by Paul Cole, President – inQuba N. America. Published by Marketing News Magazine, USA.
A central theme of this months’ publication revolves around the age old question of how two very different but inexorably linked functions, that is Marketing and Sales, can become better aligned to deliver stronger business outcomes. I would like to push this discussion even further, arguing that in todays’ digitally driven, non sequential world, alignment should not be the ultimate goal. Instead, business leaders should be working to unify the entire prospect to customer lifecycle by moving from a functional or process view of marketing and sales to an experiential view.
One of the unintended consequences of todays’ customer experience (CX) movement is that it has become largely synonymous with the post -sale servicing of the customer. Once Marketing has done its job creating brand pull, filling the funnel with qualified leads (MQL) and the salesforce accepts leads(SAL) and drives to closure, we register the transaction and create a new customer record. This is usually when customer experience management (CEM) kicks in. But what if we took all of the CX principles that have been developed to help build brand advocacy for existing customers upstream into our overall design thinking, collaborating across marketing, sales and service on what the experience of moving someone from target to prospect to customer should look and feel like from their point of view. Doing so just might help avoid the dissonance that often characterizes the sales and marketing relationship and ensure that your (customer perceived) performance equals your brand promise across all of your market facing activities. Think of the cable company or mobile carrier whose marketing message claims they are easy to do business with and then you have a peek at their sales contract and policies and realize it’s all fluff. Or the auto insurance company that promises “new car replacement” in the case of an accident but the terms and conditions make it all but impossible to qualify for full recovery. Let’s remember that while we may tag individuals as targets, prospects, customers or advocates, at the end of the day it’s the same human being; someone who does not appreciate or care about whether you represent the marketing, sales or customer service department.
At a minimum, research has shown that todays’ buyer values (beyond price and product functionality) are characterized by a universal interest in simplicity, emotional gratification and a frictionless experience.
So how can you go about internally unifying the strategy, practices, touchpoints, policies and metrics that ultimately influence the type of journey a (prospective) buyer will experience when discovering, researching, selecting, consuming and hopefully advocating your brand? Below are a few helpful interventions:
Unifying the Experience
- Institute cross functional governance: First, it is incumbent upon the front office functions (Marketing, Sales and Service) to create a collaboration mechanism to devise, deploy and monitor the prospect to customer experience. This can take the form of a formal management position such as Chief Experience Officer or Chief Customer Officer, a formal Office of the Customer with representatives of the business functions or informal steering committees
- Develop the “Story”: Utilizing design thinking methodology start by exploring and brainstorming answers to the following questions:
- What does a “day in the life” of a typical buyer look like? Where do they go for information/What do they want to know? What motivates them and what do they value?
- If telling a friend about us, what words and phrases would we hope they would use to describe their journey?
- Where across that journey can we best differentiate ourselves and “own the moment”
- Create the playbook: Based on the above develop the elements of the plan including:
- A buyer/user experience statement: This is distilling down the essence of what doing business with you should feel like and the emotions you want to evoke.
- Buyer Personas: based on your market research inputs create a narrative that describes characteristics of the ideal customer in terms of demographics, motivations, channel preferences, usage patterns and support requirements
- A journey map: For each persona, lay out the activities that correspond to the “day in the life” along with the touchpoints, inputs and desired outcomes for each moment of truth
- Engineer and actively monitor the Experience: While a lot of creativity and “wow” thinking should go into the design, an equal amount of rigor should go into the engineering of a gratifying, simple, and frictionless experience. This should include investment in a platform that enables you to:
- Capture the Voice of the Customer (VOC) on an event driven basis, meaning soon after an interaction with the company, whether pre or post purchase
- Apply predictive analytics- Analyze the structured and unstructured information you collect to determine cause and effect of various actions and predict the impact of operational adjustments on your customer perceived performance
- Add a customer KPI dashboard to your operational metrics. Whether you use a Customer effort score, CSAT measure and/ or Net Promoter Score (NPS)*, track and publish these data across Marketing, Sales and Service
- Engage the customer- Rather than simply looking at aggregated customer scores, get into the weeds and use your intelligence to actively engage and close the loop with the customer when the system alerts you to a problem
Every product and service category holds out the promise and potential for winning the hearts and minds of buyers by delivering a superior experience. But to do so requires you to stand above the functional silos and design your operating system from the outside-in. Only then can you become a true “experience maker” and reap the associated rewards.
*Net Promoter Score is a registered trademark of Bain & Company