Bet­ter cus­tomer jour­ney is route to suc­cess for brands

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

IT’S hard to avoid a con­ver­sa­tion about what the ad­ver­tis­ing agency of the fu­ture might look like in five years’ time, never mind 20 years. It’s a topic that fre­quently sur­faces in many de­bates, thought-lead­er­ship con­fer­ences and gen­eral pub chats as the in­dus­try and its lead­ers pon­der their fu­ture.

But it’s also a topic which no­body can ap­pear to reach a con­sen­sus on and it’s likely that sev­eral dif­fer­ent mod­els will emerge as the in­dus­try em­barks on what is likely to be a pe­riod of pro­found dis­rup­tion over the next few years.

For an in­dus­try that has prided it­self on be­ing at the cut­ting edge in terms of dis­pens­ing ad­vice on a wide range of ar­eas from con­sumer and mar­ket­ing in­sights, data, dig­i­tal and in­no­va­tion, it is some­what as­ton­ish­ing that the in­dus­try has, so far, failed to dis­rupt it­self to the same ex­tent as other in­dus­tries in which its clients op­er­ate.

A com­mon theme in much of the re­cent de­bate, how­ever, is the need for the in­dus­try to dou­ble down on the cus­tomer by of­fer­ing bet­ter cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences. A happy cus­tomer is very of­ten a re­peat cus­tomer and pos­si­bly one for life. While this might seem blind­ingly ob­vi­ous — given that mar­ket­ing has al­ways been about cus­tomers — the greater preva­lence of tech­nol­ogy and data has al­lowed mar­keters and their agen­cies get much bet­ter in­sights into their cus­tomers, their needs and of­fer a much bet­ter level of cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.

It might seem like a cliché, but we re­ally are liv­ing in the age of the cus­tomer. While we are all fa­mil­iar with the age-old maxim that the cus­tomer is al­ways right, many busi­nesses have strug­gled to truly un­der­stand the in­di­vid­ual and of­ten chang­ing emo­tional and phys­i­cal needs of their cus­tomers.

In the past, too many brands — and, in­deed, their agen­cies — have spent far too much time and money chas­ing the next shiny new thing or pro­tect­ing their own fief­doms, in­stead of hav­ing a re­lent­less fo­cus on cus­tomers and the ex­pe­ri­ence they get when deal­ing with the brands that play a role in their day-to-day lives.

Now, it’s the cus­tomer who is in the driv­ing seat and brands and agen­cies that fail to take this into ac­count may not have a fu­ture.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the vast realm of cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence — or CX as it is known in the in­dus­try — will pro­vide some of the in­spi­ra­tion and guid­ance for many agen­cies as they plot their fu­ture. CX can be briefly summed up as a cus­tomer’s per­cep­tions, both con­scious and sub­con­scious, of their re­la­tion­ship with a brand as re­sult of all their var­i­ous in­ter­ac­tions along the dif­fer­ent cus­tomer touch­points, for as long as they are cus­tomers. This ex­pe­ri­ence can come from a range of dif­fer­ent in­ter­ac­tions a cus­tomer can have with a brand.

The re­al­ity is that ev­ery com­pany that has cus­tomers and sells goods or ser­vices pro­vides a cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence, whether they con­sciously know it or not. That ex­pe­ri­ence may be good, bad or ab­so­lutely shock­ing. It’s also highly likely that many com­pa­nies think that be­cause they have a cus­tomer ser­vice depart­ment or a Face­book or Twit­ter pres­ence, they are pro­vid­ing a great cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. Of­ten, the ex­act op­po­site is true.

It is gen­er­ally ac­cepted that brands, and in­deed agen­cies, that em­brace CX as a key busi­ness dif­fer­en­tia­tor will stand a much greater chance of busi­ness suc­cess than those that don’t.

In the con­nected and so­cial world that we live in, where brands are never more than a click away from a cus­tomer back­lash, it is worth re­mem­ber­ing that one good ex­pe­ri­ence may only be shared among four or five peo­ple, but one bad ex­pe­ri­ence could eas­ily be shared with 300 peo­ple. In the CX world, it’s the four or five peo­ple that count.

There are plenty of ex­am­ples of com­pa­nies that get CX. Ap­ple, Ama­zon, Star­bucks, Net­flix and Nike are lead­ing the CX charge.

For many com­pa­nies and their brands CX can be chal­leng­ing and not all of them will get it. Oth­ers may be delu­sional in their be­lief that be­cause they have a cus­tomer ser­vice depart­ment or a loy­alty pro­gramme, that this some­how equates with pro­vid­ing a good cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.

In short, CX is a cul­ture that has to per­me­ate ev­ery level of an or­gan­i­sa­tion and at ev­ery touch­point along the cus­tomer jour­ney from the phys­i­cal or on­line shop­ping chan­nels, right through to its ad­ver­tis­ing, its lo­gis­tics, con­tent and its ex­pe­ri­en­tial and loy­alty mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives. In other words, the whole kit and ka­boo­dle.

The busi­ness case for cus­tomer-cen­tric­ity of course is com­pelling. Not only does it of­fer firms a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage over their ri­vals but it helps fu­ture-proof their or­gan­i­sa­tions. It also de­liv­ers to the bot­tom line.

For agen­cies look­ing to rein­vent them­selves in the un­cer­tain fu­ture that lies ahead, there are many lessons to learn from the CX play­book.

While the cus­tomer may al­ways be right, that very same cus­tomer also has the power to make or break a brand’s fu­ture if they feel that their ex­pe­ri­ence is not what it should be. Con­tact John Mcgee at john@ad­world.ie

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