Make Customer Experience (CX) a differentiating marketing weapon

 

When thinking of marketing strategy, we think of media plans, digital omnipresence, events, packaging or a website. People don’t often think of Marketing when considering the customer experience (CX). Isn’t that Sales’ responsibility? Or customer service? Or for B2B, isn’t technical assistance or the maintenance guys that are most in touch with customers?

 

Brands have a variety of touchpoints at disposal, but these touches are not sent out by 1 team. They are handled by different silo’s. The problem is that for customers, the brand = the brand. Whether on the phone, website, facebook, in shops or franchises, in an ad or through interim sales boys at an event. Every touch, every interaction is an atom of the same relationship. CX is bonding with your customer.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Marketing got a new name and scope: it’s about creating strong customer+brand relationships.

 

Why? You heard the term Omnichannel, multi-device, etc. It is the full sum of interactions that convinces customers that your brand stands for quality, consistent, trustworthy, a strategic partner, fast, proactive, flexible, always ready to create tailor-made solution for a specific need. Beyond the warmth of close relationships and the annual-report-obliged-check on ‘customer centricity’, why is CX important?

 

Above-average CX generates customer satisfaction. CX improves conversion, cross & upselling. CX helps repeat purchase and reduces churn. Noteworthy CX gets positive word of mouth and builds competitive advantage. In short, summarising with 2 acronyms: CX ROI is undeniable. Even employees love it, if they feel part of a dreamteam delivering great service to their customers. In a world of price wars and vain incremental “red ocean” battles, differentiation lies in an exceptional experience. If you own a unique relationship, aren’t you more difficult to replace?

 

Isn’t it time we made CX strategic?

 

Where to start?

They 1st step will be to go cross-silo. Our historic tendency of silo-based problem-solving blocks looking at the total relationship. Go beyond your own department’s role in the CX, map all touchpoints: account managers, email exchanges, prospect handling to shops, on-premise maintenance, invoice handling, call centers and the usual advertising, packaging/delivery boxes, mailings, magazines, etc. Seen the cross-functional complexity, maybe it’s time to appoint a customers’ SPOC in the company? Call it the “director of happy customers”.

 

Understand the overall interaction. Across the customer journey, do some research/data-driven analysis to identify the drivers of consumer decision-making. Are we pereceived as customer-centric as we claim to be?

 

Take a look at a shortlist of 7 criteria to make your CEO start considering CX:

 

  1. Get word of mouth going: We all know peer reviews are much more credible than advertising as a source of endorsement. So it’s key to activate your customers into peer-to-peer sharing about their experience (and being positive when doing so). Net-promoter-Score (NPS) is the accepted KPI for that, measuring the overall amount of positivity that is shared around your brand. Do you have promoters supporting your brand or on the contrary, are they feeding negativism into the market? The question then becomes: how do I craft elements into my CX that are eminently shareable? What would stimulate word-of-mouth? Especially difficult if you sell taboo-covered products like banking or feminine hygiene…

     

  2. Go beyond average expected service. If you proactively comprehend customers’ needs. If you overdeliver and differ vs. standard/routine service level commonly accepted as an OK service. Positive gaps vs. average makes people talk. Not the call-center solution dictated by a corporate script or a fumbling outsourced student 9000km away. Just responding to regular customer expectations isn’t enough anymore. Consumers’ expectations are built by brand communications of all industries they’re in contact with. By competitors. By authentic-sounding start-ups. Is your mighty company beating those? In a uniquely personal or spectacular overdelivering manner that’s driving home your company’s positioning? Generate enthusiastic satisfaction, surprise customers and turn them into ambassadors for your brand at their next cocktail. Coolblue’s approach to selling is completely driven by NPS and customer’s delight (“everything for a smile”): their delivery boxes are brightly coloured for a reason: everyone notices the blue box arriving at 9am in the office (triggering word-of-mouth “”). They also added 10 jokes on the box to make you and your neighbours laugh and talk about your Coolblue experience.The problem with NPS? It’s not a quick fix, it’s a cumulative experience across multiple touchpoints, multiple departments and multiple channels over time. And while you’re reading this, standards of service are being elevated every week by overnight delivery, hyper-personalised coupons, phone-number recognition, predictive analytics or other smart marketing automation…

