Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Customer Experience

What experience ??

Front line refers to: “The forward-most friendly forces on the battlefield”. Now, put that through Sun- Tzu’s (The Art of War) perspective and contemporary marketing propositions. We see the front line right at customer touch points. Traditional touch-points include face-to-face interactions: Reps, associates, brand ambassadors, cash registers and even mall security. Also remote tactics like telephone and mail, or digital touch-points like web, e-mail and potentially mobile phone interfaces. It is, in all perspectives, the last meter of a very expensive marketing communications ploy that aims at closing a sale, making a transaction and winning a customer.

After articulating a complex integrated marketing communications process between brand and category managers, marketing experts, creative geniuses, agency suits and social media gurus, a campaign is launched with a smart execution of a great insight.... Bla, bla, you know the drill...

Every stakeholder wishes to achieve ROI, while crossing fingers assuming the job is done, although forgetting other key players: The soldiers, the closers, the relationship managers, the customer experience managers, the brand ambassadors, the partners that link the brandsaction (brand+transaction).

These guys, otherwise known as sales people, cash registers, retail assistants, co-managers, call centre agents or client service reps, carry the brand on their shoulders and perform at the best of their capacity. Usually dressed in terrible costumes, with killer old fashioned sales training, working inhuman shifts with miserable pay and no recognition or what so ever..... These guys are the heart of the brand, the soul of the marketing campaign and the engine of the company. You, the Starbucks barista, the Chapters expert, the Rogers guy.....

Ref: Customer experience is the collection of interactions between a customer and the organization throughout the customer lifecycle. The goal is to optimize these interactions from the customer's perspective and, as a result, foster brand equity, value and loyalty.

Some get it right, like Mac, Starbucks, TD, Lululemon, Wind Mobile and Porter Airlines. These brands convey a consistent message throughout their ads, Twitter posts,window set-up, internet banned ad and retail experience. They connect the dots and really enhance the customer touch points by being coherent in their narrative and story, all the way to retail, customer service and post sales strategy. I invite you to experience these brands.

So, how do you get it right?? Well... From this perspective: Have your people become your brand.... Allow your employees at all levels, specially those at touch point level, to own the brand. Yes, I now. This reads like common sense, right? It does! But believe it or not, most businesses are not into common sense and corporate bureaucracy allows for huge gaps in communications consistence.

Just like in marketing, we are used to briefing, updating brand and products with PR, Brand, Media, Promo, Interactive and other agencies, we should think of our BRAND AGENTS as communications and brand messaging partners. Let them get involved, let’s help them feel the brand, understand it and own it. Considering they are the final drivers and ultimate brand experience triggers... we as marketers should ACTIVATE these touch points and make the most out of them, by bringing the best of the people who communicate our brand.

As a result, these people should be compensated, re-compensated and celebrated BIG TIME!!

Dear Marketers: We are in a people business, therefore we need to connect with people. We must ensure our customer experience design makes sense with everything else we are doing. Your brand experience starts and ends with the customer....