Two-thirds of CMOs are now on the hook for improving customer experience (CX).
Despite all the recent buzz about CX becoming a bigger part of the marketing function, however, CMOs have yet to really step up to the plate. According to a 2016 study by Deloitte and the CMO Council, only a small minority of marketing leaders have made significant progress in improving CX. Just eight percent of marketing leaders have taken the crucial step of auditing and assessing the end-to-end customer experience.
If you’re a marketing leader with CX responsibility, it’s likely you need to focus your efforts to meet business expectations in 2017—and you need to do so fast. To help you get started, we asked some of the smartest marketing leaders we know to share their insight on this topic. Here’s what six of them told us about how to improve CX in 2017.
Michael Brenner, CEO at Marketing Insider Group
For too many marketers, improving customer experience means making the buying experience more ‘seamless’ or having ‘less friction.’ But that’s a limited view of the customer experience. That kind of thinking is still about selling more stuff faster and more efficiently.
Leading CMOs who own CX create a culture of radical customer-centricity across the organization. Customer experience improvements happen when everyone in our companies is building experiences that set us apart. Everyone needs to be involved—from product to customer service, from sales and marketing, even within procurement and legal departments. Only then will customers feel that we’re more than just selling products.
"Leading CMOs who own CX create a culture of radical customer-centricity across the organization."
Effective customer experience initiatives leverage three simple, but critical principles.
First, understand your buyers. A few months ago, I asked 35 senior marketing professionals at large enterprises how many customers they'd spoken to in the last thirty days. Seventy-five percent of them hadn’t spoken to a single customer in the last month, and often they couldn’t recall the last time they had. They had become dependent on reports prepared for them. While data gives us incredible insight, without a regular cadence of talking to buyers, you’ll miss critical nuance. CMOs must set the example by ensuring every team member knows how to reach out and learn from buyers.
"While data gives us incredible insight, without a regular cadence of talking to buyers, you’ll miss critical nuance."
Second, audit existing processes carefully and look for ways to reduce waste. Simple things can make a big difference. For example, I just ordered a calendar from an online photo service. They sent me a shipment tracking code but it didn’t work. That's OK, mistakes happen. The unnecessary part occurred when I tracked down the problem. When I hit ‘reply’ on the email, I received a notice that this email address is not monitored for responses. Such an easy thing to correct, and, as a consumer, such a frustrating way to start off my interaction.
Finally, empower your team with decision-making authority and a transparent information architecture. Build a culture of empathy and then empower those that manage your social interactions, those at your call centers, even front-line staff with access to information. This step is the most complex part of a good customer experience strategy, but is the only way to build sustainable improvements.
Peter Mollins, vice president of marketing at KnowledgeTree
To improve CX, you need to understand the buyer scale. On one side, you have value. On the other, you have cost, risk and effort. At each step in the experience, customers are weighing that scale—whether consciously or not.
"To improve CX, you need to understand the buyer scale."
The relative weights will vary based on where they are in the experience. For example, the weights will be different when they're choosing a vendor. The scale will also differ if they’re deciding whether to prioritize your initiative or if they’re choosing to renew with a seller. Driving CX requires mapping the journey and understanding how the scale is weighed along the path and how you can tip the balance.
Ted Rubin, keynote speaker and acting CMO at Brand Innovators
Businesses no longer have the luxury of compartmentalizing the customer experience. Consumers have a multitude of ways to engage with a company. For example, by walking into a physical store, browsing a catalogue, visiting a website or using social media. They also use multiple devices. Brands must ensure a seamless experience across all channels.
But meeting that expectation is easier said than done. Ensuring consistent, omni-channel experience requires marketing and customer service go hand in hand. There’s often a huge gulf between these two groups, if they interact at all.
Customer service is marketing. When else do you have the customer’s full attention, and the chance to solve one of their challenges directly? You may be dealing with someone who’s frustrated in the moment, but they’ve contacted you for help solving a problem.
"Customer service is marketing."
Each customer service contact is a golden opportunity to build your reputation. Reputation matters. It’s defined by the moments people remember. A customer may recognize your logo or name, but recognition means little without a positive experience to back it up.
Create an environment where collaboration between customer service and marketing is encouraged and rewarded. Think beyond content, web design and marketing materials. Customer experience is what you do, not just what you say.
James Thomas, CMO at Allocadia
Marketing leaders over the past few years have evolved to think beyond the sale, focusing on the lifetime value of a customer. This is not only for the value customers bring in terms of direct revenue, but the value they bring in terms of advocacy and referrals. Today's consumers don't want to be sold—they want to engage and they want help buying.
Together, the most effective strategy marketing leaders can drive is ensuring that everyone 'owns' the customer. It's not just about a case study or the customer success relationships. It’s not just about one piece of technology. In fact, our research on Marketing Performance Management finds that companies who consistently integrate technology across their entire marketing organization are five times as likely to see more than 25 percent revenue growth than those with flat or negative growth. CX is not the responsibility of one team. It's a culture shift that marketing needs to support and drive across the organization.
"The most effective strategy marketing leaders can drive is ensuring that everyone 'owns' the customer."
Maria Osipova, vice president of marketing at MediaValet
CMOs have proven their ability to handle complex cross-functional objectives without losing focus on profitability. Customer experience is one of the most complex responsibilities for CMOs to take on and will require a gradual, multi-faceted approach.
First, establish a single view of the customer. Develop a thorough understanding of the different touchpoints in the audience and customer journey. Organize your digital properties, content and brand assets across entire company, applying metadata and structure. Once you’ve done those two things, your employees will be able to create personalized and engaging customer interactions, enhancing brand and customer loyalty in the process.
"Organize your digital properties, content and brand assets across entire company."
How to win the CX war in 2017
Customer experience is the new battlefield for business growth, and companies expect marketing departments to lead the war. The pressure to make progress in improving CX will only grow this year. As the tips above show, instilling the right culture, empowering your employees and building an authentic relationship with your customers are good first steps.