Not Treating Customer Experience Like a Product? Better Prepare to Be Disrupted.

Nov 28, 2016 | Marketing Strategy, MVP, Sitecore | 0 comments

It was once said that “content is king”. Well, that is no longer the case. Customer experience is now king. If your brand isn’t championing the customer experience journey from start to finish and treating it like a product or service, you had better prepare yourselves to be disrupted.

I am so glad the “content is king” trumpets have finally started to fade. We all (or at least most) saw the value in inbound marketing and turned much of our attention toward content production. We re-wrote our product pages, started publishing “news” and press releases like crazy and championed for the creation of a company blog. Many of us even have a content marketing strategy in place.

All of that content helped us attract new customers – for a while, at least. But now we’re starting to see a drop-off in the acquisition of new customers from our efforts. Our content isn’t as effective as it used to be. Our content isn’t seen by as many visitors and we’re challenged to come up with new “innovative” ways to keep our content fresh.

Content marketing has escalated to the point that we’re all in the pursuit of “10x content” now. Many of us are really struggling to keep up, let alone get ahead. I would argue our focus on content is part of the cause of our woes.

We should be treating the customer experience like it’s a revenue stream.

What is the problem with focusing on content marketing? The problem is that our focus on creating content for the sake of “content marketing” is misguided. Our focus should be on the customer experience, not just the content and by focusing on the “what”, we’ve all but forgotten the “why”.

Why are customers choosing us (or not)?

Why are they staying with us (or not)?

In many cases, it’s because of the experience they’ve had and we need to treat that experience like it’s meaningful to us. We have to treat that experience like it’s a product or service we offer.

Less “Content Marketing”, More “Experience Marketing”.

I really think a lot of companies may be guilty of this. They know (or have been told) they need to produce content to attact customers now. Blow-horn, interruption marketing doesn’t work, or is at least less effective now. The customer is in charge, and we need to provide them with the information they seek.

That is all true. But it’s not the whole story.

Great content isn’t the end-all for marketing your brand. Actually, great content should just be the beginning of marketing your brand. Yes, attracting customers is important. It’s marketing’s job to cast a wide net, raise brand awareness and keep the engine of revenue growth going strong. But marketing is only part of the equation here.

Marketing is often responsible for much of the content that’s produced to attract new customers. We focus on pre-sales customer intent. We’re trying to figure out what information they need in each of the five decision-making stages: problem recognition, search, evaluate, select and decision evaluation.

I think most of us focus primarily on the first four stages and decision evaluation content is largely left out. What happens once the customer has made a purchase? Whose responsibility is the customer now? Who takes over that customer’s experience to make sure their expectations and needs are continued to be met?

Customer Journeys Don’t End With the Sale.

Marketing shouldn’t be the only team thinking about and focusing on the customer journey, and yet, in many cases they are the primary team driving the journey or (trying to) account for it. Yes, some organizations have matured to the point where they’ve named a c-level customer experience role. They’re arguably ahead of the game at this stage. But most don’t have that “VP of Customer Experience” focus, and likely won’t for some time.

Until that role is created, just exactly whose job is it to champion the customer’s experience? Is it marketing’s job? What about sales? Does customer service take over the customer’s journey? It’s certainly not IT’s job, right?

Actually, it’s all of their jobs. All of these teams (and more) need to come together to continue the mapping of the customer journey beyond simple acquisition mode. It’s the job of the leaders of these teams to identify that need and to take action.

An Introduction to my Sitecore Module & Product Idea.

I created this project to act as the "hub" for all posts related to my Sitecore MVP pursuit and my Sitecore product idea. My first post is an introduction to the series and is titled, "Pursuing Sitecore MVP - My Sitecore Product Idea". As I post more segments to this project, they will all be included here. You can follow along on my Sitecore MVP journey from start to finish.

We don’t have a VP of Customer Experience. What now?

A company’s leadership is there for a reason – to lead. Your brand doesn’t need a VP of Customer Experience in order to champion the customer. Yes, it can help, but it’s not a requirement. What is required, though, is that the teams involved in shaping the customer experience participate in the customer’s journey from end-to-end.

Sakes, marketing, customer service, IT, the help desk, the social media team all need to be on the same page when it comes to the customer.

“That’s great. But how”, you say? Put yourselves in the shoes of the customer and talk through their experience together.

In marketing…

  • What are your customers’ needs?
  • Where are your customers looking for information?
  • How does that information differ depending upon the channel?

In customer service and the help desk…

  • How are new customers on-boarded?
  • Do customers have easy access to get their questions answered?
  • Are customer service agents empowered to solve customers’ problems?
  • Are customer service and help desk agents provided the answers to customer questions? Are those questions being communicated back to marketing, IT, sales and other teams?

In IT…

  • Are customers’ provided a frictionless technology experience? Can they pay their bill online? Can they locate service centers easily? Can they contact marketing, customer service, the help desk, etc?
  • Are customer access barriers removed or do they have separate logins for each system the brand maintains?

In social media…

  • Is social media only operating as a sales and marketing tool?
  • Are social media teams responding to all relevant customer inquiries?
  • Are there direct paths from social media to customer service, the help desk, IT and marketing?

The above are only a handfull of examples in just a few of the teams that may be involved in the overall customer journey. The customer’s experience should be accounted for inside of each of these teams, but also between each of these teams as well. These teams have to talk to get the customer’s experience right. There’s just no way around that and it’s the job of leadership to make that happen.

What happens if we don’t account for the entire customer experience?

What are the consequences for us if we don’t focus on the full customer experience? What happens if we don’t treat our customers’ experience with the value and weight that we should? What will become of our brands if our teams aren’t able to come together?

The bottom line: we should prepare for our competition to do what we aren’t able or willing to do. We should prepare to be disrupted and to fall behind.

Now is the time to transition your thoughts and efforts from simple content marketing to overall experience marketing. Now is your chance to stop producing content just to fill a calendar. Now is your chance to start those discussions that you know need to be had between your marketing, customer service, help desk, IT and other teams.

Here’s how you can get started on this effort tomorrow:

  • If you’re in marketing, identify and map customer touch points and their journey through the decision process.
  • Consider what happens to your customer after the sale is made. Who does your customer rely upon for a great experience?
  • If you’re in operations, customer service, the help desk or other post-sale teams, identify how you inform customers about the resources available to them.
  • Next, what are the gaps in customer access that you’ve identified and how can those gaps be closed? Work with marketing, sales, IT and other teams to close those gaps.
  • Finally, if you’re in leadership in any of these teams, should you champion a c-suite customer experience role? If that’s the best (or only) way the customer’s experience will truly be account for, don’t be afraid to stand up and say so.

The Story Behind the Photo

Valley of Fire State Park - Moapa Valley, NV

The featured photo on this page was taken on a trip to the Valley of Fire State Park just outside Las Vegas, NV. As a Floridian, the desert really intrigues me. It’s powerful and fragile all at the same time. These characteristics come out in everything you see around you. I saw this cactus, in all its contradictions, and had to snap this photo.

Valley of Fire State Park

Do you think customer experience is important?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and if you agree with me about the importance of customer experience. Do you think content is no longer king? How can companies transition from simple content marketing to customer experience marketing? Please leave a comment below or feel free to contact me with your thoughts.