Andy Lark: Service and emotional connection are fundamental to winning over customers

Iconic chief marketing officer of Xero highlights the need for brands to turn service into a weapon and care about the customer's experiences

The greatest threat to your brand is not whether customers hate you, it’s indifference, Xero’s chief marketing and business officer, Andy Lark, claims.

Speaking at the Zendesk Relate conference in Sydney today, the outspoken and iconic marketing leader highlighted the importance of an emotional connection between brand and client and why customer experience is the key to growing loyalty and advocacy.

It’s also not enough to try and emulate the superior experiences of digital darlings such as Uber, Lark told attendees, if you can’t provide actually provide strong customer support either.

“You actually have to care,” he said.

In a subscription-based business liked Xero, customer churn is a perpetual obsession, and the need to win customer experience and loyalty vital to ongoing success.

“What that [subscription model] challenges is the essential truth in most non-subscription-based businesses, which is that the vast majority of employees don’t give a shit,” Lark claimed. “They’re not incentivised or rewarded to care about the customer, and mostly they never meet a real living, breathing customer. But in the SaaS [software-as-a-service] world, where your compensation is irrevocably attached to growth, and we’re all high-growth businesses with double or triple digit growth… you really have to care.”

For Lark, there are three major “fundamental flaws” in most organisations today that inhibit a truly customer-centric approach. The first is having product distinct from service.

“These organisations don’t see that these are irrevocably bundled together, and that it’s one continuous experience,” he said. “That’s the first break point.

“The second thing is that they measure the wrong thing. They’ll be measuring NPS [Net Promoter Score] and talking about numbers… At Xero, we get really obsessed about language, as it’s a fascinating telltale.”

Lark noted one of the words most commonly used to describe Xero by its customers is ‘love’, an emotionally-driven response that direct reflects how they feel about the brand. That has become vital in understanding how Xero communicates and interacts with its customers, he said.

“I don’t ask someone how satisfied they are with their experience, I ask how they feel about Xero,” he said. “You have to measure the emotional response to the experience a customer is having with you.

“The third thing is that if someone is in trouble, they want a solution that’s on their terms. Great brands figure out how to rearchitect their experience based on users.

“Often, when our small business customers are in trouble, they can’t deal with the solution right then and there because they’re making coffee, cutting hair, or doing something really important.”

As a result, Lark said integrating product and service, measuring the right emotional response, and architecturing for the customer really matter to achieving customer advocacy and loyalty.

“The greatest threat to a brand is not hate, it’s not something going ‘I hate X’, it’s indifference. Because when someone else comes along, they’ll take it or leave it. It’s not enough to do service just because you don’t want to be disliked; you’re largely finding collective indifference.”

Lark said it’s the smart organisations that are turning service into a weapon against their competitors, relating customer insights back to customer support and marketing teams and basing their approach on experience.

“All Uber had to do was say ‘we’re better than a taxi’,” he added.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

Join the CMO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Supporting Association

Blog Posts

Is your content marketing missing the mark?

Does it ever seem like the content you create falls flat on its face or that the leads you’re generating aren’t worth following up?

Dan Ratner

managing director, uberbrand

​ Creating a purpose-driven brand

So you want to be a brand with purpose. But what does it actually mean to build a brand with real meaning?

Paul Chappell

Partner and managing director, Brand + Story

Customer experience crisis: Proactively mitigating the risk of broken promises

Last Friday, three weeks after United Airline’s spectacular customer experience disaster, customers received a letter from the company’s CEO, Oscar Munoz.

STOP STEALING BUISNESS CLASS TOILETS from A380, new 787's and A330's!!!!Thats what you call customer experience ONE toilet for all Busine...

Joe

Qantas CMO: What it's taking to evolve our customer experience

Read more

Dare i suggest that a "CEO" role in a peak industry body like Think Brink is not really much of a leap from CMO because it is also a mark...

Sventana

CMO to CEO: Think Brick chief reveals what it takes to make the jump

Read more

Grate post, thanks for the post.No matter what your business is, if you do no not rank among the top most search results of Google, Yahoo...

Rahul

Image intelligence:10 must-see infographics for marketers

Read more

Thank you Shane Blandford for carrying my Smarketing vision into KM !

Peter Strohkorb

​CMO Interview: Why aligning sales and marketing drives innovation at Konica Minolta

Read more

Thanks for helping me putting those threads of thoughts together. Simplification and connection - neat idea.

Mark Bayly

Tips from IAG on how to craft human-centred design

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in