CMO roundtable: How to stop optimising channels and focus on the customer opportunity

Marketing leaders from organisations such as Sheike, Officeworks, CBA, ANZ, AGL and more share the challenges of becoming a customer-led marketing team and organisation and the role data, technology, customer insights and culture play in achieving it

Making sense of the customer journey

Ultimately, what lies at the heart of building a personalised experience is understanding the customer and lifecycle journey they take with your brand.

“Marketing, and our business more broadly, has a focus on deep understanding of the customer and their needs, understanding their journeys through touch points with our products and services, and where they hit ‘pain points’ that require too much effort for the ‘reward’ they get,” Ruddick said. “We also invest in time spent with customers to know and understand their point of view.”

Increasingly, organisations have looked to plot out this customer journey through customer journey mapping, and several attendees cited this as an active exercise in their organisations today. But Mistry warned against relying too much on static customer journey mapping as the key to understanding a customer’s needs, especially at a particular point in time.

“In practice, it is impossible to predict the customer journey,” he said. “Does that mean that the customer journey is no longer relevant? No. The fact is, customers are now controlling their own journey and the marketer needs to adapt to the customer.”

Mistry advocated creating a “customer state”, where the opportunity is with the customer at that point in time, then reacting to that state in each channel. “It’s the ability to know what their last interaction was to then personalise that interaction,” he said.

Sangster claimed building out customer journeys has gotten to a stage where the ‘journeys’ are the new rigid. “True personalisation takes it a step further and develops the experience based on continual reviewing of data insights,” she said.

In addition, many attendees believed too much emphasis was on attaining a single view of the customer, rather than having the right view of the customer or a view that’s adequate enough for marketing to action off.

“Leveraging a single customer view is often dangerous in that it can lead you to create solutions to then find a problem, and solutions that can please you as an organisation - in other words, you get technology to push product out the building rather than find a particular customer need and address that,” MetLife’s Bennett warned.

“Every interaction the customer has with us needs to have a different set of data about the customer to efficiently support the customer interaction, and it needs to be complete from all the places that the customer has shared data with us,” another attendee from a financial institution said. “But it does not need to start off as an idea that there is ‘one view to rule them all’. Over time, we may end up with a single view of the single customer, but that isn’t the way I’d frame the problem.”

The same attendee also claimed ‘real-time’ was further confusing the picture, and called for a focus on ‘response time’ instead.

“Sometimes, the response time requirement is immediate – so real time – but sometimes it is about a little reflection, and being aware of customer’s needs, relevance to them and their readiness to engage. For example, if a customer says they are planning to do something in six months’ time, the right time to respond may be in around five months.

“Regardless of real time or responsive time, I think it is important to always make sure the organisation has a memory about what previous interactions have been, and ensure you don’t look like you have the memory and attention span of a goldfish.”

Collaboration is critical

While marketing might be leading the way when it comes to being customer champion, it was clear through roundtable discussions that marketing cannot make their organisation adopt a more customer-led approach alone. What’s therefore imperative is to collaborate across the business.

“A truly customer-centric business will come from one that is entirely cohesive,” Jenkins said. “We must all be working to the same goal of delivering to customers’ needs and wants.”

Officeworks’ Sperti also believes a customer-led approach requires cross-functional engagement and collaboration. She saw strong relationships between IT and marketing as particularly crucial.

“This allows for a strong data and technology foundation to be established, enabling personalisation and providing an orchestrated cross-channel experience for the end customer,” she said. “At Officeworks, we are fortunate to have a highly engaged IT team that understands where we are heading and works collaboratively with our marketing team to support a customer-led approach.”

One suggestion CBA’s Bay had for getting the business onside was to connect the customer story with what the organisation cares about and show how improve customer contact enables that.

“For example, telling stories from our frontline teams – how for them it’s better, faster, making a real difference in the customer’s life and to their long-term financial well-being,” she said.

It’s also important to continually involve everyone on the journey, Bay said, adding this is again where sharing customer stories has had a particularly strong impact at CBA.

“We balance these customer focused outcomes with the success of an improved bottom line,” she said. “Having the data assets and analytics helps to bring these to light.”

Another attendee from an insurance group said his organisation instituted multiple cultural programs to ensure all staff put the customer at the forefront of thinking.

“We also listen to customer calls on a regular basis, as well as proactively seeking out feedback from the frontline teams,” the attendee said. “However, the most important strategy has been to interact with them more frequently to play an active role in providing value in their everyday life, rather than just sending transactional communications. This includes providing content, utility and solutions for their everyday living.”

Carsales created a Voice of Customer function 12-18 months ago, which Cordner said not only listens and responds to customers, but also share this front line feedback with all layers of the business.

As another measure of experience, particularly from a product touch point perspective, Carsales has embedded NPS and CSAT feedback across customer journeys.

"Collecting not just the what but the why has been invaluable in highlighting optimisation opportunities at product level," Cordner said.

Metrics matter

Another way brands are looking to make the change is by adopting specific metrics/KPIs that foster a more customer-focused approach. AGL, for example, is using both NPS and Customer Satisfaction in different parts of the organisation.

“Both of these measures drive a good focus on customer outcomes,” Ruddick said. “In most organisations, there is a debate on whether NPS or CSAT should be the customer metric of choice. Interestingly, there is a correlation between CSAT and NPS; if one improves, the other usually does as well.”

Ruddick also cited growing adoption across sectors of Customer Effort as a metric. “There are types of interactions where a customer may not necessarily be satisfied as a result of the interaction – such as paying for tolls on a freeway,” she said. “If it takes less effort for a customer to have the interaction as services improve, NPS goes up.”

Mistry advised establishing metrics around the customer and their movements. These could include measuring average orders, frequency of that order, and monetary value, through to customer lifetime value and NPS scores.

“Marketers should not focus on open and click rates because these won’t tell them how they are influencing company objectives,” he said.

Ultimately, the role of marketers is to deliver results to the bottom line and that needs to be taken into consideration whatever metrics are in play, Sangster said. “We have seen a shift away from ROI to new broader measures – with a huge focus on engagement. This needs to be kept in check so that we don’t lose focus on the reason why customer centricity is important,” she said.

“The reason for delivering to customers’ expectation/needs it so that they will be a more loyal/ active/ valuable customer for the brand – and so they will stay with you and not go to the competitor. So ultimately, the success should show in your bottom-line results.”

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