When customer experience and marketing work together, organizations have the potential to truly deliver on their brand promises, deliver personalized experiences, activate promoters, and more. Here are five customer experience and marketing best practices you should know.
Customer expectations are higher than ever before — and so are the stakes for meeting them. Or not. There’s the promise of driving loyalty and greater revenue or, the alternative, losing out to the competition. That’s why delivering exceptional customer experiences is a top priority for companies across industries. But with everyone striving to ensure customers are completely satisfied, how can you stand out? By following these customer experience marketing best practices and making sure your customer experience and marketing efforts are in alignment.
Experience is the totality of every single customer interaction with your company — across the entire journey, from the very start, through every subsequent engagement.
This requires looking at the world through the lens of the customer. It’s not about what we think the customer wants, it’s about asking them, listening to the response, and, most importantly, acting upon that information to ensure we are giving our customers the very best experience possible — one that is effortless, consistently delivered, and memorable (in a good way!), ensuring happy, loyal customers.
If we fail to achieve this 360-degree view of our customers, we might move forward with the best intentions of doing what’s right, only to discover that we don’t know what our customers want or how they are feeling after all.
This requires intentionally designing customer experiences at every step of the journey, developing people and processes to enable consistent delivery of that experience, and being relentless in the search for actionable insights and opportunities for continuous innovation across the experience.
Since customer experience is inclusive of every single brand interaction, that makes improving and optimising the customer experience the responsibility of every single department and every single person in the organisation — including marketing. And that’s what we’re here to cover today: five key customer experience marketing best practices to ensure your marketing and customer experience efforts are both working together to strengthen key customer outcomes.
More and more the customer experience is being led by the marketing team. They understand how customer experience influences brand equity, retention, and revenue and, as such, can mobilise the entire organisation around the customer.
Amory Somers Vine, SVP, Client Experience & Insight at NTT Limited believes that the marketing department is in a unique position when it comes to painting a 360-degree picture of customers.
“We’ve been able to take the lead in combining internal system data and external data to create a 360-degree view of our customers, which didn’t previously exist,” she says.“We’ve built a powerful integrated view of our customers globally by bringing together experience insight from customers, external market, trend data, leading and lagging service operations and sales data.”
There are many ways that marketing teams can influence the overall customer experience, but let’s focus on five key areas:
Consumers and businesses are increasingly planning before formally doing business with a brand. In B2B, before you even get a look in with an RFP, they have already made up their mind on many things. The reality of this is that their experience begins way before any type of transaction occurs and we need to understand what is happening right up front — how are people perceiving our website, our advertising, our sales processes, our marketing events, and so on?
Marketing can help build a holistic picture of customers’ experiences with a brand throughout the entire relationship. But it’s not just about understanding this experience, it’s essential that we leverage customer feedback and insights to design and evolve the experience and to develop value-added services based on these insights. For example, we at Medallia introduced program assessments based on listening to client feedback about their ambitions of becoming customer experience leaders and hearing that they were looking for ways to best develop their customer experience programs and organisational capabilities to drive action across the organisation.
How you make people feel drives brand value — the experience a company provides is as important as its products and solutions. In fact, maybe even more so. If you can create emotional connections with your customers they are much more likely to stay with you.
You can promise the world, but fail to deliver. Without listening to customers, how do you know if your customers’ experiences are delivered consistently against your brand promise and vision? You can have the best brand team in the world. They understand the strategic goals of the business, they listen to how you want to be perceived as a company and what you can offer a customer, and they develop an exciting, innovative brand strategy to support that. But what if there is incongruence between what your brand says you offer and the reality of that experience? You’ll lose not only your customers’ trust, but also the opportunity to cross-sell, up-sell, and renew — very quickly.
For example, what if there’s a breakdown between marketing and sales and the onboarding process? Could you be making promises that the organisation simply cannot deliver on? If you’re only focused on important contract wins, when the time comes for renewal, your customers will be looking elsewhere.
Successful brands put customer insights at the heart of their business. They listen to what their customers are saying at each core touchpoint and, more importantly, they act on that feedback, strengthening their brand position as the first choice for their customers. And they make sure that what they say they will do, they do. That is, they keep their brand promise.
