Is Reddit’s Controversy About the Content or the Digital Revenue Model?

Reddit’s forums are famous for hosting some of the most vibrant and some of the most disturbing (my personal opinion) discussions on the Web. The New York Times article by Jason Henry stated, “Mr. Huffman reappeared last Friday as chief executive to pull off a turnaround of the online message board, which has grappled with a series of missteps and is embroiled in a battle to win back the confidence of its users.” The San Francisco Chronicle reporter, Greta Kaul wrote, The new CEO of Reddit hosted an “Ask Me Anything” forum to clarify its content policies, which have been debated by free speech advocates and an antiharassment contingent for weeks. The site, known for everything from elevated conversations about political philosophy to photo collections of dead children, rolled out rules designed to curb harassment.

There were more than 40,000 Reddit users tuned in to Thursday’s forum at various times and generated 9,000 comments ~an hour. CEO Steve Huffman wrote, “We’ll consider banning subreddits (forums) that clearly violate the guidelines in my post — the ones that are illegal or cause harm to others. “There are many subreddits whose contents I and many others find offensive, but that alone is not justification for banning.

While most of the controversy is about Reddit administrator’s who have drawn both praise and criticism for their hands-off approach to regulating what could be said on the site and, which leaves many decisions up to volunteer moderators, there is an all together additional issue that not only Reddit has to face, but so do many other brands in this Age of Digital Disruption. In Ray Wang’s book: Disrupting Digital Business: Create An Authentic Experience in A Peer-to-Peer Economy says Digital Darwinism is not kind to those who wait to understand the transformation and choices business have to make, and make now.

My POV: Reddit has to decide what is going to drive their company. Are they defined by the type of brand they want to be or are they defined, as a company, by their digital business model? Over five thousand years ago our marketplaces were the hub of civilization. They were where traders returned from remote lands with exotic spices, jewels, silks, monkeys and parrots and told us fabulous stories. The Internet is still a place for storytelling. That’s not going to change. But what is changing is how businesses make money in this new storytelling-based marketplace call the Internet. Here’s what I mean by that.

Option 1: Choose Your Brand and It’s Values: If Reddit wants to be the “anything goes brand” then they mostly likely will have to change their business model (i.e., if the revenue model is ad-based then with the “anything goes” brand values, Reddit many be rightly worried that many or some of the ad sponsors would stop posting ads. If that would be the case, Reddit wouldn’t have the same revenue base.  And thus if Reddit chooses to the the “anything goes brand,” they would possibly have to look at other revenue sources.
Option 2: Choose Your Digital Revenue Model: Or Reddit can decide what their digital business model is and then that would dictate whether they are the “anything goes brand” or if they want to moderate some of the content. If their digital revenue model is ad revenue, then, depending on the ad sponsors, that might change how much ad revenue they receive.

There are brands out there, like Fiat that used Charlie Sheen in a Fiat TV commercial, that may like to be on the “edge.” I’m not suggesting that the Fiat TV commercial is in any way representative of some of the content that is at the center of the controversy at Reddit. But there are some brands would find some of the content on Reddit “off brand.” So as a brand, a CMO and CEO,  one has to answer the question, “What is the edge, and when have we gone off the edge to a place of no return as a brand?”
For Reddit, either decision means that there are stakeholders  – ad sponsors or the site’s administrator’s and / or volunteer moderators that may be upset. It’s a rock and a hard place and probably the tip of the iceberg for facing the idea that the Internet is the place to be COMPLETELY unedited, authentic, genuine and honest. However, Reddit is not the only brand that is facing this challenge. Many brand face this issue. While it’s not “in fashion” some brands do still take down posts that are not “on brand” to avoid a PR disaster. I’m not saying whether they are right or wrong in doing so. Just looking at what is happening and reporting what I see.
The author’s of the book The ClueTrain Manifesto wrote back in 1999 “Through the Internet, the people in your markets are discovering and inventing new ways to converse. They’re talking about your business. They’re telling one another the truth, in very human voices. You have two choices. You can continue to lock yourself behind the facile corporate words and happy talk brochures. Or you can join the conversation.
Perhaps an addendum to that today is – “You can join the conversation, but have to decide on your digital business revenue model, which will determine how completely unedited, authentic, genuine and honest your conversations are going to be.”
The Bottom-line: For those that are not clear, the digital disruption means that we are having to change our business models. We can no longer operate business the way we used to. And we have to consider how far is too far and how far is far enough to maintain what the author’s of the ClueTrain spoke about – which is the idea that one can step outside the typical, sterile, overstarched blandness of the old days of brands and just be human. But how far does one go, still be human, and not be offensive? How does one decide where the boundary lines are drawn? That is up to each and every individual and each and every brand.
And as I talk to CMOs, Customer Experience Professionals, Customer Care and Customer Service Professionals and IOT experts, these are the questions brands and those that spend money to sponsor those brands will have to decide. We are over the hype-cycle that the Internet is the place to be totally honest. We are now in a new era where we have to get serious about how brands are going to make money and what are the limits to what a brand can and can not do or will not do. Interesting times we live in.
What’s your take on what is on or over the edge in the area of Internet content and the editing or moderating of it?
@drnatalie   VP and Principle Analyst Covering The Digital Disruption and All It’s Consequences

