Marketers Must Join Up “Promise” And “Delivery” To Create Seamless CX
To deliver a seamless customer experience organisations must ensure there is effective collaboration between both the Promise makers and the Promise keepers.
When I read the “Marketing 2.0: Reinventing Customer Experience” report by Adobe I was struck by the section entitled “Unite the Promise makers with the Promise keepers”.
The phrase elegantly sums up the real challenge of delivering good customer experience; it highlights the tension between selling the dream and the reality of delivery. Neither can exist without the other, but the tension is rising because customer behaviour has changed.
We consumers are no longer fools. We don’t fall for the promises made in alluring advertising any more, we are savvy, smart and to be honest a bit mouthy. So when the promises made are not delivered we shout from the roof tops, take to social media or tweet the CEO directly to get satisfaction. And that satisfaction is not just recompense for the poor service we receive, it is the satisfaction that comes from knowing we changed the consumer world for the better. And that is both satisfying and addictive; so we share our successes and that fuels a cycle of ever-rising expectation.
Organisations now have no choice but to make the promise-makers and the promise-keepers collaborate to create seamless experiences, but how? I think there are three elements to helping these two groups join up more frequently and more effectively.
Turn The Lights On
If you are undertaking a long unknown journey it is far better to have the weak light you get before dawn to illuminate the landscape rather than a few bright beacons scattered randomly around you. The silos of customer data held by individual units light up a small part of the customer experience but act more to serve the needs of the unit rather than the customer, and they certainly don’t provide the fuller lighting needed for the journey.
So organisations need to adopt and implement far better customer data and analytics strategies than they have in the past. The problem is that the number of places data relating to customers is kept has exploded. Data is held not just in transactional systems that record orders, deliveries, and refunds, but in email marketing tools, social media platforms, targeting tools, and recommendation engines as well as ad hoc databases that cover things like events, competitions, and increasingly sensors aka things. In short the core data needed to deliver better experiences is lost, lonely, and very confused.
This data situation has a number of consequences. Not only does it make real insight difficult, it raises cost and it dramatically increases cybersecurity risk, as well as making compliance with the new European data protection regulations all but impossible. Pulling together all this data and putting it to good use will be very difficult, but there is a real business need to do so; the Adobe report uses a quote from Forrester to highlight this: “The only source of competitive advantage is an obsession with understanding, delighting, connecting with, and serving customers.” So building a system of insight that uses all the available data to generate unbiased insight in real time is a core capability that every organisation will need to build.
Without light generated by the data there can be no understanding, and without that light the promise-makers and the promise-keepers will not be able to agree. So tackling the data challenge has to be a top priority.
Having the data and analytics is one thing but actually listening to what it reveals about the real customer experience and doing something about it is where improvement really gets made. We have all seen reports filed away in the “too difficult to deal with” pile, and many managers have access to dashboards that hardly change week by week, reminding us all of our lack of progress.
Why? Leaders who don’t listen to the customer or champion the customer are a big reason. They may say they listen, but often by the time the reports filter to the top they have been so sanitised as to have had all value removed from them. Surely the leader of a customer-centric organisation needs to be immersed in what the customers are saying, not just about their business but about the industry they are part of and the society they live in? I’m not sure it happens, in the same way real leadership, the sort of leadership that takes risks and fights for what is right for the customer, is very rare in large organisations.
Building leaders who are passionate about customers is therefore a prerequisite for delivering sustained customer experience improvement. This means organisations will have to look very closely at their culture, their promotion criteria, who they hire, and how they reward them.
Without these leaders the promise-makers and promise-keepers will not be united and customer experience will not change significantly.
The basic structure of most organisations is one based upon product or functional expertise. But things are different now, so is the existing structure really fit for purpose? Would you design a customer-centric organisation differently? Of course you would. You would put the customer at the heart of the organisation, properly, not just in name.
I recently met an organisation that was beginning the journey to a new structure that will give control of the business to customer segment leaders. These leaders have complete responsibility for a clearly defined customer segment; they must recruit, retain, sell to, service, and make a profit from their customer group. These customer segments will be the primary organising principle, not channels or products as is traditional. The segment leaders will own the critical business KPIs of sales, margin, and profit as well as consumer satisfaction. They will use the other functions such as product sourcing, channels, service, and marketing to deliver their targets. The customer leaders will drive the business, and expect them to become highly paid executives.
Without a business built to truly serve customers the promise-makers and promise-keepers will not be able to remain united, or scale and innovate fast enough to satisfy the modern consumer.
So I would urge you to read the “Marketing 2.0: Reinventing Customer Experience” report by Adobe and then to look at what it will really take to deliver the strategies outlined. Don’t be afraid, and remember the words of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”