One CMO’s three-step path to CX excellence

How Chemetall's global marketing and comms lead spearheaded a customer experience transformation

Building your organisation’s customer experience (CX) engine is increasingly becoming the prerogative for chief marketing officers. But how you tackle it is a tough ask.

During the recent US Gartner Marketing Symposium, CMO global marketing and communications at Chemetall, Julia Murray, shared her journey to launching and leading a comprehensive customer experience effort, and what it’s taking to make it stick across the organisation. 

Chemetall is the Surface Treatment global business unit of the Coatings division of BASF, is a supplier of applied surface treatments and services for metal, plastic and glass substrates in a wide range of industries and end markets.

Murray described Chemetall’s CX efforts in three steps: Cultivating the soil and nutrients, planting the right seeds, and then the seedlings, or cultivating the right crop for long-term growth and success.

“If we think of CX as growing an oak tree from an acorn, we must first consider the soil and nutrients to set appropriate environment for the right CX, then the seeds in the form of centres of expertise with KPIs. The seedlings represent close collaboration with stakeholders across the organisation to cultivate and harvest our customer experiences,” Murray said.  

The soil

An organisation’s culture and structure must support the ideal level of customer dedication, focus and commitment, Murray explained. Key elements to address therefore are culture and structure, customer focus and dedication, and customer outreach and interaction. Outcomes for Chemetall included encompassing the desired, personalised customer experience; extending it across the organisation; and explicating the benefits to stakeholders – customers, business and employees.

“As we assessed, we focused on what matters to customers through outreach and every interaction,” she said. “We incorporated and aligned business goals to gain buy-in and support early on. We researched, defined and established how our customers search and consume information to make purchase decisions. And we engaged all internal stakeholders in the organisation so their relevant measures were accounted for. Many of these were across functions and geographies.

“The outcome for us was to be centred on delivering a personalised customer experience.”

On an ongoing basis, this required the whole business to listen, learn, adapt and modify as it discovered and identified key elements of the customer journey.

“With these guiding principles, we developed that personalised customer experience across the organisation with real evidence to the customers, the business and employees,” Murray said.  

The nutrients

In terms of nutrients needed to fulfil these needs, Murray said it starts with an authentic outside-in view.

“Although this phrase is simply stated, it’s not simply understood. Therefore, examples and case studies are useful and impactful and we utilised them every step of the way,” she continued.  

Primary nutrients essential to internalising the CX at Chemetall included building customers personas and journey maps. For each business segment, it developed personas based on roles and function, leveraging a structured interview process involving both external and internal stakeholders. A significant amount of data already existed but was never documented in a cohesive fashion and this became a key part of CX progression.

“The mere process of developing these tools helped us internalise the CX while deepening connections with customers along a greater relevance and with more empathy,” Murray said.  

Also integral to discovery was the customers’ ecosystems incorporating their influencers and behaviours. “It was also critical to validate our findings and proof of concept. This initial step impacted the design and development of various projects and initiatives, hence realising immediate value for our customers and the organisation,” Murray said.  

The seeds

Bringing together the necessary expertise, talent and resources was a further step essential to the journey to CX leadership. Murray said Chemetall reorganised the global marketing and comms team with centres of expertise, each with KPIs and interdependencies for greater collaboration.

“Flexibility, agility, creativity, resourcefulness and strong business acumen are just some core competencies necessary to achieving success,” she said. “We started by launching centres of expertise with focus on internal comms, strategic content, digital marketing, events and PR and operations which included analytics.

“A pragmatic and methodical approach was then followed in terms of talent acquisition, development and coaching. Team includes representation in all regions along with external global network of brand ambassadors. These agents helped indoctrinate the use of personas and customer journey map application into the decision-making process.”

Too often, organisations develop customer segments, personas and maps but fail to internalise use and realise their value, Murray admitted. Chemetall has endeavoured to mitigate this issue through global exchanges and a biweekly cadence across teams, with brand ambassadors connecting monthly. During virtual sessions, staff exchange best practices, share successes, conduct training and team coaching.

“We hold each other accountable to using personas and journey maps,” Murray said.

Partners are also integral to the process, including Gartner, Andrew Reece and RMB Design. “These partnerships continue to be catalysts for speed, agility, accuracy in execution and helped us develop initial journey map and conduct ideation workshops for future state,” Murray said.

“We’re now using terms like personas, journey maps, touchpoints, VOC, pain points but most importantly, we’re connecting the dots to deliver the desired customer experience.”

Initially, Murray’s team focused on personas for three leading functions – procurement, operations and engineering, and safety, health and environment. Each persona is visually represented and based on customers’ similar needs, behaviours, personalities and habits, business goals and concerns.

Messaging and communications preferences plus spheres of influence are also captured and linked to personas. These spheres of influence are grouped into primary, secondary and tertiary categories, all key to customer acquisition and retention, Murray said.

“We identify and categorise influencers according to impact on sales cycle and relative to decision maker. It’s the prism for our outreach to meet customers in their ideal state,” she said.  

For example, with a customer looking to achieve expected cost savings, the procurement manager will require evaluation of different solutions which can potential disrupt production. However for their operations manager, production downtime is not an option.

“By identifying both their concerns and opposing goals early on, we are better positioned to address both people’s concerns,” Murray said.  

Supporting this is a value compass, which guides Chemetall through the process to deliver on its stated brand experience objective, ‘expect more’.

“Selecting the right CX value drivers is critical to building on success,” Murray said. “Our compass facilitates alignment of CX drivers with corporate objectives. It offers clarity and insights as to how initiative deliver on corporate strategy and key measures – does it increase value and reduce cost, for example. It also helps gain consensus and project priorities for best success.”

Journey maps, meanwhile, let the team see and understand how customers think, feel and act throughout their experience with the company across awareness, evaluating, ownership and advocacy phases, Murray said.

“We adapted steps to be aligned with customers in our industry. These touchpoints and interactions are synchronised with appropriate internal stakeholder journey,” Murray said. “The map also reflects customer input at each phase, with key insights used for subsequent ideation workshops. Ultimately, we leverage the journey map for guidance in aligning customer goals with internal objectives.”  

Alongside this, Chemetall has adopted Net Promoter Score (NPS) to measure customer experience in the organisation.

The seedling cultivation

It’s only after the soil prepping, seeding and nourishment that the growth transformation truly begins, Murray said. Today, Chemetall is actively pursuing customer-centric interactions and solutions while leveraging digital platforms with global outreach, she said. Helping with this effort are ongoing global sharing of best practices, ecofriendly and sustainable technologies, and virtual technical support.

“Being CX led requires employees work collectively to gain customer trust and secure long-term partnership,” Murray said. Furthermore, she said CX leaders must ignite change, lead it, and reflect the change.

Achievements Murray highlighted to date include a comprehensive content audit with strategy to deliver right message and at the right time in the right channel; CX-oriented brand management and messaging; collaborative networking platform for all employees; global social media channels with synchronised messaging; ongoing SEO assessment based on customer personas and journeys; and KPI architecture and analytics for each centre of excellence actively used for action and guidance.

On the to-do list for 2021 are Salesforce implementation and a website redesign.

“Customer centricity must be driven by every employee in the org. It’s incumbent upon us as CX leaders to drive collaboration and engagement across all functions for a sense of ownership,” Murray concluded. “We need to instil a deep understanding of CX and dev capabilities and capacities to model customer behaviours.”

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