Getting that syncing feeling

A seamless customer experience is critical to the success of any business and a well-integrated marketing strategy is essential for achieving this goal.

In 2017 StopPress published an article from market research company, Ipsos, about the growing implementation of CX programmes, in which the authors highlighted the issue that many customers hadn’t seen great improvements in their experiences as a result of all the CX investment, with many C-Suite executives admitting they had not seen a significant return on CX investments estimated to grow to $11 billion globally by 2020.

With Covid in between and the subsequent economic fallout, the customer experience of 2023 appears to have suffered rather than being the panacea it was predicted to become.

The advice given then remains relevant today: Without engagement, there is no traction; leadership and CEO/senior management is essential; know where you’ve been and where you’re going; engage the right people in the right way; get your research fundamentals right; map the customer’s journey; assess the pain points; leverage technology; respect the CX ecosystem; and measure results.

In today’s competitive marketplace, businesses need to go above and beyond to provide a great customer experience. This means creating a seamless journey for customers, from the moment they first learn about your brand to the moment they make a purchase and beyond.

One of the best ways to improve CX is to sync it with your marketing strategy. When these two areas are aligned, you can create a more consistent and personalised experience for customers. This will help attract new customers, build loyalty with existing customers, and boost the bottom line.

The mistake many marketers make, is not aligning language and tone across all channels. Marketing campaigns must align with CX goals. This means creating campaigns that are designed to drive the desired customer behaviour, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or leaving a review.

And tracking the results of your CX and marketing initiatives will help determine what’s working and what’s not, using this information to make adjustments to the strategy.

There are a number of international examples that demonstrate how effective aligning customer experience with a good marketing strategy can be.

Netflix has mastered the art of CX, offering a personalised streaming experience that is tailored to each individual customer. Netflix uses data to track what customers watch, and then recommends similar content. The company also offers a variety of features that allow customers to control their viewing experience, such as the ability to create profiles and set parental controls.

Amazon is known for its excellent customer service, offering a variety of ways for customers to get help, including 24/7 live chat, phone support, and email support. Amazon also uses data to personalise the customer experience. For example, the company recommends products to customers based on their past purchases.

Starbucks is known for its welcoming and inviting atmosphere. The company creates a sense of community by offering free Wi-Fi and comfortable seating. Starbucks also uses data to personalise the customer experience. For example, the company offers customers a rewards program that allows them to earn points for every purchase. These points can then be redeemed for free drinks or other rewards.

Here at home, Air New Zealand is known for its excellent customer service. The company has a dedicated customer service team that is available 24/7. Air New Zealand also uses data to personalise the customer experience and offers customers a rewards program that allows them to earn points for every flight, to be redeemed for free flights or other rewards.

Unfortunately, there are still a number of local corporates that fall short of expectations. Both of our largest Telcos have been criticised for poor customer service, long wait times, and billing errors. In 2021, the Commerce Commission received over 1,000 complaints about Vodafone and a further 700 complaints about Spark. And as good as Air New Zealand has been in certain respects, the national carrier has been criticised for its handling of flight cancellations and delays. In 2022, the company was forced to cancel or delay hundreds of flights due to staff shortages and weather conditions.

Even the The Warehouse was forced to apologise to customers after a number of high-profile incidents in 2021.

What is encouraging however, is that these iconic New Zealand companies appear to be taking customer feedback seriously and making changes to improve their CX. The rebranding of Vodafone to OneNZ being a prime example.

But it was Spark that took the need for an enhanced customer experience to heart. Fierce competition was driving churn at huge financial cost to Spark; impacting the bottom line with lost revenue and increasingly higher incentive costs to win new customers. As the largest telecommunications company in New Zealand, Spark have the most to lose from competitors battling to grow their market share.

Against a widespread mindset of distrust, Spark needed to build trust that customers are better off with Spark. The category is still highly transactional with minimal customer relationship building and the industry’s obsession with rewarding switching has not gone unnoticed by customers.

Spark’s MFYR (Made For You Review) programme has subsequently made an emotional connection with customers. The data at the heart of the programme has shown customers Spark understand their individual needs, it has built trust that its recommendations are specifically relevant to them, and it has built trust in Spark overall, showing that the telco has done the hard work for them as an individual and have put in the effort to get it right for them.

Every customer’s usage is individual to them and their household, but through extensive analytics across disparate data sets Spark has been able to identify individual customer’s behaviour and check whether their plan inclusions and value-added-services were right for their needs.

