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Owning the Customer Experience is a Marketing Function

Owning the Customer Experience is a Marketing FunctionThe landscape in which businesses operate has changed dramatically in modern times, yet the roles of marketing executives and departments have been slow to change. According to consulting firm Deloitte, the influence and agenda of marketing executives have expanded, yet their organizational context has not fully caught up — they often have only indirect input on many of the critical customer and marketing-related decisions enterprises need to make. Navigating these tensions is what today’s chief marketing officers (CMOs) face.

Clearly, there’s a conflict at the core of marketing departments today.

The Conflicted Marketing Function

Marketers are expected to support the sales function and are measured by short-term successes; yet true and sustainable success is only achievable through long-term customer development efforts. Sales executives demand more quality leads, yet today’s quality customers are acquired when existing customers become advocates and influence their like-minded friends and colleagues to become customers.

Marketing is tasked with creating and building the business’s brand, yet increasingly a business’s brand is established by existing customers and shareholders sharing their experiences with that business, not by the advertisements and sponsorships brainstormed by marketers.

Businesses turn to marketers to embrace new digital marketing technologies, yet measure their success via short-term metrics such as the number of followers and mentions instead of the net effect of that social media activity on the business’ bottom-line.

Achieving Return on Marketing Investment

Business leaders, including marketing chiefs, argue that achieving – or even understanding – the return on investment from marketing efforts is difficult. Traditionally, this has been true. Measuring ROI from marketing efforts requires some control of the entire customer life cycle, something few have been allowed to manage if they even knew how to do it.

Marketers, emboldened by the real-time engagement and response offered via digital and social media, are changing their fortunes – and that of their businesses – by taking ownership of the entire customer experience. Customer life cycle marketing is the practice of creating consistent experiences at each touch point in the relationship between a business and its customer – from the first cold-call, to the follow up sales meeting, to solution integration, to billing and customer service.

From Prospect to Advocate

Bain & Company and Satmetrix, through the development of their Net Promoter Score (NPS), have proven that new customers acquired from the recommendation of existing customer advocates are more profitable customers than those acquired through traditional marketing efforts. As a result, marketers can provide a better service to their businesses by focusing on moving existing customers from satisfied customers to loyal customers, and from loyal customers to business advocates.

Creating advocates is not as straightforward a tactic as many will lead you to believe. Advocates are not merely happy and satisfied customers; they’re customers whose use of a product or engagement with a business is inextricably intertwined with their daily experience. These are the customers who voluntarily advocate for the brands they love. The recommendations issued by these types of customers yield greater business benefit than recommendations offered by paid endorsements or by gamified social media celebrities.

How to Create Experiences

Here’s a short analysis by The Economist Group on ways modern businesses have created the experiences required to earn advocacy.

1. Establish emotional markers along the customer journey.

Create delight in the experience; don’t just create better products: It’s important for marketers to address the holistic end-to-end customer experience and think about brand engagement, customer delight, and growth. Experience innovation is as much about how to delight as how to deliver. You remember the first time you got flew Virgin Airlines, the first time you walked into an Apple store. These experiences are emotional markers for these brands.

2. Weave your business into the customer’s lifestyle.

It’s about looking at the whole customer “ecosystem,” not just where you play today. Finding innovation opportunities often requires looking beyond your narrow product category. Thinking about the larger ecosystem—the opportunities to meet customer needs in the spaces surrounding your core product or service offering– allows you to expand your base and opportunities for growth. For example, Starbucks has developed a larger ecosystem that extends beyond morning coffee into daylong “moments of connection” across multiple food and beverage categories. New formats include a wine bar concept, with mobile payment and reward apps to enhance loyalty.

3. Don’t follow the current trends; seek the trend currents.

It’s about being customer-focused, but not customer-led: Experience innovators recognize that consumers can’t tell you about the things they really need but haven’t yet imagined. And consumers can’t articulate how they will do things differently in the future. An example of this is when Delta brought the lounge directly to the gate, creating a new experience among travelers who had never thought of the gate as a café and social destination.

4. Focus on the end-to-end experience, not a single flagship product.

Brand the total experience; don’t just deliver “a breakthrough idea:” Great experience innovation isn’t coming up with a single idea, but delivering a connected journey from one brand. Disney delivers magic with bracelets that optimize your waiting time in the park, new cruise and vacation experiences, and carefully curated apps that bring the experience to life for kids.

Sensei Debates

Should marketing own the entire customer relationship, not just the branding and lead acquisition functions?

Sam Fiorella
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego

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