​Understanding customer experience from the inside out

Experts discuss what marketers need to do from an organisational perspective to meet today's customer expectations

The marketing landscape is becoming fiercer than ever before, forcing businesses to re-think internal strategies to ensure a better and more relevant customer experience.

Experts at the Australian Marketing Institute’s Customer Experience Summit 2016 in Sydney discussed what marketers need to do as part of an overall business strategy to meet the growing demands of today’s customer.

Understanding today’s savvy customer begins with the right mindset

“Customers are more savvy, better educated and far more demanding in terms of what they’re expecting from their experiences from businesses they’re dealing with,” AMI chairman and co-founder of The Customer Edge, Andrew Thornton, told attendees. “In today’s highly competitive marketplace, effective customer service management is a critical differentiator to any business, large or small.”

While it is a challenging time for marketers to compete in a digitally evolving landscape, it’s also an exciting time to be a marketer in Australia as the reach and scale of marketing continues to grow, Thornton said.

“One of the hallmarks of those organisations doing well, from our experience at the AMI, is that they start with the right mindset,” he said. “If you do customer experience well, you can certainly achieve tangible business value through repeat sales, referrals and importantly, generate very strong work of mouth advocacy. Now this is one of the things no marketing budget can actually buy - the advocacy that comes from treating your customers right.”

Thornton stressed great customer experience management involves understanding all your customer interactions to meet or exceed their expectations.

“The aim is to increase customer satisfaction and at the same time, generate advocacy,” he added. “This results in a win-win for both the business and the customer.”

To be successful, Thornton said this needs to be a whole business approach – it can’t be managed in pockets or silos within organisations, because that would be fraught with danger.

“At AMI, the total customer experience we’ve developed for our clients has a holistic view of dealing with customers – it’s not a linear process,” he explained. “And we’ve seen that companies with a purpose ultimately outperform companies without. “

Harness the power of experience design and innovation

Marketers looking to lead with customer experience need to focus on breakthrough thinking in an organisation and embrace experience design thinking, innovation and design hubs, Crazy Might Work’s founder and CEO, Paul Hawkins, claimed.

“Think about experience design – what constitutes great customer experience and how do you build great design for that,” he said. “You also need a psycho-social environment in which you can innovate within an organisation.

“And when it comes to strategy, instead of thinking what is a 3-5 year plan, it’s important to see strategy as something you need to maintain your core. You need to also think about 3-5 even-way bets you could take and to set up experiments to prove which of those will be successful.”

Cross-industry collaboration is key

Cross-industry collaboration is also a concept Hawkins stressed as vital to driving great customer experience throughout any business.

“You can’t be an innovator in the industry and just do it all yourself,” he said. “You really need to collaborate not just across your organisation, but also across industries.

“There are a lot of exciting things happening in the innovation space, many of which are purpose-driven. And we think the ability to collaborate across organisations is very fundamental to innovation and also the experience of the design process.”

Choose the right martech investment

In an age of infobesity, Hawkins said competition to gain a customer’s attention is becoming very fierce, which means more organisations need to embrace the power of timely and relevant martech investments.

“Consumers are being bombarded with information and content from every direction, and consumers want currency, so you also need to understand your customer in context,” he said.

According to Hawkins, in the age of artificial intelligence and cognitive computing, computers are becoming better at reading human emotions and facial expressions – and this is something customers now expect.

“We’re starting to see instances in the age of big data, that consumers are starting to expect augmented reality offerings and the right offerings tailored to their state of mind – via social and mobile,” he added.

Manage internal talent and embrace diversity

Maintaining a world-class customer experience means embracing customer diversity, while internally having a frictionless employee system, continued principal of Vital Systems Consulting and former Telstra head of brand strategy and marketing, Sean Hall.

“We talk a lot about frictionless and seamless customer experiences, but how about the place in which they’re created? Now this is very important from a talent perspective,” he said. “And achieving that will give you increased speed, adaptability and agility to move your customer experience strategy forward.”

Hall stressed the importance of inclusive design, which he explained creates more value for everyone as it’s about looking at the way you design by starting with who customers that have the most complexity in their lives.

“If you can make it simple, beautiful, delightful, easy for customers with complex lives, then everyone wins,” he added. “Internally you also need to drive a positive, dynamic energy within your organisation as that in turn, drives the energy to engage with your customers.”

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