So, yes, having a strong and clear brand promise is important, but more than that you have to be consistent and ensure you are delivering on your promises. Every single promise. Whether that’s your brand promise or promises your sales team makes. You can’t afford a disconnect between what you say and what you deliver. And only a comprehensive customer experience program can deliver this invaluable feedback.
Creating personas and providing personalised communications and experiences are fundamental marketing best practices — and strong customer feedback programs can help support these efforts.
Whether from direct feedback via surveys, information captured by your employees about what customers are experiencing, or indirect feedback from chat logs, meeting notes captured in Salesforce, social media, or contact center transcripts, tapping into customer insights can be game changing. It doesn’t matter where the information is from, what matters is that it gets analysed and acted upon.
As with face-to-face focus groups, feedback we receive from our customers can help us better understand what they are thinking and feeling in an open and insightful way, giving us the powerful ability as marketers to drive the experience and strengthen these relationships. We can center the conversation around what they care about, not just what we want to say, enabling us to make that all important emotional connection.
You have customer feedback in front of you and you can see where you need to improve. That’s great — this is often (and should be) the priority. But another overlooked opportunity? Promoters. What about those who love what you are doing? For B2B brands, the most obvious route is of course engaging with clients to co-create a case study, talk about the difference we make through our partnership, and to showcase their successes. If you’re not already taking these steps, get to it today!
But there is so much more than just case studies. Marketing can, for example, activate these happy customers as advocates, asking them for referrals, either to other parts of their business, where we know our solutions will help, or even to others outside of their business.
We can also work together to elevate these loyal customers as thought leaders in their domain, bringing them into user groups to talk about their experiences, inviting them to present at events, or co-innovating with them on products and services. Partnering with them to enter external awards can also be hugely beneficial for brand awareness on both sides of the partnership and for energising the pride of employees of both organisations. There is so much we can do together with our promoters, it’s important that we are activating all possibilities and driving our business, and theirs, forward collectively.
And of course, let’s talk about what we are doing through actioning their feedback, both internally and externally. “You said, we listened…” Show that you are listening, that you appreciate the time they have taken to give you feedback, that you take pride in delighting your customers, and that you are learning and evolving every day based on what they are sharing with you.
Just like with customers, it’s critical to understand the employee experience in context of their broader journey with your organisation. This lifecycle approach to employee engagement allows for a richer, and more relevant conversation with employees at moments that matter the most. For example, you can survey employees at the end of their onboarding experience or a few months in. Have you given them the knowledge and skills to be able to deliver your brand effectively? Are you taking a pulse from your employees regularly to understand their general satisfaction with the aim of identifying opportunity areas and reducing turnover, a huge cost to many businesses?
And do you have a mechanism to capture customer experience and operational improvement ideas from your frontline teams, and to relentlessly search for barriers that get in the way of them delivering your brand promise and an exceptional experience to your customers?
Ryan Parkinson, Director, Global Customer Experience at Scotiabank, nicely summarises the impact for them: “Once we started getting information from our employees, and not just from customers, it was eye-opening,” he says. “Employees have a unique view to processes or systems that customers don’t have. Getting customers’ point of view is only half the picture. The full picture comes from both customers and employees.”
If you’re not focussed on customer (and employee) experience you are very soon going to be left behind. And, more than that, you need to focus on the entire journey of your customers. Every time they interact with you, find out what the experience is like. What do customers like, what could be better?
When you look at the world through the lens of your customers — forgetting what you think you know and taking the time to listen, really listen, to what they are telling you — you will gain a wealth of insights to enhance your products and solutions, strengthen your marketing efforts, and optimise the customer experience
The new call to action for marketeers and customer experience professionals should be to work together to delight your customers at every single opportunity because if you don’t, your competitor just around the corner is ready and waiting to do the job right.
Get your copy of “The CMO’s Guide to Customer Experience,” a new Adweek eBook created with Medallia and Deloitte Digital that breaks down what marketing leaders need to do to ensure their brands can deliver a superior end-to-end customer experience.