Monday, September 16, 2013

Marketing Is Taking Charge and Leading the Customer Experience

How does your company respond to customers? Are questions answered in a timely manner? Are problems resolved by return email or phone call? Does your customer service department operate 24/7 or only within specific hours? Do members of your customer service team have the authority to go above and beyond to make sure that customers are happy? Do your customer service reps assume customers are wrong when they complain? As you consider these questions and the overall concept of customer experiences, fasten your seat belt and get ready for some astounding statistics.

“In the United States alone, roughly $83 billion is lost each year as a result of poor customer experiences. (1) That’s more than the revenue for the entire US e-commerce retail sector. (2)”

While some companies understand how customer service impacts and improves financial performance, there are far too many that are clueless. The IBM Center for Applied Insights regularly surveys professionals from around the world and across many industries and recently announced the results of the IBM State of Marketing 2013 Survey. Hopefully, the results will prompt you to re-consider how you treat customers in your day-to-day business interactions and improve all of your customer touchpoints.

“Last year, forward-thinking marketers were working hard to redefine their role and influence within the enterprise. Today, they’ve earned a seat at the business strategy table and are taking on the hard world of “owning” the customer experience across the enterprise. They’re seeking to integrate customer insight and omnichannel engagement – including social and mobile, as well as more traditional channels – to coordinate activities and improve the overall customer experience.”

The data showed that leading companies outperformed financially because their marketing leaders shared three key characteristics:
[1] Know customer context and integrate accordingly – demonstrate flexibility and responsiveness to fast-shifting expectations and circumstances.
[2] Act on insights systematically – make good use of technology to develop customer insights and act on them in a consistent manner.
[3] Take a broader view of the customer experience – use rigorous measurement to guide actions and build customer relationships that grow and strengthen over time.

The survey provided an example from a well-known international brand that many of us will recognize. “Consider how Apple has taken ownership of the entire customer experience by using marketing technology, insight, and engagement in a carefully orchestrated way. When customers want to schedule an in-store service appointment, they encounter a seamless blend of live web information and interaction, relevant in-store displays, and in-person employee interaction that is both customized to them and made more convenient by mobile technology. The entire process flows smoothly. An experience like this does more than employ channels effectively. It sends a powerful message that the brand is invested in building a better customer relationship by making it easier to interact and conduct transactions. This cross-channel illustration displays broad understanding, knowledge of context, and ability to take systematic action, all brought to life through a single customer interaction.”

How about your brand? While your brand doesn’t own the customer experience in the same manner as Apple does, there are definitely ways in which you can improve your process. Perhaps, you can improve your brand’s packaging, distribution channels, pricing model, or promotional strategy. How often do you change your strategy in real-time? Do you combine multiple channels to share your messaging? Are all of your brand messages consistent? What happens with online transactions are abandoned? And do you track your customer lifetime value?

In the 2013 survey, “leading marketers clearly defined the customer context and its value to the business – and created a case for a larger role in the end-to-end customer experience…This expanded role expressed itself if many ways. These range from an in-depth understanding of how different touchpoints affect customer context to deeper involvement in individual channel activities related to customer experience, such as, brand training for call center and sales staff. This broader view of – and involvement in – the customer experience makes leading marketers stewards of their brands, able to bring clarity, consistency, and high standards to every customer interaction.

Leading companies extended the influence of marketing in much higher percentages than their competitors:
[1] They contacted customers to gauge their satisfaction.
[2] They monitored and tracked delivery commitments to ensure fulfillment.
[3] They identified cross and upsell opportunities for sales and customer-facing staff.
[4] They trained sales and customer-facing staff on product and service lines.
[5] They designed marketing offers for point of purchase.

“Leaders use every interaction as an opportunity to enhance the overall experience. To do this well, a company needs to be hypersensitive to not only behavior, history, and preferences, but also the real-time circumstances customers are facing…[And also] a clear vision of the end game. [Leaders] view marketing as much more than a siloed function. Its influence – and responsibility – extends across the entire buy/market/sell/service cycle to bring all channels and all kinds of interaction together.” 

So, what about your business? What have the highlights from this IBM report prompted you to change in your outlook about customer experience marketing – and implement as a result?


To read the entire report, here’s the link:

(1) Poor Customer Service Costs Companies $83 Billion Annually:

(2) Data from the U.S. Department of Commerce:

Image Credit: Image created on

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

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