 

 

 

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Disrupting Digital Business: The Customer Experience Imperative

As digital business is emerging, it’s disrupting business. What does that mean? It means that how you do business must change. And it’s not just adding a Twitter feed or creating a Facebook page. It’s much more than that. It really means that you have to look at how you are doing business – your processes, your policies, your departments, your people, your technology and make major changes. I can remember when organization change management first became a discipline. But back then there were so many that pushed it aside, crossed it off their to do list and basically thought it was “Kumbaya” and the “soft stuff you can’t measure.” Which quadrant is your business in?

quadrant for fast followers

Well guess what? Organizational Change is back and here to stay. Because that is what is at the root of digital business. It really means you have to change your organization! Some ways to think about this are what we call the 9 C’s and Customer Engagement Optimization. Our research shows there are 9 C’s of Customer Engagement:

  1. Culture
  2. Community
  3. Credibility
  4. Channels
  5. Content
  6. Cadence
  7. Context
  8. Catalysts and
  9. Currency

Digital Business Disruption Starts with People-Centric Values

You need to understand culture, community, and credibility. This means that you need to start with Customer Engagement Optimization. How do you make sure you understand your prospects and customers?  Where does listening play a role? Do you have a process to listen to what your employees as well as what your customers think about the company, its products and services? If not, start here.

Digital Business Disruption Is About Communication

You need to understand how channels, content, and cadence of the content on the channels work with each other. So once  we understand the people centric values, how do we engage? What are effective models to connect? Organizations need to transform the way that they interact with their customers – online and offline. What’s the best way to start doing this? Do you just jump into the online conversations? Is it even the right channel?  What content makes sense? How often do you reach out? Are your customers and prospects responding?

Digital Business Disruption Is About Right Time Drivers 

This is where context, catalyst, and currency play a role in enabling engagement optimization. You might ask yourself, “What can you do to make sure your interactions remain relevant? How do you deliver compelling offers that influence a call to action?  What’s required to build sustainable engagement.”

Digital Business Disruption Is About Actionable Insights/Intelligence

Once you have some sense about what customers are talking about – to each other, to your company, to your competitors, how do you deliver an end-to-end actionable intelligence where the workforce is optimized to respond or hear about the issues or kudos? What should be measured?  How do you focus in on the right metrics that matter?

Digital Business Disruption Is About Journey Mapping to Make Improvements

Businesses must realize there is a real need for continuous improvement and optimization. It’s not a one time – take a look at things, change a few of them and then you are done. Nope. It’s about continuous, measurable change. Questions for an organization might be, “How do you improve enterprise processes with the information you learn from this collective solution that is giving you all this actionable intelligence? What organizational issues can this bring about? Is this an easy process? Do people need special skills to collaborate cross-functionally? How do you take where ever you are in the process and manage and enrich these customer interactions? How do you start, how to do improve and how do you maintain this process over time?”

Digital Business Disruption Is About Developing A Customer Engagement Optimization Culture

I can tell you from being a management consultant and having worked in many companies, nothing is going to change unless there is true and authentic leadership that is dedicated to making this types of changes. Senior leadership involvement on a day-to-day business required for success in transforming the company culture. Questions for an organization might be along these lines, “Who should drive the initiatives?  What’s required to build a culture of customer engagement? What kind of training is required? What kind of skill sets?”

