In today’s digitally-driven society, customers expect more. Brands are challenged to provide a seamless, omnichannel experience while catering to customers’ affinity for personalized, relevant messages. In order to meet their expectations, more companies are breaking down internal silos and bringing customer relationships to the forefront of business decisions, with 61 percent of marketers focused on evolving from a traditional marketing structure to one more closely aligned with the customer experience (CX). However, in many companies, it is still unclear who owns the customer journey, and recent data found that between 2016 and 2017, CX quality worsened across the board, as brands with poor scores rose from 20 percent to 23 percent.
While determining the exact issue for each brand can be difficult, there are some common, likely culprits. For example, making customer experience the responsibility of only one employee or department rather than integrating customer centricity across the organization is a clear red flag. To win with today’s consumers, all departments need to keep the customer at the forefront, and to do that, all departments must have a clear view of who the customer is and how he or she evolves over time.
Traditionally, customer relationship management falls under marketing, sales, or customer service / support departments, with few other groups participating in the ideation or implementation of customer-focused business practices. Frequently, each of these teams manages the customer relationship independently, within independent systems that don’t communicate. In recent years, new positions from “customer experience analyst” to “lifecycle marketing manager” have been added to many companies’ organizational charts, but it isn’t enough to add a singular role and think that person will be able to transform the customer experience alone. While it’s vital to have someone take the lead on implementing customer-focused changes, building strong customer relationships that inspire loyalty requires a company-wide commitment. It’s only when all employees recognize their own responsibility CX initiatives that companies see their real impact.
Companies that keep customer relationship ownership in silos are limiting the business benefits of those relationships. How can a company commit to improving its customer relationships across the board if only a segment of its employees have access to key data from consumers, or if each department has a separate, disconnected view of the same customer? Brands can remedy this by making customer knowledge sharing a cross-channel requirement, from initial engagement with a brand to final transaction and post-purchase behavior.
Beyond breaking down internal silos, brands must invest in ways to interact with customers on an ongoing basis to understand why and how they make the decisions that they do, along with their exact wants and needs. When brands proactively and consistently reach out to customers for their opinions, reflect that customer-derived insight in their decision-making, and share what they’ve learned back with the customers who provided the insight, a new type of relationship is formed between the brand and the customer. A mutual respect is created and customers are more inclined to continue to share their thoughts. All aspects of the organization, from product development to marketing to IT, can then use this insight to ensure that the organization is run with a customer-first mentality and that no business change is ever made without the customer “in the room.” Through this process, and especially when brands communicate back to their customers how their insight was used to implement change, a deeper loyalty is developed as customers feel more appreciated, acknowledged, and valued over time.
The reward for becoming customer-obsessed is more than just monetary. In fact, recent research from Salesforce found that marketers who operate with the customer journey at the center of their strategies see increased loyalty, engagement, and willingness to recommend a brand to friends, along with lower churn. It’s a true win for all aspects of the business.
It’s important to recognize that a customer-obsessed operating model requires a company’s technology stack to evolve alongside the demands of the modern customer. According to a 2016 Forrester report, while 72% of businesses say improving customer experience is their top priority, only 63% of marketers prioritize implementing technologies that will help them reach their CX goals. This disconnect is part of the problem; brands must invest in technologies that enable them to cultivate deeper customer relationships over time. For example, some artificial intelligence (AI) technologies could deliver value to customer relationship management (CRM) efforts by helping businesses automate outreach and leverage customer data in ways that mimic human decision-making, allowing brands to streamline and automate standard customer-facing procedures while reserving manpower for more complex and personalized interactions.
Winning with today’s customer is a multi-faceted effort, and it takes a commitment to customer centricity from all departments to succeed. In the end, a renewed focus on the customer will lead to stronger ROI across all business divisions.