Thriving in the age of the customer
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Thriving in the age of the customer

Marketers find themselves in a rapidly changing market environment, and there is an urgent need for marketers to get support from their wider company to help 'step up' to the challenge of having your company bench marked constantly against the best experiences your customers are having.

One company from the B2B sector that stands out as particularly customer centric is Salesforce, and they are also a great touchpoint for trends in the area of customer experience. Salesforce.com - the software-as-a-service customer relationship management company (which, not incidentally, uses ‘CRM’ as its NYSE listing name – a clear indication of how seriously they take what they do!) recently reported impressive fourth-quarter results for fiscal year 2018. A notable takeaway was reacceleration in its service cloud revenue. This can be seen as an important trend in the increasingly customer-focused companies – confirmed by Salesforce's fourth-quarter earnings call as being partly driven by its customers increasingly looking to differentiate their businesses with better service. In its recent “State of the Connected Customer” report (2017) they surveyed over 7,000 consumer and business buyers, and confirmed that 70% of consumers see technology as having made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere — many do, therefore, switch from brand to brand to find experiences that closely match their expectations.

This trend is consistently confirmed in reports. For example, the eConsultancy / Adobe Digital Trends Report 2018, which also finds top-performing business in terms of customer experience have invested in more integrated, cloud-based technology to meet their business goal of embedding a cross-team approach with the customer at the centre of all initiatives. The companies who have done this are nearly twice as likely to have exceeded their top 2017 business goal by a significant margin (20 percent vs. 11 percent). This makes complete sense in the context of the demand of customers looking for highly personalised experiences across every touchpoint with a brand – something your company also needs to deliver if they’re to stay in contention for their business.

Forester’s research on the ‘Age of the Customer’ has been the backbone to many articles, whitepapers and events about enhancing customer experience, and built around the theme of being customer obsessed. It has been updated as the market evolves, now reflecting on the opportunity to drive business growth with privacy – highly relevant of course with the ever-approaching GDPR.

In the report Forester found that only 13% of firms have achieved a competitive level of customer obsession. The report is unequivocal on this point – the number is so low as its extremely hard to re-engineer a company entirely toward the customer. Forester’s report also cements the notation that the transformation into a customer centre organisation does not only happens locally, from the bottom up, but also globally, with the direct backing of the CEO, COO and CIO (and, of course, the CMO!)

Leading from the top

It is hard to find a better example of this ‘from the top’ attitude than in John Legere, the magenta-rocking CEO of T-Mobile US, who leads the company in this focus very personally. This method seems to be working, punctuated by his recent statements that nearly 73million people have joined T-Mobile because it puts their customers first.

Interestingly, in research released by Brand Finance, a US based brand consultancy firm, has released their ranking of the most valuable brands in the world in 2018, referred to in article one of this series. T-Mobile’s principle competitors, Verizon & A&T, more traditional US cellular network giants, still make the top 10, but both are down 5% from the previous year, with the article citing its loss of customers to smaller companies such as T-Mobile as a big factor in this. Legere has cited the key lessons from T-Mobile’s digital transformation as a strategy to “shut up and listen” to customers and employees, ensure the brand stands for something, and then for the senior management team not be an obstacle to enabling change to happen – and then, perhaps crucially, share the benefits of its subsequent success with both employees and customers.

Even a cursory search on the company’s social media sites is eye opening – this is not an empty strategy. You’ll find multiple tweets from front line physical store members, contact centre teams, and the senior management team, all completely bought into the notion of being #customerobsessed. Every piece of communication revels in being different to other mobile phone carriers, and in turn, delights customers (for some fun homework, search for Legere’s personal #slowcookersunday campaign – it’s genius). 

Again, ahead of the curve, and building on the natural evolution towards more cloud-based and artificial intelligence solutions to support customer services, T-Mobile’s digital transformation has also been credited with starting with much better support of front line employees, to be able to more effectively service end-customers and get to an effective answer quicker.

Show your customers you care about them

So, what to take out of this article? Brands can no longer take having a relationship with their customers as a given in 2018. It is time to act, to step up and embrace the challenge of trying to become as customer obsessed as T-Mobile is. The ways they are engaging their employees and customers, focusing on the crucial, but increasingly 'lost art' of constantly reminding your customers of your products or services, motivating them to continue to engage with you.

You don’t need to get your CEO on Twitter like Mr Legere (although it might be fun to try) but think about how much personality you are giving over to your customers on your social media channels. Can they feel your passion for your products or do you think this is a given? Unfortunately, it isn’t.

An additional practical step is to consider if your company is sufficiently focused on resolving and supporting what the customer needs when they contact you. Rather than driving the conversation yourselves with more traditional contact minimisation metrics, when was the last time you did a deep dive on the main reasons for customer contact? Have you considered that any attrition or churn you are seeing may not be wholly due to the product itself, but due to the poor customer service received in support of it - extended hold times, unsatisfactory responses to issues, or uninspiring customer service? Question everything you have in place – do your customer options support your team needs or your customers? Marketers must start with the latter.

For more insight and guidance on how to manage your customer experience operations, attend our dedicated training course

Dr Geraint Evans, FCIM Award winning marketing professional, writer and presenter
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