Digital Business Disruption Is About Doing So Via Digital Transformation

What this means is that there is the need to change your business model. What business are you really in? Are you selling printers or customer experiences? The shift to digital business changes not only business models but also how companies engage with their customers. And you have to know what business you are in to do this.

If you want to know more about digital business disruption, join Ray Wang and myself on a webinar, May 26th at 11 AM PST.

MY POV: Most business are not prepared for what it takes to make the shift to a digital business. Where do you think you stand with respect to your business’s readiness for change?

quadrant for fast followers

@drnatalie, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research, Covering Marketing, Sales and Customer Service to Deliver Amazing Customer Experiences

 

 

 

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The Digital Disruption Tour: A Brand’s Challenges to Meet Customer Experience

Fresh off the first of the digital disruption tour events, I am reflecting on the wonderful conversation that Ray Wang lead with his keynote speech, really defining this new era of business. If you want to really understand what he’s talking about, you not only must see him speak — he draws such a clear picture of the future, but to really allow what’s happening to infiltrate your department or functional area or your own leadership, his book, Disrupting Digital Business, is very helpful — with examples and details.

For customer experience professionals, that was my roundtable discussion, we talked about not only this new era of business, but the requirement of company’s to change their business models to be able to deliver on the promise of whatever customer experience they are offering. Doesn’t matter if it’s B2B or B2C or B2B2C- customer’s have expectations. Why is it so different today than its ever been? For many of us at the roundtable discussion– we’ve been talking about customer experience, customer service, customer success management for most of our professional lives. It’s not new. And it’s not really a new topic inside of companies.

What is new and what does require something different of organizations is the transparency of how the customer experience affects a business’s customers. In the old days, the customer experience might have been between a contact center agent and a customer. And depending on how empowered that agent was (which generally they were not) that empowerment or lack there of, generated a certain customer experience. It was also dependent on technology as well as processes that were either well defined and implemented or not. If it was a bad experience, that customer would often tell 10-20 people within their circle of influence.

Today, customer loyalty and advocacy is different. Why? Because today the world can see, in an instant, what a brand’s customer experience is and because customers can easily speak to other customers, often going around the brand, brand’s have to walk their talk. And while the Directors of Corporate Communication, PR, the CMO and marketing spend tireless hours and hundreds if not millions or more in budget to create a “brand” — whether that “brand” ends up living up to expectations is dependent on so many things; it now requires we change how we do business so nothing falls through the cracks.  It requires collaboration between all functional departments and the back office.

Ultimately, a brand ends up being expressed as the experience a customer has with that brand. And because there are so many people, departments, touch-points — at any point in that customer’s interaction with that brand, the brand may not uphold its promise. And because of the nature of social networks, that “good or bad” experience, can be expressed for millions to see, in a nano-second, often lasting a long time (think of “online posts” like cave paintings – they last millions of years…) The expression of a brand from a customer can be very personal and emotional. And often times the expression from the brand’s side is through content. And the number of people and budget, just for content marketing, has really shifted how we must think about how we do business. Business has changed. Period.

I really want to thank each and every person who participated in the customer experience roundtable. What our roundtable discussion concluded where several things:

1. Good customer experience starts with strategy. It’s not just about implementing the technology. It’s about looking at your business processes from the customer’s point of view and making changes to what does not make sense. It’s about examining the commitment from the senior leadership team to allow for budget so that the people, process and technology required for great customer experiences can be delivered.

2. Good customer experience also requires something new of the internal aspects of a company – culture, leadership, employees, training, attitude… and while most of what I write about is that “external” customer-facing experience, the truth is that – that customer experience can’t be good if the internal capabilities of an organization are not optimized. It is something that is often underestimated and rarely spoken about, but at the end of the day, it’s employees who are driving the customer experience in one shape or form. So it’s my feeling that this part of the conversation can no longer can be ignored. And in some cases, it maybe the first step in generating great, external-facing customer experiences.

The Panel Discussion One of the panels was on the customer experiences created in the financial services area. Financial service companies often think of themselves as limited to change things because of all the regulations they face. When Ray was asked about this he explained, “While there are many regulations, smart companies are looking at those regulations, often written years ago and asking if they make sense today. If they don’t, smart companies and governments are taking the time to question them and transform whatever it takes to make things work better.”

