Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Customer Experience and the "Next Best Action" Dilemma

Understand your next best action before you leap!
Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash
As an analyst covering customer experience, I am often briefed by multichannel, personalization, and marketing automation platforms. Many promise to help brands improve their customer experience by identifying and executing the "next best action" for each of their individual customers. The idea, in theory, is that your brand can improve its customer experiences and relationships by performing the one next best action at the best time in the best channel, providing one-to-one, personalized brand experiences at scale. But the reality is often quite a bit different.

The challenge with the concept of "next best action" lies in a simple dilemma: Who is that action designed to help most--the customer or the brand? This challenge is easy to see from the outside looking in but difficult to recognize when your performance appraisal, raise, bonus or job depends on you producing rapid business or economic outcomes. To uncover and resolve the dilemma of "next best action," ask three simple questions:
  • The next best action to what end?
  • The next best action to produce what measurable outcome?
  • And, finally, the next best action for whom?
By using these three questions, you may find that the goal of these platforms and their "next best action" functionality is not to improve customer experience but to lift brands' short-term sales and marketing results. The two are not mutually exclusive, but as we explore these three questions, it becomes easy to see how prioritizing the former before the latter can do more to undermine than enhance your brand's customer experience.

Why do it: To what end?  

Rarely in life is there a single "next best action" that fits every possible end. Consider your Monday morning as the alarm goes off. Sleeping in may leave you feeling fresher and more rested throughout your day; getting up early to exercise will improve both your mood and your health; and taking your early hours to rehearse your big presentation may reduce your stress and enhance job performance. So, which is the proper "next best action"? That depends on which of your priorities is most important.

So, when your brand invests six or seven figures in a platform and program to produce "next best actions," why do you do it? What is your priority? Is it to provide immediate business outcomes? To convince customers your brand cares? To enhance and improve your customers' lives? Your next best action will be quite a bit different depending on which of these you elect to emphasize.

To explore the next two questions (What do you want: To produce what measurable outcome? and Who benefits: For whom?) and to recognize how to flip the perspective of "next best action," please continue reading the post on my blog at