Tuesday, August 22, 2017

No, Every Employee Isn't a Marketer, Salesperson or Service Rep Edit article Published on August 22, 2017

I hate it when I see people say things like "Every employee is a sales person," "a marketer," or a "customer service rep." The intent may be to emphasize how every employee must be committed to customers and company goals, but organizations specialize into departments, teams, and roles for a good reason.

We do not need every employee doing every other employees' jobs. Instead, we need leaders who foster a smart organizational structure, set the right goals, and encourage strong customer focus. And we need engaged, empowered employees who bring deep expertise to their interactions with customers.

The problem with encouraging every employee to act like a marketer, salesperson or service rep is that it can force employees out of comfort zones and create a misalignment of metrics, rewards, and goals, all of which diminishes efficiency, increases risks and reduces business outcomes.

For example, what happens when every employee is a "sales person?" You get service reps who do not let people cancel their cable subscription because they are rewarded for something other than responding rapidly and comprehensively to customer needs. Or bank tellers who receive bonuses for opening accounts customers do not need, diminishing customer trust and brand reputation.

What happens when every employee becomes a "marketer"? Employees may take it upon themselves to represent the brand without authority, training or oversight, resulting in incorrect and disjointed messages. This raises risks, as employees cannot be expected to understand FTC rules around disclosure of material relationships, the legal subtleties between lawful and unlawful product claims, or the regulatory restrictions of marketing in some industries.

And what happens when every employee is a "customer service rep"? Employees, with the best of intentions, can take it upon themselves to answer customer questions in social media, resulting in incorrect or conflicting answers and creating confusion as to the appropriate channels in which customers can expect efficient and accurate support.

No, every employee is not a marketer, salesperson and service rep. Brands are strongest when each employee is held to the expectations of their unique role, delivering the specific outcomes expected. Of course, that does not mean that employees cannot be trained and even encouraged within carefully prescribed limits to assist and support sales, marketing or customer care, but that must be done prudently to ensure every employee is committed first and foremost to the deliverables of their role.

Marketers market, helping prospects become better informed about brands, products, and services that deliver necessary solutions and producing awareness, consideration, qualified leads and sometimes sales for the brand. Salespeople sell, assisting customers in higher-consideration verticals to make the right purchase decisions for their unique needs and delivering profitable customers that are prepped for long-term brand success. And customer service reps offer support, helping customers to use the product or service they purchased, resulting in customers who are satisfied and loyal. If marketers, salespeople and service reps do their jobs well, the result is a powerful, relationship-building experience for customers and profitable growth for brands.

In football, if all the players on the field believe they are the quarterback, then every play will be chaos and the team will lose. Help your employees to understand their role, reward them for the proper outcomes, foster high employee engagement and collaboration, and encourage a customer-first mentality, and your organization will move downfield efficiently and score more points.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Different Brands Have Different Reasons To Improve Customer Experience

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash
You likely hear a lot about customer experience these days. Business media is full of articles about CX, and the data we collect at Gartner demonstrates that CX metrics are among marketers' most important. In addition, business leaders tell us they are investing more in customer experience.

But why? Why is CX essential for your brand? What will improving CX do for your various stakeholders--not just customers, but employees, leaders, and investors, as well?

Can you answer those questions with something other than platitudes about the importance of happy customers? Because if you cannot define, in a very real way, why CX matters to your brand, then you cannot make others inside your organization care, secure collaboration, obtain funding, or encourage any meaningful change.

Many Brands Have Clear CX Opportunities

Different brands have different potential benefits and expected outcomes in CX. There no single set of CX benefits or metrics that will fit every company equally. Understanding your brand's unique situation, challenges, and opportunities is a good place to start when defining a CX vision and requesting necessary commitments from leaders and peers.

For some brands, improving their CX offers relatively clear and obvious advantages. For brands in contentious marketplaces with intense competition, fairly easy switching, innovative challenger brands, frequent repurchase actions, and a diverse set of customer selection criteria, the need for CX initiatives and investments can be easy to discern. Brands in these sorts of marketplaces--that is to say most brands--need to focus on CX because:
  • Competitive differentiation improves demand: Brands are created through experiences--what the brand does, not just what it says. Through disciplined CX processes, you can understand what your customers value and work to meet those expectations better than your competitors.
  • Strong experiences foster loyalty: Brands find it less costly to keep than to acquire customers, and they are more effective at cross-selling to current customers than gaining new prospects. Providing experiences that customers value builds relationships, diminishes churn, improves share of wallet, and generates higher margins.
  • Powerful customer relationships generate robust word of mouth (WOM): Brands create the greatest breadth and depth of WOM by meeting and exceeding customer needs and producing elevated levels of satisfaction. In our ad-blocking and ad-skipping world where consumers are less trusting of brand ads and content, credible person-to-person brand advocacy between those in established relationships delivers greater awareness, consideration, inbound traffic, conversions, and sales.

