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Top challenges for marketers: a consistent customer experience

What is the biggest marketing challenge today? I was reading an article in Marketing Week (24 July) titled ‘New Model Agency’ which put consistent customer experience at #3.

To my mind, there are 3 prerequisites to developing a consistent customer experience and they come way before you start looking at touch points:

1. The customer strategy must be aligned to the business strategy.
2. The customer betterment criteria must be established (aka customer vision) and link back to measurable KPIs.
3. All existing agency partners responsible for affecting improvements must be included in a strategic capacity.

Align customer strategy and business strategy
The customer should be at the heart of the decision-making. Understanding what role the brand and its propositions are playing in customers’ lives and the importance of the experience in attaining and using these informs the customer experience strategy. Delivering this in the most effective and efficient way to ensure retained and profitable happy customers is the desired outcome to achieve.

With this in mind, the business should look to ensure the customer attributes (how its customers articulate what matters most) and the business activities (how the business delivers these) are aligned.
Establish where most gain is attainable for the customer and the business. This might prove to be changes to recruitment policy, a review of brand standards, customer services training, IT enhancements, product enhancements, KPI dashboard rework or even marketing discipline improvements.

Put a customer champion in place
Unless well-directed and managed, the advertising, PR, media, digital, CRM, comms, branding, sponsorship and social media agencies will all have a slightly different interpretation on what that means which will impact what they deliver. This is where the inconsistency creeps in and starts to rot the experience.

Ideally you want a solutions-agnostic customer champion with commercial acumen and advanced stakeholder management skills to lead the customer experience strategy. These individuals can often be found lurking within the organisation having gained experience sitting in many of the client facing departments in their career.

Alternatively, an external customer experience mentor is a useful addition to the team. They will cling on to the customer vision objectively and ensure every action is accounted for and contributing towards a customer betterment outcome. It involves working with the client’s existing agencies to ensure they are well equipped to deliver their ‘slice’ of the customer experience pie as and when it’s needed.

With an independent customer strategist there is no marketing discipline bias either. In fact, this role will help to ensure clients get the most effectiveness and efficiency from their agencies. And the agency is able to add the most value where relevant to their client. So it’s a win-win-win (not forgetting the customer).

Investing in the customer=investing in the agency
Having explained why it’s dangerous for an agency to lead such a programme, it is critical they are at the top table and always involved. Remembering they will naturally be focused on their discipline. So investment is needed with each agency to help them really understand customer fulfilment in the sense of customer experience. This includes:

1. What matters most to the brand’s customers (in their life, in their brand relationship and in their usage and transactions).

2. How customer experience plays a key role (often No.1) in influencing and shaping the relationship with a brand, which then determines future customer expectations.

3. The agency contribution to customer experience (needs to be well-defined to avoid scope creep) and how the outputs align to the customer strategy in order to achieve a consistent customer experience.

Each agency plays a critical role. But agencies are playing catch-up when it comes to customer experience. They need support and assistance otherwise the interpretation of customer experience will be largely driven by their discipline view.

Establishing a ‘customer closeness’ programme for agencies will ensure they are as in tune with customers and their needs, wants and expectations as they are with their own discipline. They can then work to fuse the two better than anyone else within the organisation could.

And finally, when it goes wrong: Verizon mails same customer 56 times
A mailing from Verizon highlights what happens when agencies aren’t aligned. The mailing thanks the customer for moving towards paperless billing. But the notification went out to the same customer 56 times. With a ‘customer experience strategist’ at the heart of any changes this sort of cock-up is avoided.

The team would have known which customer attributes were critical to deliver against. It is likely that ‘save me time and effort’ and ‘put my interests first’ would have come through in order to prove that paperless billing was a better outcome for customers. It is also likely the comms agency, the CRM agency and the website agency were involved. Each one’s efforts has been compromised. But with someone representing the customer and what a better outcome looks like, diligence would have been applied to key aspects of the communication which could affect this, such as the mailing file and production.

By DMA guest blogger Christopher Brooks, Customer Experience Strategy & Director, Lexden

Listen to our free webinar on customer experience on Wednesday 3 September and discover how to put the technology in place to create a personalised brand experience for customers.Register your free place.

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