By 2020, customer experience is expected to overtake both price and product as a key brand differentiator. A 280-character Twitter post, Instagram snap or Facebook update from a disgruntled consumer can destroy a brand’s long-built reputation and performance in an instant, so brands must deliver a consistent, connected, competitive customer experience. Those businesses that get this right are rewarded: 68% of UK consumers in a study said they would be willing to spend more on a product if it was from a brand they love. 76% felt that having a positive customer experience with a company is more important than the product itself.

For customer experience to secure its position on the board agenda permanently, businesses must do two things: firstly, they must identify where the customer experience begins, and secondly, they must allocate an owner.

Where does the customer experience begin?

Many organisations think the CX (customer experience) starts at the first transaction, but I think it begins long before this – before, even, the first interaction.  For me, it starts once the customer has decided that he or she might need a product or service you can provide. “Customer experience is not just cleaning up a mess efficiently or sharing information nicely,” says Yuri Kruman in Forbes. “The journey of a customer begins in the foothills of the psyche”.

As for allocating an owner to deliver the customer experience – this isn’t as simple as it sounds. Research has found that that 30% of senior leaders are still confused as to who should own their CX strategy and delivery. No-one would deny that a commitment to delivering an outstanding customer experience must begin at the top, become embedded in a company’s culture and present across an entire business. But to succeed, it needs an owner to devise and execute the strategy.

Marketing have become the custodians of data

If businesses are to influence the experience before customers have even engaged with their organisation, they must make clever use of data and algorithms to deliver contextual, relevant, highly-personalised engagement, at scale. And to do this, they must turn to marketing. Marketers have become the custodians of data, especially in light of the GDPR. They are taking the lead in data management, in data governance and in regulatory compliance. And they can combine this intelligence and insight with creative engagement strategies.

Businesses must task marketing with CX ownership

Consumers want personalised experiences, and data holds the key to delivering this. European research reveals that 24% of consumers are happy to share more personal information, such as hobbies and interests, if it means they’ll receive a more personalised customer experience. 38% of respondents in the same study call for greater levels of personalisation. In retail specifically, the figure skyrockets to 93% of consumers who say they would provide retailers with detailed information if it means they’d receive meaningful and personalised offers.

As marketers become the go-to data experts, chief marketing officers will soon take ownership of the customer experience. 86% of chief marketing officers and senior marketing executives in a recent Economist Intelligence Unit and Marketo report study believe that, by 2020, they will own the entire, end-to-end customer experience. “If you’re still thinking of the CMO as chief megaphone officer, then you’re stuck in the ‘90s,” says CMO Jonathan Martin of Pure Storage, quoted in the study.

It’s time for marketers to get personal

In the Economist Intelligence Unit study, respondents were asked to rate the top marketing channels which would have the biggest impact on marketing organisations by 2020. 45% felt this would be personalisation technologies: customers are now saying, “Show me you know me”, and expecting one-to-one conversations rather than one-to-many broadcasts. This might explain why 69% of consumers prefer chatbots for quick communication with brands, and why six out of the ten most used applications today are messaging applications.

Where previously marketing teams might have had to direct data and software requests to the IT department, powerful tools now enable them to do this themselves. The latest chatbot software, for example, allows marketers to update the solution themselves, amending it so it best fits the customer journey and ensures customer needs are met in real-time.

Marketers have the talent, technology and toolkit to own CX end-to-end

Marketers now have access to real-time, contextual data and deep analytics. They have customer information management tools which pull together this data, to create a single customer view. They have the skills to interrogate, manage and understand the insight these actions reveal. And they have the technology and talent to refine and deliver highly-personalised programmes and experiences around this.

Like the best movies, a lasting, memorable-for-the-right-reasons experience isn’t just about the final scene. It’s about the whole journey, making the experience unforgettable and delivering a lasting impression. Marketing is best placed to deliver this – no other function comes close.


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