In our recent Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing 2016 marketers voted ‘optimizing the customer experience’ as the most exciting opportunity open to them.

But how is optimizing customer experience (CX) going out there in the real world?  

What issues are companies facing as they try to keep up with CX trends and implement best practices?

To find out, Econsultancy invited dozens of client-side marketers from the bustling metropolis of Manila, capital city of the Philippines, to discuss CX at roundtable discussions on April 5th.

About the roundtables

The roundtables covered three topics all related to CX and were moderated by subject matter experts from Econsultancy and our event sponsor IBM. 

Delegates brought experiences from many different companies and industries and they openly discussed their success stories and challenges with the group.

Moderators dutifully took high-level notes during the discussion and presented them back to the group at the end.

Below is a summary of the main talking points during the day about the first topic, Customer Experience Management: Trends, Challenges & Best Practices.

Trends

Aligning the organization

The first trend brought up by participants was that organizations are starting to align around improving customer experience (CX).

One participant noted that currently many companies are trying to fend off startups who are threatening their core business, and improving CX is now seen as one of the best ways to do so.

But it doesn’t seem we are quite ‘there’ yet in the region.

In Econsultancy’s recent report entitled The CX Challenge, marketers in South-East Asia were asked to rate their company in terms of CX maturity.  

Though more than half (53%) did say that they were at least quite advanced and had aligned strategy and technology, the remainder said that they had no real CX strategy or tech capability or haven’t even started on [the CX] journey.

Assigning responsibility

Another trend was that organisations which are working on CX initiatives typically assign responsibilities for CX to specific teams within the company.

Participants explained that companies were doing so to ensure that CX improvements were not just talked about, but were ‘actionable’. This, in turn, should make the CX initiatives more ‘stable’, according to one participant.

This trend also appears in our recent Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing survey in which marketers were asked about where responsibility lay for CX in their organization.

Those who rated themselves as ‘advanced’ in CX maturity were much more likely (18% vs. 11%) to have a dedicated customer experience team and much less likely (4% vs. 9% of those not advanced) to not have assigned responsibility for CX at all.

Personalization

Another reported trend was about personlization. Participants widely agreed that providing a personalized service to customers is becoming a key part of improving CX.

One participant suggested that the reason for this is that personalization shows ’empathy’ toward the customer which can lead to ‘spreading of brand values by word-of-mouth’.

Another noted, however, that such initiatives can be expensive, so relevance to customers and return on investment need to be considered when deploying a personalised service.

Challenges

Organizing data

A challenge which many participants said that they faced was having customer data spread across many different systems. In order to provide excellent CX, participants argued that data needs to be centralized.

Easier said than done, though, was the general consensus.

Though there are no easy answers to this challenge, it seems that our Manila roundtable marketers are in good company.

According a 2016 Econsultancy survey of marketers throughout South-East Asia, more than two-thirds (71%) of respondents said that they were only ‘average’ or ‘poor’ at gathering data from multiple devices and platforms.

Creating converting content

Another challenge that marketers face, according to participants, is the need to create content which converts visitors into customers. 

Most companies globally are now investing heavily in producing content to allow customers to become familiar with the company’s products or services before engaging.  

Doing so changes the customer journey so that customers feel like they are ‘buying’ rather than being ‘sold to’.

Other marketers, globally, feel the same. Nine in ten (90%) company respondents to our 2016 Digital Trends survey indicated that building more ‘native’ online content was at least ‘quite important’ to delivering a great customer experience.

In the same survey, though, ‘content optimization’ was the second highest priority for digital-related initiatives.

A possible reason for this is that content may be great for CX overall, but it needs to be ‘optimized’ so that there are measurable results from the resources allocated to content initiatives.

Integrating other departments into CX initiatives

Participants also said that engaging other departments, such as sales, marketing, and research, to help with CX initiatives was a challenge they were facing.

One example of a regional company who overcame these issues was BDO Unibank, a full-service universal bank in the Philippines.  

It recently went through a full CX review with Interbrand and the resulting case study makes the following suggestions:

  • Get buy-in from senior leadership.
  • Segment workforce to match customer segments.
  • Train all internal staff to understand the role they play in CX.
  • Use an internal tool that helps staff at all levels search and share success stories.

The results of the CX review were that BDO was able to maintain a strong number one or two marketshare position in almost every major product category in its market.

Best Practices

Get to know your customer better

Attendees said one key way of improving CX is to become more familiar with your customers. This can be achieved either through qualitative means (surveys, interviews) or by looking at the customer data you have already.

Suggestions for improving your customer data included:

  • Enrich your customer data as much as you can and then segment.
  • Develop personas and use them for online and offline marketing scenarios.
  • To find out more about B2B customers, use third-party tools like Dun and Bradstreet or LinkedIn to enhance your existing customer data.

Personalization is critical for services

Though mentioned in the Trends section above, participants also spoke about personalization as a key best practice as well.

Marketers globally agree. In our Digital Trends 2016 report, nearly one-third of survey respondents (31%) indicated that ‘Targeting and Personalization’ was the top priority for their organization in 2016, more than any other digital initiative.

Encourage people in your company talking & collaborating about CX

Participants said that getting departments throughout the organization working together on CX was another key best practice.

Although this sounds less substantial than the other best practices, it was suggested that having a formal framework in place can help make improving collaboration a more concrete goal.

As an example, Globe Telecom Inc., a leading telecoms company in the Philippines, published a case study which included a CX initiative.

To begin with the company formed a new department, the Enterprise Architecture Division, which was tasked with establishing the right structure, framework and governance for new initiatives.

Having a new standards division allowed Globe Telecom to pursue company-wide initiatives that were not previously possible, including:

  • Instituting contact policy management. Here individual customers indicate how and how often the company should contact them.
  • Identifying clusters of high-value customers. This allowed Globe Telecom to find and address any issues its high-value customers were having regardless of where in the organization the problem existed.
  • Sharing customer data company-side. Solving one of the challenges above, a top-down data standard allowed everyone in the organization to add value to existing data to such as customer preferences, usage, habits and concerns.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank all of the client-side marketers who participated on the day and our sponsor for the event, IBM.

We would like to extend a special thanks to the table moderator for the Customer Experience Management: Trends, Challenges & Best Practices table, Janette Toral, Trainer at Econsultancy.

We appreciate all of the helpful discussion points that participants provided on the day and we hope to see you all at our upcoming Econsultancy events!