     

  3. Funnels: Do you have specific ‘flows’ that funnel your prospects or customers according to their specific needs (e.g. customer onboarding, churning customers signalled by correlated alarm-factors)? Go beyond simple demographics (e.g. new parents questioning their eating habits). What big milestones can you identify that could impact the relationship with the brand/product (eg people moving neighbourhood). Which ones are so emotionally rich that customers might perceive value if a brand helps them out (e.g. first day of their pension)? What moments are predictive of adaptations needed in customer approach? Which are critical to generate highest return? Once you identified these type of triggers: experiment, prototype new approaches and pilot them. Get early wins and learn. Then scale-up, massify, digitize these new initiatives across your customer base. If consumers feel you’re in tune with them, if you’re helping them out in these important moments, you keep adding layers of trust to your relationship.

     

  4. Feedback loops in place? Listen, fine-tune, iterate, correct: Facilitate data collection and improve interactions in a pragmatic/lean process. Any contact is an opportunity to know customers better, understand their broader context and underlying needs, and potentially address causes of suboptimal brand behaviour. Holding their hand will turn 1st time customers into loyals. When you act with a genuine gesture on feedback received, you’ll surprise them by being a listening brand and turn loyals into ambassadors. The last time we looked, it’s still cheaper to keep current customers. Get internal feedback loops in place as well, let customer-facing employees participate to shape new interactions. Let them invent, try things out and be internal heroes. They’ll love the freedom and come up with creative idea’s, as they’re closest to everyday customers.

     

  5. Coherent: every touch is a building-block. Looking only at individual transactions might not signal issues. My phone works fine, no problem with the “impatient network”. But whenever I call this provider for a technical issue, I need to reexplain my problem 3x to different departments and wait 12 months to have a solution? Are you addressing fundamental causes of dissatisfaction along the whole user journey? Are you living up to your brand promise in flesh: are you “”? Are you impatiently helping your customers, as your “impatient network” proudly states? Do you just go for 95% satisfaction or the full passionate 100%? Is your tone-of-voice fully & coherently reflecting your brand positioning? Unless every touch is coherently hammering the same message over and over again, no way I’ll remember you.

     

  6. Fluidity: working across departments and touchpoints will mount up to a company vision and hopefully transform into an actual project, a common mission to help out customers. Slowly through implementation, it should produce simplicity. Working together will uncover more effective ways to collaborate across teams and processes. Aim for easy and fluid. Look at foolproof apps on your smartphone: their interfaces are completely designed in such a simple way that ANY untrained 3-year old child can perform ANY task in an efficient way without help of any manual. These start-ups can’t afford costly customer service. Simple psychology applied to user interactions can help to reduce behavioral costs perceived in your interactions. This is the point where aerodynamic drag (aka CX-factor) aims for the same goal as customer experience CX: unobstrued flowing through weightless air.

     

  7. Differentiate your interpretation of CX: Go cross-sector and allow for example B2Bs to be inspired by consumer-brands? Can industrial niche-producers of metallic bolts pick up something from IKEA’s mandatory forcing of visitors through their whole physical assortment? Confronting a prospect with more products might improve cross-selling. Innocent smoothies have had a long tradition of approachability. Their CX is their tone of voice: natural consumer language, explaining their ingredients in normal english, be open about their processes, and adding a touch of emotional unicity in every single touchpoint.

     

 

Plan, be intentional on how the company interacts with prospects and customers. Map your journeys. Identify pain points or friction in customers’ experience. Design customer’s end-to-end journeys that build positive perceptions of your brand. The biggest challenge will be internal. CX involves cross-functional processes to be redesigned, hence cultural change and continuous pilots, this often impacts more than marketing alone and leads to broader organizational changes.

Better start quickly, as your digital/start-ups/agile-addicts are all educating your customers to be more demanding…

 

Ready? Very curious to read your own inspiring experiences as a customer to add to this list or your company ideas you’re working on to improve your CX.

 

theMarkitects.com

 

Tags: 2016 plans, marketing strategy, digital

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