Improving the customer experience (CX) is on the priority list of just about every organisation globally these days.
Yet it feels like little genuine progress has been made. It is still too difficult to discover new products on the web, find merchandise information and even purchase goods online, especially if companies were truly as customer-centric as many claim to be.
Why is this? Why are brands struggling to improve the customer-facing parts of their businesses – and what can marketers do to help?
To find out, Econsultancy recently held roundtable discussions with dozens of client-side marketers so that we could hear, first hand, about the state of CX management at Asia’s biggest brands. At a table hosted by Gerald Ang, an independent marketing consultant, marketers provided insights into the issues they face, best practices they are using and other insights they had on how companies can better manage their overall CX.
Highlights of the conversations are summarized below.
The ideal customer experience
Participants started off by discussing what exactly were marketers after. What does, according to those who work in CX management, the ideal customer experience look like?
While it was difficult to get everyone to agree on a single statement, most were happy with the following goal for a CX improvement programme:
A personalised, seamless, online and offline integrated journey for the customer which helped drive acquisition and customer retention for the business.
Missing – A single view of the customer
With the overall target in mind, marketers quickly moved on to what was preventing most companies from achieving this CX goal.
First off, participants said that most companies did not have a single view of the customer. This means that marketers still do not fully understand their customers and so they cannot provide an effective, personalised journey for them.
To improve this situation, one attendee suggested, marketers should spend more time surveying customers to gain insights directly from them. Then, with the new customer data, marketers could better plan their channel strategy to match customer expectations.
Another participant suggested that customer surveys did not have to be conducted outside of normal marketing channels as tools are now available which allow marketers to conduct ‘micro-surveys’ during a customer’s website visit.
Marketers do not have access to data
Another issue which prevents marketer from realizing the ideal customer experience is that data and analytics are still siloed in most organisations. The implications of this are that marketers cannot use behavior and sales data to take action at relevant points in the customer journey.
When asked about the progress of enterprise-wide customer relationship management systems (CRMs), most attendees indicated that their CRMs were still ‘weak’ and did not capture enough information to improve the customer journey. The only marketers who felt that they had the high-quality customer data needed for personalisation were those who worked for companies with a high percentage of repeat customers (>60%).
Suggestions for solving this issue included encouraging management to step in and coming up with a strategy to combine data across the organisation. This approach, warned one participant, should focus on how marketers will obtain data instead of just buying new tools.
CX management processes, they said, need to be fixed before even thinking of the technology.
Organisations are not customer aligned
One attendee lamented that while customer experience was always included as part of the marketing strategy, it usually remains ‘stuck’ there. That is, marketers believe that customer-centricity is the way forward, but the rest of the organisation remains unconvinced. In order to move toward a customer-focused organisation, another participant added, CX change management needs to come from the top.
Then, once they have the support of management, marketers should start by fixing the basics of the customer journey and looking for quick wins to show the rest of the company the benefits of improving CX.
Also, another added, they should avoid outsourcing customer-facing channels and ensure that everyone in the organisation understood the customer experience KPIs. This helps to get everyone working toward a common goal of serving the customer first and worrying about departmental responsibility, second.
There is a lack of CX management talent
Finally, even when everything is aligned in an organisation to deliver customer-centric services, marketers noted that they faced one more challenge – hiring and retaining people with CX management experience.
Ideally, one participant said, a CX team should consist of people with user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) skills as well as those with data management and data science experience. These skillsets, though, are scarce in today’s market and difficult to hire, so companies need to provide significant funds for CX improvement projects and place them high on the priority list to attract experienced CX people.
Then, as one delegate pointed out, the whole organisation needs to be told that while the CX team may drive the initiative, everyone in the company is responsible for making sure that the CX is consistent through every touchpoint in the organisation.
Marketing cannot manage CX improvements entirely on its own, concluded the table.
A word of thanks
Econsultancy would like to thank Gerald Ang, an independent marketing consultant, for hosting the customer experience management table and eliciting the issues marketers face in deploying CX improvements as well as some of the suggested solutions.
We’d also like to thank all of the marketers who took time out of their busy schedules to attend and offer their CX management insights to the table.
We hope to see you all at future Econsultancy Asia Pacific events!