7 ways to bridge the chasm between marketing and customer experience

We get top tips from the experts and brand leaders who’ve actively set out to combine their troops into a unified customer force

Nine out of 10 CEOs agree: Mastering the customer agenda is the primary challenge their organisations face now and into the future.

Yet when it comes to actually orchestrating the people, process and technological changes necessary to ensuring an organisation delivers and exceeds modern customer expectations, many are struggling to truly break ground.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for organisations is the siloed-based functional approach still maintained within their four walls. Arguably, the most important of these to overcome is the disconnect between traditional marketing, and customer experience, service and support.

As customer experience leadership expert, Jeanne Bliss, puts it, the way we’ve been on-boarded to do our own thing in modern enterprise has inadvertently created the “Bermuda Triangle for customers between traditional operating silos”.

“We need to reorient how we do the work of the business to be comprehensive so we can focus, understand and drive accountability to the life of the customer, not the silo,” she tells CMO.

So how do we accomplish that? To find out, we speak to experts and brand leaders who’ve actively set out to combine their troops into a unified customer force.

1. Find one version of the truth

For Bliss, an absolute must in uniting marketing and customer experience and service teams to a common customer approach is to get to one company version of the truth.

“What we are finding - in a well-intentioned way - is we’re delivering false positives of leaders that it’s happening and we’re working on it. But we’re measuring activity, not outcomes from the customer’s perspective,” she says.

“What’s imperative as a first competency is to do simple customer maths: Are you gaining more customers than you’re losing? You need to know if customers are voting with their feet. And that the quality of customers you kept is higher than the quality you lost.”

To do this, you need one company version of what is new, lost, lapsed and a consolidated view of behaviours that show declining buyer behaviour, Bliss advises. This can become the key to a board-level metric all agree to.

“Its simplicity is powerful and it galvanises leaders,” she says. “Without some version of that, we are all moving towards different targets. You need one goal and version of the truth if you’re losing or growing customers today.”

2. Find a suitably hefty customer experience metric

A common metric helping bring not just marketing and customer experience functions together, but helping corral entire organisations around the customer, is Net Promoter Score (NPS). Of course many are quick to point out it’s not the actual number but what’s behind it that’s important.  

At Powershop, a live feed of NPS responses allows the whole office to watch commentary coming in from customers, providing a base for discussion.

“It’s become less about the score or overall number but more wondering why they said that, or someone saying we need to call the customer back to explain they’ve misunderstood something,” the utility provider’s chief customer officer, Catherine Anderson, says. “So we use NPS metrics as a lead indicator but then help people get deeper behind that.”

Over at Mercer, the team has also doubled down on NPS. “There used to be active debate around which was the right measure. But that’s secondary to picking on and getting on with it and attempting to impact that metric,” says the financial services group’s chief customer officer, Cambell Holt.

“NPS is quite versatile up and down the organisation, and we measure at enterprise, product, geo-level, down to channel level. It goes down even further in our customer service channel, down to agent-level NPS. There are pros and cons, but our ability to measure and take action on the insight is more important than the metric itself.”

At the same time, Holt says Mercer has measures to ensure marketing work is structured in a way that ensures an appreciation for the operational challenges of having their work materialise in the call centre. It’s similar with digital experience changes at Mercer.

Sumo Salad uses different survey metrics to understand level of engagement with customers externally. Again, chief customer officer, Lawrence Mitchell, says it’s the why and thinking coming off the back of a number that’s important, rather than the number itself.

“Digging deeper give us a baseline and allows us to understand what drives sales performance. We also have real-time sales data coming through. That enables us to understand what is happening in the business and pull the right levers,” Mitchell says.  

On the employee front, meanwhile, measuring and understanding staff experience at Sumo Salad requires insight into how engaged employees are, Mitchell says.

“We use a tool to give us those insights into how people are feeling across customer service, contact centre and frontline retail. That tool gives us insight which highlights risks,” he says.

Related: 4 brand leaders building the bridge between marketing and customer service 

Related: How to design a customer-driven culture

Related: Chief customer officer: Threat to the CMO, or the ultimate modern marketer?

3. Use data wisely and collectively

Then there is the way data is used in making customer experience management and optimisation decisions. Bliss is an advocate for uniting multiple sources of customer information to avoid “survey score addiction or spending millions on one data point”.

“Data has to be refreshed and it has to be about storytelling,” the customer experience leadership expert says. “For example, with your on-boarding experience – let’s look at information on your forums, social media, what customers volunteered when calling the call centre, verbatims on surveys, screenshots of what customers do as they on-board, the drop-off points in the process. Then end with the score.

“There is a risk – if we are going to create a company that cares, you have to have enough granularity to tell the story of a customer’s life so you paint a good enough picture of what customers are going through. It’s cause and result.”

Amalgamating sources also helps to create focus and unify teams that have been sitting in silos with siloed thinking and preferences.

“You don’t want your social media team presenting their view and score, then scurrying off,” Bliss warns. “You also don’t want a proliferation of problems and scores, instead of solving customer problems completely and together. We inadvertently focus on individual journeys versus recognising that customers don’t look at these things as distinct, specific actions.

“What we’re trying to get away from is looking at these projects as separate, disparate activities versus experiences that need to be built from the customer’s point of view. As organisations, we want to assign an owner when in fact you need multiple people involved to help solve how customers perceive things.”

4. Find yourself a way to collaborate

When it comes to technology tools helping bring marketing and customer service and support functions together, Anderson points to Slack as a useful one at Powershop. A customer team channel allows people from across functions to post comments and feedback from customers in real-time, share updates about marketing, and talk about the energy industry in general.

“All of a sudden, you’ve brought people together who may not have got the original email or been invited to the meeting, exposed at a more granular level to customers,” Anderson says.

“This is particularly good for our contact centre staff in New Zealand – being so easily in contact with anyone in the call centre saves so much time. Even keeping people connected on a social level and feeling part of the team is something this really benefits.”

Another step to collaboration was to stopping looking at people based on which team they sit in. “For example, we bring customer service agents to higher level strategy days. We didn’t use to do that,” Anderson says.

“We need a customer representative at every strategy and marketing planning meeting as we need their voice. It’s which data versus which voice you bring in. We have had agents who spend all day handling customer service queries, coming into executive meetings and drilling down into their insights.”

In addition, Powershop hosts monthly customer team meeting, and has buddied up a marketer with a customer service representative, “so they always have someone to go to with a quick query”, Anderson says.

“We started bringing customer service reps to large briefer meetings with agencies to get their feedback,” she adds. “They love being asked. If you ignore people supporting and talking to your customers, you’re not working efficiently. Being able to just involve them in those agency discussions has enormous benefits down the track.”

Up next: 3 more top tips on how you can bridge the gap between marketing and customer experience and service teams

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