Marketing is the Customer Experience

 In Analytics and Insights

Marketing is the Customer experience

Marketing should never be about the latest buzzword or trend, but rather how you live the brand promise.  It’s primarily about that brand promise in everything you do.  Marketing is also about creating an ongoing consumer relationship –  in every communication and consumer touch point  is an opportunity to deepen that relationship.  So to build on our blog about the cchanging role of marketing, increasingly marketing is the customer experience.

Ever get frustrated when you call customer service?

Don’t you love it when you punch in some information and then a customer service rep asks for that exact same info?

Or maybe you are one of the more than twenty percent of people who stopped an online purchase because of a lack of company information.

All of these situations are both – at the same time – marketing issues as well as marketing opportunities.

Marketing is Not a Campaign, Marketing is the Customer Experience

Look at everything you do, all the intersections you have with consumers and determine how you can enhance the experience and provide additional customer value.

Financial institutions find that the loyal customer is the one they can help with a houshold’s finances. For them, they strive to create a relationship with the customer to support them in all financial planning and decisions, regardless of whether there is an immediate transaction.

It’s simple.  Customers who use an institution’s branded tools to track spending habits, pay bills, create a budget, and manage debt are much less likely to switch banks.  Churn reduction ultimately leads to a lot more business.  Customer acquisition costs money, so loyal customers are very profitable customers.  So, truly, marketing is the customer experience.

The Customer Experience Must be Actively Managed

So loyalty is critical. Especially since consumers turn to a lot of different voices for information on you in this digital age.

An ecommerce survey by Squidoo found that more than 70 percent of customers looked at online reviews before buying. Intuit revealed that out of every ten sales, eight resulted from word of mouth. Of course, this is hardly new.  Word of mouth is, and has been, the best marketing.  But it is always worth reinforcing the importance of consistently delivering value, particularly because you never know the source of influence.

We think social media will change this, though.  Social media will increasingly become influential with a set of identifiable influencers.

Let’s take the example of United Airlines and the famous “United Breaks Guitars” song.  Dave Carroll’s Taylor guitar was damaged during a flight and United refused to reimburse him ($1200) to get it fixed.

To get even, he wrote and sang a fun song about the incident and posted it on YouTube. Within eight months, more than 8 million people had seen the humorous video, with “pass the buck” and “don’t ask me” phrases to describe United’s customer service.  Add in his catchy refrain “should have flown with someone else or gone by car because United breaks guitars.” – and United had a PR disaster.

What do you think Dave Carroll’s 300 media interviews, a Top 10 viral video, and a Harvard Business Review Case Study cost their brand?   Let’s just say far more than $1200.

.. But Not Controlled

One critical mistake that many companies make is that they try to control each and every interaction.  Instead, it is precisely that control that prevents a real relationship with the customer.

Employees usually follow strict guidelines and policies — such as what United probably required – with no ability to consider any context of the interaction.  Without context of a situation, you can’t solve a specific customer problem.  In the end, such control seriously limits an employee’s ability to deliver value.

Give Up Control and Empower Employees to Solve Problems

As Dr. Phil repeats, “You have to name it to claim it.”

In a world where marketing is the customer experience, customers need to know you are aware of issues.  Without acknowledgement, you certainly can’t change anything.  In a sense, this is the first real step toward active resolution.. Just as in all relationships, there’s good and bad. Companies that are open and honest about problems earn customer trust.  And it gets rewarded.

Just look at Nike or Wal-Mart.

They successfully recovered from issues within their operations (supply chain and human resource-related, respectively).  They did so mainly because they openly addressed problems with customers.

Letting go of control also has other surprising upsides.

Let’s take another example, this time in healthcare.  Some hospitals let patients read their own medical charts.  Of course, some patients react badly to being “slightly obese” or “too stressed”  However, although it is not exactly flattering, it is certainly more transparent.

The initial reaction was positive.  For example, some patients say it removes some fear — that you no longer worry that the doctor knows something you don’t. Besides, it often confirms what the patient already knew.  It’s also assuring that there’s complete information for better health decisions.

To sum it up, businesses that are open to honest, but not always comfortable, communications simply build customer trust. Companies must give up control and empower employees to authentically engage consumers.  This is all the ground work for building relationships necessary for great customer experience.   In the emerging digital age, marketing is the customer experience.  But also, the customer experience is marketing.

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