Wipro (who sponsored this SF part of the tour) talked about the ideas behind banking 1:1. Even in a highly regulated and competitive marketplace, banks must examine every possible idea and strategize about the advantages it can use to meet and to exceed customer expectations. This is truly, for all industries, where companies will differentiate themselves from the pack, now and in the future. Banks can’t offer simple and automated banking services. To build loyalty and drive profitability, banks need to offer a non-stop interactive banking environment and to increase their business agility by anticipating customer needs and offer an engaging user experience.

I vowed to keep writing about customer experience and customer service / success management – the ability to use data to understand our customers better to provide better experiences – as well as technology, people and processes. But I also asked that each one of the people in my roundtable take it upon themselves to hold the torch to generate excellent customer experiences. That’s because transforming businesses today, to provide great customer experiences, takes a village; it’s not a one person job. It takes collaboration across functional departments and strong leadership from all of us.

So as you read this, I ask you to also hold the torch for great customer experiences and for what the “transparency and digital disruption” means and requires of each of us – i.e., that what we are really talking about is that we all have  to change our business models (or how we do business.) And together, I believe we can transform business. It’s something that has been a long time in coming. It’s here. It’s now. It’s something I want to see in my lifetime. How about you?

@drnatalie

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Dedicated to the people, process, technology and data, to provide great customer experiences.

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2015 is the Year of the Customer’s Choice: Customer Experience Engagement

This post is about five ways to deliver exceptional customer care in 2015.

Customer service and support is shifting to a customer success management model. This is the ability to deliver great, consistent customer experiences across all channels that drive retention, revenue and margins. Without this, customer experiences will not meet expectations and customers will go elsewhere, resulting in decreased retention and, in return, revenue. As part of a trusted group of advisors that helps Customer Service Professionals, as well as people in other parts of the organization – like Marketing, Sales, CXOs- CEOs, CIOs, CTOs to CMOs- we help people understand what digital transformation and disruption really means for their business and their future. And there’s a lot of hype around digital disruption. But let’s but some of that to bed.

Because 2015 is the year of the customer’s choice – companies will need to pay attention to the following:

2015 is the Year of the Customers Choice

We are in an opt-in economy, where customers can easily find information about a company, its reputation, their products, their reputation online and they can find all this from sources other than a brands marketing and advertising. It’s not that those disciplines are not important, but we want to look and see if the brand is fracturing it’s brand promise, it’s reputation… by not delivering on the brand’s promise somewhere in the customer’s journey–i.e., within their interactions and engagement with the their customers. Is the brand delivering the products and services it’s marketing and advertising? Actually the sources most people trust the most are people like the themselves, which is providing a great challenge to those in marketing and advertising. Why spend the money there when you can develop online advocates? We’re not saying that advertising and marketing will ever go away, but this is something brands need to pay attention to, because there is a huge cost savings if brand advocacy is done well.

You’ll want to ask yourself, “Where are our customer talking about our products?”  Where are our customer sharing their thoughts and experiences?

Take this product for example:

Fitdesk example

This bike has 457 reviews:

  • 62% are 5 star
  • 24% are 4 star

(62 + 24 = 86% give it a 4 or 5 star) So what does that tell other customers? Most people think it’s a pretty good product! Those online comments leave an impression for other customers to see – and the content is permanent like cave paintings, there for millions of people to see. And in social media – because there is the 1-9-90 rule ~1% post, 9% respond and 90% read without posting, think of the number of people who looked at this review and never post. Most of the potential customers never post. But they do make buying decisions based on what is posted.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg of what people are thinking about your company. They could visit the site, and if the reviews were bad, they could get bad impression and leave and you’d never even know it. How many times a day does this happen to the millions of companies online today? A lot.