Made For You Review doesn’t just play back customer’s data – it goes a step further with personally crafted recommendations, helping customers understand what they need and how they can be better off. For some, this meant saving money by shifting to a new plan and for others, getting more data, faster speeds, or extras for the same, or close to, what they are already paying.

Most importantly, Spark has genuinely put customers first and encouraged them to review their plan if usage showed it was bigger than their current needs.

Email and phone support along with 24/7 live chat, are increasingly being improved in many local companies and the use of personalised data to improve customer experience has filtered all the way down to smaller retailers like Nosh and brands like Yoplait with its personalised emails that give information about customers’ yoghurt preferences.

With more than 30 years of commercial retail and CX experience, Juanita Neville Te-Rito of RX is an example of a Kiwi marketer who has helped brands become more customer centric. Writing recently for NZMarketing, she made the point that there has been constant change, particularly in the retail sector, from the introduction of POS systems replacing cash registers, the introduction of weekend shopping to 24/7 stores and self-checkout (now just walk-out), the introduction of ecommerce, C-stores, flagship stores, pop-up stores, loyalty programmes, apps, social commerce and the metaverse. Against this backdrop, she says, “there is no excuse not to understand your customer, even if it means you may not be able to do brand monitors or bespoke research.”

Customers are seeking comfort and reassurance from brands that give them stability and confidence in uncertain times, and as she proffers: “There is a huge push around the role and investment in MarTech to deliver a seamless customer experience (CX). MarTech is only an enabler, not the answer. Unless there is clarity on the core attributes that influence a customer impression of your brand, the customer experience may not be delivered in a way that positively influences them to choose to shop or spend time with you. More often than not the core attributes which most influence this are queues and long wait times, rude or unhelpful staff, missing or wrong products, not enough information, or misinformation about a product, slow or unresponsive technology, irrelevant search results or recommendations, service issues or customer support. Basically, anything that causes a bump in the customer journey. So, unless you have the above as a priority, no MarTech solution in the world is going to improve your NPS (Net Promoter Score) or sales.”

Syncing CX and marketing strategy is an ongoing process. It takes time, effort, and commitment. But it is worth it. By creating a seamless and personalised experience for customers, marketers can build strong brands and boost bottom lines.

Understanding customers, with a customer-centric mindset, and asking the right questions, is a good starting point. What are their needs and wants? What are their pain points? What are their expectations? The more you understand your customers, the better you will be able to create a CX that meets their needs.

One of the best ways to understand customers is to listen to them. This means collecting feedback from customers through surveys, interviews, and social media listening, and using this feedback to identify areas where CX can be improved.

Employees are the front-line of any CX programme. Making sure they are empowered to provide excellent customer service, means providing them with the training and resources they need to be successful. All too often different departments act in silos, oblivious of the effect their actions may have on the brand or company perceptions.

There are many ways to gather customer feedback, such as surveys, interviews, and social media listening. When gathering customer feedback, it is important to ask the right questions, open-ended questions. This will allow customers to share their thoughts and feelings in their own words. Asking specific questions helps identify specific areas where CX can be improved. And follow-up questions will help clarify customer feedback and initiate additional information.

A single customer view (SCV) is a complete view of each customer, including their purchase history, contact information, and preferences. This information can be used to deliver personalised experiences that are relevant to each individual customer.

Customer data should be collected from all channels. including data from your CRM system, social media accounts and website. Cleaning and unifying the data will ensure that the data is accurate and consistent. Most importantly, the data must be accessible to all employees. This will allow them to use the data to provide personalised customer service.

Data is essential for making informed decisions about CX and marketing. It tracks customer behaviour, measures the effectiveness of any marketing campaigns, and identifies areas for improvement.

Setting clear goals and knowing what needs to be achieved with your CX and marketing initiatives is imperative. Once you know your goals, you can use data to track your progress and make adjustments as needed. Not all data is created equal, and using the right metrics ensures you are using the right metrics to track your progress. And don’t just collect data and then do nothing with it. Use the data to make changes to your CX and marketing initiatives.

Customer journey mapping can uncover the critical moments and touchpoints that have the greatest influence on customers’ decision-making and the key features of the service or product that create customer satisfaction, moving customers to repeat purchase and then advocacy. In other words, customer journey mapping helps marketers understand which customer experiences matter the most. 

When you understand what your customers want and need, you can create marketing campaigns and CX initiatives that are relevant and engaging. The future of marketing lies with customer experience, and CX is set to overtake price, product, and expertise as the key brand differentiator. Strong customer insights are the key to long-term, sustainable growth.

Graham Medcalf

About Graham Medcalf

Graham Medcalf is former Editor of NZ Marketing and regular contributor.

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