Why marketers must transcend the organisation to deliver great customer experience

Marketers from SAP, Airbnb and Uber cite the importance of cross-functional alliances and uniting emotional brand connections with great product and contextual relevance

Meeting the expectations of customers in the experience economy requires marketers to transcend the entire organisation and make friends with everyone from the IT department to product, compliance and sales teams.

That’s the view of marketers from SAP, Airbnb and Uber, who participated in a panel discussion at Marketo’s recent Executive breakfast series in Sydney. SAP CMO, Jennifer Arnold, said marketers are now firmly in charge of fostering customer relationships that stretch from initial engagement to ongoing usage and advocacy.

“It’s the responsibility of the marketer to get that consistent experience,” she told attendees.

To do that, marketing has a part to play across the entire organisation, Uber partners and marketing leader, AJ Tills, said.

“Marketing now transcends the entire organisation,” he said. “People talk about the changing role of marketing - marketing has not changed. Ultimately, you still need to build a business around customer, meeting their needs. What has changed is how we engage with them and where we connect with them.

“All of those areas of customer experience do come back to marketing and you need to be part of every part of the organisation to do that.”

The greater complexity of touchpoints with customers has triggered a need for greater levels of coordination, Tills continued.

“Not only can you segment more and target them, you also need to know what at point in the funnel or experience those customers are,” he said. “It’s also about what IT and support is doing. That means you need coordinated conversations – it can’t just be siloed anymore.”

This rapid expansion of channels has created more business units, which in turns requires marketers to be more places and become more aligned with other functional departments, agreed Airbnb head of marketing, Benjamin Hallam. In Airbnb’s case, this includes community operations, trust and safety and public policy.

“For marketing to play a role in each of those functions is probably the biggest change we’ve seen,” he said. “Suddenly there are more functions because our business has expanded into many more traditional channels... our skillsets have been heightened and sharpened in each of these disciplinary areas.”

Achieving exceptional engagement

Panellists also saw building exception engagement and experiences as a combination of great product, contextual relevance and emotional brand connection. Hallam described customer experience in terms of going to a restaurant.

“We see the waiter as the brand and the chef as a product: If you go to a restaurant and the service is amazing but the food wasn’t crash hot, you’ll still tip the waiter and go back again,” he said. “But if the service was terrible but food was good, you probably won’t go back again. For us, the brand and product piece together is super important. Unless the consumer is engaged with your brand and knows there is a personality behind what the product stands for, then the longevity and being able to attain a repeat purchase for us is pretty low.”

For Tills, what a brand stands for is important to today’s consumers, and that comes through Uber’s product experience. “We talk about being customer-led but ultimately product centric. That experience happens when you’re out in vehicles,” he said, adding marketing is working closely with product development teams to learn and build better experiences in the moment of interaction.

Arnold agreed that while it’s important to have great brand experiences, the solution has to meet the customer’s needs contextually.

“If your product doesn’t solve their problem in that moment, then they won’t stick with it,” she said. “You need both – deliver an engaging experience but also solve a problem.”

When it comes to achieving sustained customer engagement, Arnold said SAP’s marketing team has shifted its focus to education and ensuring customers get the most value out of its cloud-based portfolio of products. A big part of achieving this is enabling other parts of the organisation to be brand marketers too.

“Our delivery team sit on customer sites day in and day out, but no one had been sharing marketing messages with them to pass on to customers,” she pointed out. “They’re an enormous wealth of information of feedback from customers about what is going well and what’s not, but also they’re a fantastic channel to get more information to the customer.”

It’s also important to look at where customers may be tomorrow in order to keep providing great experiences, Tills said. He cited Uber’s integration with restaurant booking app, Dimmi and Google Maps as examples. “That requires us to keep the customer front of mind and to remain as close to them as possible,” he said.

Hallam stressed the importance of investment and testing new areas. “Make sure there is money set aside to test new areas, channels and platforms to get those learnings,” he advised.

“You don’t know where they will be in the future unless you’re starting to… test the water in new spaces.”

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