How marketers are using tech and data to drive customer centricity

Marketing and digital leaders from DHL, Xerox and more share how they're working to instil customer experience at the heart of their companies' business strategy


Marketers continue to make the mistake of telling customers what they can get instead of allowing them to drive the conversation.

Speaking on a panel at the Marketo Marketing Nation Summit, Xerox chief marketing technologist, Duane Schultz, said the concept of customer centricity is a well-established one and should be nothing new to marketers. What is new, however, is coping with the rise of the “self-directed buyer”.

“What I see missing with marketers, and what we’re working hard on is overcoming, is this notion of being here to tell customers what they can get,” he said. “If you have the right grounding in being customer centric, then you’ve got to be comfortable letting customers drive interactions, and step back. Rather than me telling you, let me listen and be there for you, and find out how to help you. That’s a big gap in talent in most organisations.”

Schultz claimed this problem comes back to marketers struggling to embrace the concepts of a social Web that puts listening and genuine communication at the heart of experience.

“We’ve got to be cautious – if we don’t pay attention to that, what do you do if you get inappropriate communications? It’s very dangerous thing for a brand to be inappropriate by pushing too hard when we should be listening, providing killer content, stories and surprise and delight our customers,” he said.

Much like digital, DHL director of global digital marketing, Christian Citu, said organisations have many different views on what a customer experience strategy looks like.

“The big trap is that we have so many technologies and possibilities that we overdo it,” he claimed. “It’s easy to hide behind things like offering customers more personalisation, but you could overdo it and just become creepy to customers.”

The question of who owns customer experience within an organisation is also a moving feast. US-based telecoms company, Frontier Communications, recently appointed a chief customer officer whose remit is to own the journey from time of acquisition through the customer lifecycle, said VP of marketing, Cory Jones. He noted marketing, analytics and customer service have all come together under the executive role with a unified agenda for customers.

CMO of financial automation technology vendor, Bottomline Technologies, Christine Nurnberg, said there was no one person ultimately accountable for end-to-end experience in the B2B group, but pointed out customer delight was one of four guiding principles for the business.

“Our CEO says every interaction creates an impression,” she said. “All 1400 employees have customer delight at the centre of their job, whether that’s an internal or external customer.”

Nurnberg said becoming a customer experience-led organisation is so big, it touches every aspect of business operations and the organisation. One way marketing as a function is helping drive that change is through control, she said.

“We have used Marketo to drive change across the business,” she said. “As a CMO, I’ve made a pretty autonomous decision about that and got my ducks in a row. I then took that to the rest of the organisation and said I’d seen all this opportunity for cross-sell and collaboration, which could dramatically improve the customer experience.

“We’re now in the midst of huge company transformation around end-to-end customer experience but it started small.”

In addition, Bottomline is marrying functional expertise in marketing with domain expertise to bring in that customer insight into content and strategy, adding credibility to its efforts, Nurnberg said.

At DHL, a matrix organisation, the aspiration is for “insane customer centricity”, said Citu. But he admitted persistent silos make it difficult to orchestrate a unified customer experience.

“We still operate seven CRMs... and it’s like having seven different organisations. Sometimes even inside the same business unit you’ll have silos such as customer service, marketing, sales,” he commented. “We’re not at a high level of maturity in terms of creating unified customer experience for that omni-channel view and consistent brand experience.

“With corporations of this size, it takes a long time to bring everyone together so you have the same speed you’re reacting to customers with.”

While there are campaigns and initiatives occurring globally, many are isolated examples for DHL, Citu continued. “Our journey right now is how to make sure when I see something that’s state-of-the-art in one country, it is best demonstrated practice, gets communicated across the network, and people get those learnings and apply them in every local market,” he said.

Knitting together all of Xerox’s marketing, digital and CRM platforms is helping create a broader view in terms of customer engagement visibility and impact, said Schultz.

“We’re starting to take to non-marketing organisations, such as product and support, doing traditional surveying work to showcase digital signals we’re picking up,” he explained. “We’re catching about half those customer touchpoints.”

But whatever the activity, customer centricity isn’t going to go far until it becomes a CEO-led initiative, panellists agreed.

At NBA sporting team, Portland Trail Blazers, a new CEO has led to structural changes that are helping improve the organisation’s customer view and engagement strategy and increased its appetite for change. One of these has been creating a centralised analytics team.

“We found there was lots of conventional wisdom in the organisation, and long tenure staff with great knowledge, but they got used to doing things in a certain way,” said SVP of business operations, Vincent Ircandia. “As we started to compile this data, and invested in a data warehouse, we learnt that some ideas the organisation had were not true. We’d really stopped listening to our fans and have now flipped that on its head.”

Portland has mapped those out and uses flowcharts to outline the 32 buckets of touchpoints it has with sports fans. “With that, we’re looking at which touchpoints we’re collecting data on, how well we collect that data, then how we leverage it,” Ircandia said.

“We use this as a roadmap to help the really drive customer interactions with us. And with so much data, if can’t utilise it, why do we spend time on it at all? It’s all about prioritisation.”

Citu agreed getting to a customer-centric business model isn’t about the technology or getting the right marketing people in, it’s ultimately an exercise in change management. “If it doesn’t come from CEO to be open-minded, people are resistant and push back,” he said. “The other thing is how to become a data-driven organisation.”

One thing that’s worked well for Frontier is tapping into the voice of the customer, Jones said. Company leaders are now required to spend time on the phones, talking to customers, and teams are aligned with either acquiring or onboarding customers.

“Data is one source of truth, but by talking to the customer you’re getting more of the art,” he said.

  • Nadia Cameron attended the Marketo Marketing Nation Summit in Las Vegas as a guest of Marketo.

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