And this company actually answers customers questions. They have answered 141. And this tells you they are listening and responding to customer feedback. And customers actually vote on what the company said, i.e., on whether they think the answer the company gave was honest and truthful and helpful… So what the digital disruption means is that there’s no where to hide… We are truly in an opt-in economy, where customers can easily choose to either opt-in or just as easily opt-out of doing business with you.  Customers can more easily decide to buy from a competitor than ever before, especially if you loose their trust. Much of this change is due to software being delivered as a service (SaaS) where if the brand doesn’t like the service its easier to get out of the contract than it was in the days of on premise software and hardware. But also in the B2C world, customers can easily find information about a company, its reputation, their products, their reputation online and from sources other than a brands marketing and advertising.

bye shopping bags

 

Its time to rethink everything

It’s time to rethink everything and understand what the digital disruption means to your business.

The digital disruption means you have to be: Transparent — Authentic — Genuine — Honest — Respectful — Helpful — Kind — Trustworthy…. The digital disruption is changing business, especially because of CoIT = Consumerization of IT. That means that customers want it to be frictionless, easy and fun to deal with your company. They have grown accustom to wonderful user interfaces like Google and Facebook.  User interface design is extremely important. It is difficult or easy to do business with your company? Do you know? Have you shopped at your own store – on and offline?

Digital disruption means being customer-centric.

This means you need the strategy to change how the company approaches its customers: a customer-centric strategy, customer-centric processes, customer-centric technology and customer-centric people (employees, partners, stakeholders…) For many companies to get to a customer-centric place, it may require organizational change management.

A big part of the digital disruption? Mobile!

Mobile has changed the game. Mobile sales accounted for nearly a quarter of all online sales during the 2014 holiday season (November 1 – December 31), up 27.2% year-over-year. Mobile web visits were also at an all time high, with 45% of all online traffic stemming from mobile devices, up 25.5% from the 2013 holiday season. Some companies saw even higher mobile traffic during the busy shopping season, with Fanatics and Amazon reporting 55% and 60%, respectively.  And these numbers are only going to increase as mobile devices continue to dominate time spent online. People admit to sleeping with their phones at their bedside. Mobile is key to your business. Here’s an example of a business case for mobile: mobile traffic to the 26 retail clients for 1 month generated $180 million in web revenue in August 2014; 27.3% from smartphones and tablets. (sources: comscore, Internet Retailer, 2015, Internet Retailer, 2014)

Digital disruption means delivering ubiquitous customer care. What’s the difference?

  • Multichannel:–Is an operational view of how customer interact within each channel
  • Omnichannel:–It implies it’s the customer’s view of their interactions with the company,–Orchestrated across all channels in a seamless, integrated and consistent context- there’s a lot of hype about this – most companies may want to do this, but are they? Many software companies say they can provide all of this, but do they really?
  • Ubiquitous channels–Means providing support when and where ever customers are, 24/7 and customer’s obsession with mobile devices is driving what we calling the need for ubiquitous channel capabilities.

Another point around ubiquitous channels and devices is that there is little to no premeditation on the part of a customer about which channel or device they use when interacting with a brand and where a purchase is made. But there must be hyper-premeditation on the part of the brand to create ubiquitous channel loyalty with their customers. This is why it is so important that brands understand where their customers are – online and offline – and then make sure that the brand’s ubiquitous channel and devices activities are customer-centric.  This means that organizations need to be in the channel their customers are in, regardless of the customer’s age and digital proficiency . The company should cater to the customer’s choices of channels. Start there. And know that a customer may prefer to speak to an agent because they want to talk to a human. But because the phone experience is so frustrating, they may want to avoid the phone. That’s why something like chat is a good option! (If the chat actually is a great customer experience!)

So we’ve learned that customers have more choices than ever before. They also have specific preferences, needs, expectations, wants …with unboundless options; will they pick your company? They will if you recognize Customer Service as Customer Success Management. Don’t just care about the customer as a lead; Don’t just care about the customer as a sale; Don’t just care about the customer in service; Care about the customer in every interaction. And create great, continuous, consistent experiences. Why? It will drive retention and revenue and that equates to an increase customer lifetime value. Bad experiences: lost customers. No Customers, No Business™. It’s that simple. Customer success management is about customer lifetime value: i.e., How long a customer buys from you? How much do they buy each time? How much does their purchase amount goes up over time? You will want to continuously increase all of these for each and every customer and continuously, gain more customers and higher customer lifetime values.

