While a business needs all three to succeed; a strong brand, effective marketing, and a great Customer Experience (CX,) it is CX that is now widely discussed as the key differentiator. In the current market, the significance of a customer’s personal experience and the relationship they have with a brand should not be underestimated.
A gradual shift to a more customer centric focus has been a goal for many businesses for a number of years, but it is now rapidly becoming a critical priority to remain competitive. People need extra information, guidance, and support to navigate a novel set of challenges and the experience that they have with your brand will either be a positive moment or yet another challenge. For many businesses adopting a truly customer centric focus remains elusive, to overcome this they need to look to new roles that bring specific expertise to help realise the possibilities that CX can bring. More and more human centred designers and CX consultants play a pivotal role in helping transform many brands into customer centric powerhouses.
Brands are the cornerstone to building a relationship with the customer. A brand is the promise, the unified message of who you are, what you stand for, what you deliver, and why customers interact with a specific organisation. A brand encapsulates many things: from the personality of a business, to the expectations about the quality and types of products and services available, to the lasting impression that a customer has and the means by which they emotionally connect.
Simplistically speaking, marketing is the mechanism used to convey a brand, making marketers the custodians of a brand. Marketing departments are where brands are born, cultivated, and managed. There are many different tools, tactics, and levers that marketers use to convey brand messages. Everything from the obvious advertising campaigns and curation of distinctive assets to distribution footprints and pricing recommendations.
Customer experience is the reality of what happens in all the various places that a product or service is used by a customer and what makes up those interactions. It is all the touch points that a customer has throughout their journey, how each of those shapes the way they feel about a brand and ultimately whether they want to build a lasting relationship. A great customer experience is effectively delivering on a brand promise.
As custodians and the ones setting the strategy and tactics about how to convey a brand it seems logical that marketing departments are where the CX strategy would sit, and often times is where it currently does. But with the increasing focus on CX the question should be asked about whether a marketing team has a broad enough remit to influence the practicalities of the entire customer journey and experience.
When you start to think of every touch point that a customer can potentially have it becomes obvious that there are an army of people and teams involved throughout the entire journey. From the point of introduction or discovery of the brand, the purchase or use of a product or service, to a potential issue that needs to be resolved, and then that can be multiplied by the plethora of different paths that a customer can take throughout the entire experience cycle.
With so many people involved there is often conjecture about who owns the entire customer experience and blurred lines about who is responsible for delivering each of the various aspects. The complex environment in which an experience happens is why there are significant benefits to having dedicated CX practitioners whose sole focus is on what the customer needs and whether these needs are currently being met throughout their entire journey. To add clarity and definition to who owns the customer experience organisations are also looking to embed new members in the C-suite. The role of the chief customer officer (CCO) is emerging as the modern liaison between brand and customer ensuring customer focus at all business levels.
To help organisations more effectively deliver a great experience, CX practitioners use the principles of Human Centred Design and Design Thinking methodologies. Focusing on the people that interact with organisations, their context, needs and expectations throughout their entire experience with a brand. They bring the voice of the customer into the strategic conversations and advocate for their needs. By shifting the focus to the customer first, they help organisations explore what a desirable experience is and how it can be delivered in a feasible and viable way.
CX and Marketing have many overlaps that work to support each other, but the real success comes when the divergent aspects of these two disciplines are embraced to really understand and solve problems. The first point of divergence is who is being considered. For CX practitioners the starting point is the individual. What is seen as valuable to the individual customer, where there is room for improvement and how their context shapes those needs. Whereas marketers tend to look at a collective over the individual. Broad usage and attitudes and macro trends that are influencing perceptions and how this can be capitalised on.
The period of focus also differs when looking through these different lenses. Marketers tend to look to the future and how to shape and influence behaviours. CX focuses first on what is happening today and how customer’s behaviours and needs, both communicated and uncommunicated, should shape what is being delivered. CX is about future-proofing your business to ensure your commercial model is always looped into your customer’s sense of value. Marketing is about capitalising on gaps and growth opportunities in a broader market. When the two combine you improve performance today that can be leveraged into a more successful future.
A key part of delivering great experiences and fulfilling brand promises is the availability of a product or service. So, like marketing, one of the key tenants of CX design is the exploration of how to improve delivery of products and services. But where marketers focus on aspects like distribution footprint and sales channels, CX practitioners are more likely to consider access in its broadest sense and where there might be barriers. This broader thinking helps identify how to increase availability in the most relevant way for customers shining a light on opportunities that might otherwise be overlooked.
Beyond effective product and service delivery CX Design and Marketing both seek to understand the relevance of a brand and the value that it delivers to customers. Understanding the value that a brand offers is key to defining a brand’s customer value proposition (CVP). A well understood and enacted CVP is key to keeping current customers happy by living up to expectations and communicating to potential new customers why they should consider choosing your brand over another.
CX Design begins with discovery activities to understand as much possible about the customer. Research skills are a core competency of CX practitioners and by leveraging these skills, businesses can delve deep into the psyche of customers and uncover the nuances of the CVP and ensure it is being delivered. Once there is a comprehensive understanding of where the brand might not be living up to the CVP, shaping experiences to meet these expectations becomes more straightforward. This also allows brands to go further than just meeting expectations and instead move towards exceeding them. If you can exceed a customer’s expectations, you are more likely to stand out as being unique and therefore differentiated from your competition. Delivering expectations also shows customers that you can deliver on your promise. Delivering what you say you will is a highly effective way to foster trust and build a valuable relationship with your customers.
With these clear overlaps in focus between marketing and CX it can be hard to navigate who can make the best decisions about a CX strategy and how to best designate responsibilities. But regardless of where these responsibilities sit within and organisation the important thing to remember is that CX is a very powerful way to make sure that the brand promise, marketing vision and CVP are a little bit closer to the customer’s lived reality.