top priority towards retaining existing customers, then focusing towards prospects and customers who are in the late stage of the sales cycle as these opportunities really need to be secure before moving efforts to new customer acquisition. So, to summarize B2B enterprises and its customer facing functions will need to drive an integrated effort to prioritize and stay relevant across the customer life cycle during this crisis so that they can benefit during and beyond the recovery phase.

Anushruti: Very interesting. So, B2B enterprises should take an integrated approach towards customer engagement by marrying three customer facing functions that are sales, marketing, and customer experience. And now to further deep dive, what should be the key priorities for these customer-facing functions?

Yes. Sure. So let’s take an example with the focus on existing customers, for we know it’s critical to maintain customer interactions, and it’s crucial that the sales and customer success teams have joint interactions with customers specifically to first listen for any changes to the customer’s environment and resulting decisions. Second, to really evaluate if there are shifts in the customer strategy initiatives or business processes that may have a short or even a long term impact on the value proposition offered by the B2B enterprise and third, to continue to drive deployment and adoption of product and services to help ensure that these are not flagged during customers ROI evaluation.

And in addition, you could have sales enablement and digital marketing teams that will need to work together on enhancing digital channels, their websites, social media, mobile application, in terms of content, navigation, and availability that will really serve as preferred routes for cross-sell, upsell and expansion opportunities.

Now let’s take the example for the new customer acquisition stage. There is a focus required on digital and relevant content. As in the current business environment, many promotional activities, programs and events have been cancelled or put on hold. Therefore, there will be an acceleration of new customers starting their journey online and digital marketing, content marketing, sales enablement teams will need to generate messaging and content that is contextualized and personalized to customers’iIndustry domain. Or with recommendation on how the B2B enterprises products and services will help customers best manage their businesses. Yupp, so that would be it.

Anushruti: Yeah, absolutely. And as you’ve touched upon three stages that are focused on existing customers, enhancement of digital channels simultaneously focus on digital marketing. Now, with the rapid changing world what would it take for customer engagement to be effective for these organizations?

JJ: Well Anushruti, it needs to start from being data-driven and data is the fuel that will power this B2B enterprise’s integrated customer engagement drive. And it starts with knowing about your customer.

A holistic view across the customer journey, then capturing and making these insights available for the customer-facing business functions. We at BRIDGEi2i are having conversations with our B2B enterprise customers and enabling them to develop robust systems and solutions to ensure that business functions have access to clean and quality data to serve as a single source of truth.

Enabling B2B enterprises to pick up customer experience signals across the customer life cycle, and then automate generation of these customer insights by really dismantling the dashboard or report factories towards more automated alerts of anomaly detection, identifying root causes and assessing impact on their customers.

Anushruti: Sure, JJ, thank you so much for giving us so many insights. And as you very well mentioned, B2B companies that continue to drive active customer engagement with an integrated focus across the three customer facing functions will stay relevant to the customer and benefit during and beyond the recovery phase.

And there’s absolutely no doubt that data is the fuel that will power the B2B customer engagement drive. I think this was amazing. Thank you for your time JJ. It was great chatting with you today.

JJ: Thanks so much, Anushruti. Great to talk to you as well.

Anushruti: And thank you so much for listening to this episode of AI to impact podcast. It was a great conversation with JJ, Head of Enterprise Business practice of BRIDGEi2i. Do subscribe as we will continue the conversation with business experts and thought leaders in the upcoming episodes. They will be discussing the business impact of COVID-19 on industries and how the journey looks for them in the future.

Once again, thank you so much for tuning in. Bye. Stay home, stay safe.

2020 will long be remembered for the pandemic that wreaked havoc on the global economy and disrupted communities and businesses in unprecedented ways. In our latest podcast series: COVID19 | Redefining Digital Enterprises, we will be interacting with several thought leaders, BRIDGEi2i Business Heads, Domain Experts, and reputed AI and analytics leaders to understand the various challenges emerging out of this crisis and the way forward for enterprises in the new world order. Tune in to know more!

Meet the Speaker

Jitendra Jethanandani

Jitendra Jethanandani

Jitendra Jethanandani leads the solutions & services delivery for Enterprise Business at BRIDGEi2i. With over 20 years of industry experience in High Tech B2B organizations such as Cisco Systems, HP, and Gartner, Jitendra has led country business & sales operations to deliver quarterly double-digit growth. He has also helped develop analytics capabilities & teams across MI/CI Research and Customer & Sales Analytics to generate significant business impact & established technology market research programs with a regional focus on the APAC region. At BRIDGEi2i, his mission is to enable business outcomes for customers through implementation & adoption of AI-powered data & analytics across Sales, Customer Experience, Marketing & Supply Chain business functions.

Jitendra is an Electronics Engineer with an MBA from ENPC, Paris.