Where is your company on the digital transformation of next generation customer service? Market Leaders will grow their revenue and reduce costs faster than any other segment.  Are you a fast followers? Or a Cautious Adopter? You can begin to tell by reading the questions in the boxes:

quadrant for fast followers So how does this change the way we work? As Ray Wang, Principal Analyst & CEO of Constellation Research would say, “We first we have to think about what’s changed. The old world was a world of CRUD – Systems of Record. We moved to a collaborative and social world – Systems of Engagement. But digital is causing us to shift to Systems of Experience. We’re ultimately moving to mass personalization at scale. In each phase we have to work differently to make it pay off in the end.”

What should you do next?

1. Understand what digital transformation entails:

Most companies are confused about what the digital disruption means to their business, both from an economic and operational standpoint. If businesses don’t understand the digital disruption, they will find it difficult to prepare for it. If we look back for a reference point, we can see the authors of the book “The ClueTrain Manifesto” predicted back in 1999 that there would be a point in time when customers, using the Internet, would be able to talk to each other freely, without the interference of a company. This would lead to a more transparent representation of a company’s products and services. Instead of being disguised in advertising and marketing messages, products and services from companies would be openly and honestly discussed by current, potential and past users. That prediction has come true. It’s happening right now.

2. Decide to deliver great digital customer experiences:

If a company decides it wants to deliver great digital customer experiences, then it must be prepared for the work. And in most cases, it is a tremendous amount of work. Many will think of it as putting more functionality into the website or adding a social network or adding mobile. However, it is more about understanding your customers and their needs and desires. The second part of the digital disruption is that we have more data than ever before to make better, more informed decisions about our business and about how we treat our customers. This idea to use customer and employee feedback and data is not new. It comes from Edward Deming, who wrote over 50 years ago about the necessity of listening to all your sources, especially those closest to your customer, and to incorporate that data into your products and services. If a company actually does this, its products and services will no doubt improve. Now consider other companies that don’t bother to listen and make changes. Customers are noticing and naturally gravitating to companies that are changing with the help of customer input. At the end of a couple of years, consider who you would like to do business with? The answer is obvious – companies who care enough to listen and change. And companies have never had this type of transparent representation of their reputation. Now they must be what they say they are – or they will be exposed.

3. Gain buy-in and support from all levels in the organization – top to bottom:

Everything that happens in a company at some point affects customers and their experiences with that company. So providing great digital customer experiences means that not only do senior executives have to support the goal with time, budget, resources and input, but so does every single person in the organization – in both the front and back offices. What digital transformation requires is that the customer experience be examined – and often redesigned. While digital transformation is made possible by the right technologies, digital transformation goes far beyond just technology, but instead extends into infrastructure, organizational structure, culture, and service-oriented leadership. A commitment from CxOs is needed along with internal change agents; it’s a change in the corporate DNA. Create customer journey maps and use the data from them to show how a customer-centric and digital-first approach is needed. With data projections of what could be accomplished, an organization will want to set goals and put a measurement system in place. A measurement system will show how the digital transformation produced results like increases in lead conversion rates, traffic, leads, engagement, first contact resolution and use of self-service. When executives see real business results, they are more likely to continue to support the initiative.

4. Evaluate where you with respect to providing ubiquitous channel and device experiences:

You’ll want to benchmark where you are with respect to 3 top competitors. Then see where your gaps are. It is also about understanding how your competitors deliver those products and services online and offline compared to your company. Once you have mapped out your customer journey (from the customer’s point of view – not the company’s), compare it to your top three competitors. Take screenshots of your competitors and put them in a powerpoint presentation and give it to someone in the company who has positional power to make change happen. Then redesign your customer engagement and digital strategy with the input from your customers and understanding what your competitors are doing better than you.

5. Once you know your gaps, create a roadmap to create next generation, ubiquitous channel and device, customer-centric experiences:

The gaps show you what’s missing and what you need to do next. It might be strategy; it might be technology; it might process and it might be people- who you have hired, their training, their attitude… And understand it’s all got to to be there to make customer service turn into customer success management.

Savvy Customer Service Professionals are leading their companies, not only to advance customer service, but they are leading  the whole company to new heights, by turning customer service into customer success management. Will you be the next hero?

@drnatalie

VP And Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Covering Customer-Centric Experiences That Engage Customers and Retain them Through Ubiquitous Channel and Device Capabilities

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