As marketing continues to evolve, there’s no shortage of articles, research and blogs giving advice on data analytics, engagement tactics, content marketing. Marketers read voraciously to find solutions to ensure that marketing programs contribute to new and incremental revenues and to the pipeline of qualified leads. Effective marketing automation and performance metrics are the highly regarded hallmarks of success.
Although performance metrics can tell us about past performance, the single determinant of success is, and has always been, the consistent delivery of the brand promise throughout the customer’s journey.
Giving the customer what he expects is everything
One bad customer experience can be amplified in a nanosecond through social media and damage a brand’s reputation, undermining the investment in marketing programs.
Recent experiences with a fender bender, having my old smart phone replaced and finding my lost luggage, have given me some valuable insights on how companies are either hitting or missing the mark when it comes to delivering on the brand promise.
It came as no surprise when I read in the 2016 Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council’s Predicting Routes to Revenue Report that
Only 16 percent of marketers feel that their organizations are delivering customer experiences that truly fulfill their brand promises, while two-thirds (66 percent) say their efforts in this area are hit or miss, and 14 percent say they are completely missing the mark.
Return to marketing fundamentals
The CMO Council’s finding points to the need to return to marketing fundamentals – the why, what and how products and services should meet the needs and expectations of the customer. Every marketer knows that the brand promise is what the customer can expect in his interaction with the brand.
So why is there a disconnect between the customer experience and the brand promise?
In my view, very often the brand promise is defined by Marketing, but it is not understood by other areas of the business. The back-office is not configured to support the customer experience; customer-facing teams are ill-equipped to serve customers; budgets don’t get approved for investments in training, IT development and operational processes that ultimately impact the customer experience.
The real answers to the why, what and how questions, can’t be just be statements of Marketing’s pipe dream, nor should they be the responsibility of some other area of the business.
The answers require deep understanding and insight into customers’ needs and their motivation to purchase, which may not be as straightforward or as obvious as is commonly taken for granted.
Why is there a demand for your product or service?
Like it or not, a well-crafted end-product or service may really only be a means to an end for the customer. For example, travellers use airlines to get to the family reunion or to the once-in-a-lifetime dream vacation destination. Delay or lose the passenger’s luggage and the family reunion or the dream vacation is ruined. Back-office operations that send an automated e-mail promising a response in 3 days, and a CSR who tells the customer that the “system is still searching for your bag” fully discredit the brand promise to “provide the best service possible.”
What is the fundamental problem has to be solved for the customer?
The perceived need that is being fulfilled may in fact be secondary. The person whose car was damaged obviously needs to have it repaired. But the real problem is the inconvenience of being without a car and the hassle of making alternative travel arrangements while the car is being repaired. Armed with this insight, the promise of “personalized service for each guest” translates to a simplified sign-up process and flexible return schedule for the rented car replacement on top of a first-class repair job. The combined work of the body shop’s Repair Services and Administration teams adds up to an A-grade score from a delighted customer, who then becomes a brand advocate.
How does the client want to be served?
And so what if you have a leading-edge product? The average consumer doesn’t deeply understand (and doesn’t want to deeply understand) the technical features of many products they use on a daily basis. Advertising the hi-tech features of smart phones won’t buy customers’ loyalty. The promise to provide the “best possible customer experience…treating the customer the way we would want to be treated” is really about ensuring that the customer’s experience is delivered on the customer’s terms. What really matters is easy access to personalized service when and where the customer wants and needs it, delivered by tech-savvy customer service professionals.
The BIG picture
Empowered with information, customers are driving the way business is done. That said, there has to be a common understanding of the brand promise and a common view of how the brand promise will be delivered through interdependent relationships throughout the organization. This, in my view, is the BIG picture.
Focus on what’s important
What’s really important is the consistent gathering of customer insights that is used to validate the brand promise and where necessary, adjust every aspect of business operations ensuring alignment with customer expectations. In practical terms, this means that organizations must do 3 things –
- Dedicate specialist resources to gather and analyse data on customer behaviour,
- Avoid analysis paralysis by requiring the delivery of actionable recommendations, and
- Commit to drive change in every area of the business so that the customer experience matches the brand promise.
See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.