Airlines and the Question of CX Relevance

But what if your brand is in a different sort of marketplace? One with high barriers to competitive entry, greater customer switching costs, less competition, perceived parity in offerings, sparse repurchase, or consumers obsessed with price. In situations like these, the standard and obvious benefits of CX are, well, less standard and not so obvious. Utilities with little competition, life insurance companies with infrequent repurchases, telecoms with significant perceived barriers to switching, and other brands may question the benefit of increasing (or risks in diminishing) customer loyalty and advocacy.

United's customer incidents and PR crises provide an excellent lens to consider the CX challenges faced by air carriers. In the past decade, United Airlines has suffered two CX disasters so infamous that they each have their own Wikipedia entry: "United Breaks Guitars" in 2008 and this year's widely circulated video of a bloody passenger being dragged from a flight. But while each generated an enormous amount of publicity, there is no evidence either situation severely affected the airline's business in any significant or lasting way.

Some people claim United's stock decreased in the days after April's incident went viral, and they're correct--but stocks move on a daily basis for all sorts of complicated reasons, and within a couple of weeks, United's stock was trading no better or worse than its competitors. There is no indication this incident hurt the airline's stock price, and even if it did alter the price for a few days, executives don't worry about or base decisions on daily fluctuations of stock value. The same was true in 2008 when pundits claimed the viral video would damage United's business, but in reality, the company's stock outperformed the competition following that PR incident.

Nor is there evidence of a significant change in flyer preference or purchase behavior. I wrote back in April that United's well-publicized incident would not adversely impact demand for United's flights, and it appears I was correct. For the three months ending in June, including the month of United's passenger debacle, the company "boosted ticket sales even as fares climbed higher," resulting in a lift in both revenue and profits. Customers did not abandon United after seeing the video of the doctor dragged from the plane, just as they did not quit the airline after seeing the funny music video about a broken guitar.

I am not suggesting these incidents didn't cost the airline. As I wrote in April, this event elevated expenses for United, such as the value of the financial settlement offered to the wronged passenger and the lost productivity dealing with the sizable PR crisis. But in the end, United did not suffer lasting business or economic damage from the incident, despite the fact thousands of people swore in YouTube comments, tweets, and posts they would never again book a flight with the airline.

Does this mean air carriers don't need to worry about CX? Is there no upside to improving customers' experiences or downside to repeated violation of customer expectations? No, but the CX equation is different for brands in verticals with unique situations.  

Friday, July 7, 2017

Your Brand’s Unique Future In Customer Experience

I
Source: Iker Urteaga, Unsplash.com
read a lot of articles every day about the future of customer experience (CX) and how cutting-edge technology is about to change the world for every marketer. A lot of folks are eager to tell you what your brand should—no, must—do to prepare for the future.

The future of CX is artificial intelligence. Or it’s chatbots. Or augmented reality. Or voice-operated devices. Or wearables. Or virtual personal assistants. Or the Internet of Things. Or blockchain. Or personalization. Or visual search. Or VR.

In fact, the future of CX for your brand may be all of these things. Or not. No blogger or tech journalist can answer that question for you, because the answer lies not in the tech but in your brand’s ability to ascertain the unique needs of your unique customers.

Brands overly focused on the potential of hot, new technologies rather than on the needs of their customers fall into a trap I call “Lego marketing,” where CX solutions seem to be preconfigured blocks that can simply be snapped into place to create success. Snap—we launched a Facebook page because consumers will engage with our marketing content for free. Snap—we’ve launched a corporate blog because consumers crave branded content. Snap—we have a Google+ page because our agency said it was the thing that will topple Facebook. Snap—come check out our new Periscope channel because live video is the new black, and our brand is not about to be left behind!

Snap, snap, snap. All the pieces click into place and the result is—a marketing program that looks pretty much like everyone else’s. Sure, the colors of your bricks are different from your competitors’, but the strategies and tactics are virtually indistinguishable. Unfortunately, so are the results. Marketing budgets have risen to 12% of revenue according to Gartner's 2016-2017 CMO Spend Survey, and despite this, top CPG brands are losing market share and value, Americans find brands and companies less truthful, and ad blocking is on the rise (and will soon come native to Chrome and Safari).

Meanwhile, companies that lead with unique and differentiated CX are eating the world. Apple, Starbucks, USAA, and the other brands you love didn’t achieve that special relationship with you by chasing new technology and snapping it into place like everyone else. To learn more about differentiated brands are developed with differentiated CX and how the road to success doesn't start with technology but ends with it, please read my complete blog post on Gartner.com.