How to start the journey towards customer-centricity

Westpac and CMO Council discuss how marketers can help their organisations improve customer engagement, and present highlights of a forthcoming study into best practices for brands wanting to improve customer experience

Chief marketers struggling to put customer experience at the heart of their corporate culture should start by identifying clear areas of opportunity they can build off, Westpac’s head of CRM claims.

The comment was made during a recent joint CMO Council and SAP webinar, which set out to outline best practices around customer engagement, as well as reveal how far regional organisations have gone down the path. To do this, the CMO Council presented key results from a soon-to-be-released report into how marketers across the region view their level of customer-centricity. This was followed a panel session with marketing and CRM leaders from Westpac, Migg33 and SAP.

According to the forthcoming Maximise how you individualise study, 66 per cent of respondents see positive customer experience as key to differentiating their brands.

For 60 per cent, customer centricity stems from a corporate culture that places customer satisfaction above all else. Forty-five per cent believe organisations must deliver products that reflect ongoing customer co-innovation, while 35 per cent see commitment from the senior management team to understanding and serving their markets as key.

Head of consumer CRM at Westpac, Lea Wright, said customer experience lies at the heart of all business decisions for the banking group, adding service is a competitor differentiator. One way the organisation has embraced this is through its ‘know me’ philosophy, which focuses on delivering the right messaging to the right customer at the right time.

“If you set-up a relationship with the customer based on insights into their life stage, and messaging that helps them from a servicing perspective, it opens up the opportunity to have a sales-based conversation in the future,” Wright said.

“Sales through service is making sure all of our interactions have some way of helping our customers on their journey and what we can do at that particular point. It leads to an outcome that’s measurable – whether that’s NPS, retention, or sales through cross-selling and up-selling.”

While more and more organisations are buying into the need for customer-centricity, there are equally as many finding it difficult getting the strategy off the ground. According to the new CMO Council report, 35 per cent have a customer experience strategy in place, and 30 per cent have a strategy in development. But 20 per cent still don’t have a strategy, 9 per cent have a strategy in place that isn’t being actioned, and 6 per cent aren’t even sure.

“We’re looking at customer experience as a catalogue of strung together moments of engagements we are having with our customers,” CMO Council vice-president of marketing, Liz Miller, commented during the webinar. “What we’re not doing is connecting those in a cohesive and thought out strategy.”

Wright said Westpac started the journey through its customer service centres and branches. She advised other marketers looking to drive customer-centricity in their own organisations to start by finding a specific area to generate insights from. At Westpac, the customer journey began in the outbound leads area, and then became heavily embedded in digital.

“The key to it is picking something that’s manageable and work at it within a defined area – such as a customer service channel – testing, learning and understanding what you’re doing, then rolling it out to scale,” Wright said.

Another good starting point is to getting a champion in the c-suite, she said. Other tips were to devise proof of concepts, have a strong governance structure, set out with a clear project in mind, test continually and learn, and put revenue outcomes behind it as well as softer measures. Only then should you go out at scale.

Wright also advised marketers to seek those less obvious pockets of data around customer complaints and advocacy in their organisation. “They are sometimes in the most unlikely pockets but once you find them [data sets] they are gold,” she claimed. “There’s normally a lot of consistency and you can quickly identify trends.

“Looking at what’s important is where customer journey becomes a critical decision-making tool. It’s not just about the different points of dissatisfaction, but which ones are driving a positive or negative outcome, and what’s behind them. Otherwise you could end up lost in a sea of data points.

“You need to be very clear and crisp about what you’re trying to do, and build bit by bit to have a library of opportunity and a library of responses.”

Other CMO Council findings

CMO Council’s new study, which will be released in full on 12 December, was based on an online audit of 217 senior marketers across Asia, followed by interviews with 20 marketing leaders at top brands.

Respondents were found to be largely satisfied with their customer monitoring and strategy, but the report authors suggested marketers are still listening in the wrong places and relying on basic in-bound channels, rather than taking a proactive approach.

For example, only one out of two marketers is going into the customer service centre and mining data to understand what’s happening, Miller said. Other areas of focus are email (71 per cent) and the corporate website (54 per cent).

The good news is 59 per cent of marketers are listening to social for customer insights, Miller said. The bad news is only 28 per cent are mining blogs for information and 26 per cent in-store, both key areas for gaining first-hand insights, she said.

Plenty of challenges were identified by respondents. Fifty-five per cent said back office systems and operational structures ‘somewhat’ help to deliver on the customer promises, compared with 26 per cent who said ‘yes’.

Thirty-eight per cent saw big data as another challenge, and in particular, data quality. Thirty-one per cent stated they have issues with data ownership, and 34 per cent are challenged by IT infrastructure.

Another increasingly important consideration is responsible use of customer data and insights that advance the customer experience. “It’s no longer a sense of using that customer data and creating a personalised email or website; it’s that ability to responsibly use that customer data in a way that’s relevant and truly engaging with our customer,” Miller said.

When it comes to the customer communication side of the equation, 42 per cent of Asia-Pacific marketers saw consumers as ‘selectively vocal’, or vocal only in specific situations when something has gone wrong or changed. Seventeen per cent of customers were considered proactive and private, and 13 per cent are actively social.

Interestingly, 5 per cent of customers are silent but will act fast and without warning when they stop doing business with a brand. These are the ones marketers need to prepare for, Miller said.

Of those organisations basing decisions around customer insights, 42 per cent are using the data to solve problems through service or support, and 39 per cent are using it to up-sell or cross-sell. Nearly 40 per cent are monitoring the customer life-cycle and 31 per cent are personalising Web and social interaction.

There are of course several areas where insights are not being utilised enough, Miller said. These included leveraging for customer revenue optimisation (used by only 13 per cent of respondents), lead acquisition (17 per cent), improving account-based engagements (11 per cent) and improving sales cycles (10 per cent).

The core reason for customer experience taking centre stage is ultimately increasing revenue. Forty-one per cent of respondents have increased revenue, with 18 per cent see revenue lift by 5-10 per cent; and 3 per cent saw it leap by more than 10 per cent.

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