How to become the customer’s champion
Editorial

How to become the customer’s champion

Marketers today have a vital role in representing the needs of the customer within an organisation. With the board typically focused on key financials and the bottom line, this need is particularly acute. We explore why marketers must become the customer’s champion.

According to the Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report 2015, 97 per cent of global consumers surveyed believe that customer service is ‘somewhat’ or ‘very important’ in choosing, or being loyal to, a brand. Unfortunately, but perhaps unsurprisingly, 62 per cent in the same group said they have ‘stopped doing business with a brand due to poor customer service’.

There’s no doubt that offering excellent customer service is now a vital part of remaining competitive for organisations of all sizes. In order to achieve this, the boardroom must have strong, direct link to the consumer. A highly effective means of doing this is to appoint a customer champion.

While the customer champion is usually a senior marketer, this is not always the case. Colin Bates, managing director of customerchampions.co.uk has spent the past 20 years advising firms on what works best.

Build a culture of customer feedback

The first task is to embed customer feedback within your business strategy. Design a process or assign an individual to ensure this crucial data reaches the rest of the organisation. This person, possibly a senior marketer, should be present in board-level meetings to ensure this transference takes place.

“A customer-centric culture must be more than a headline,” says Bates. “Brands need to specify what it is about the customer experience that will differentiate the organisation – its unique selling point – and how that’s being delivered. Doing this is part of the customer champion’s role.”

Most organisations have some form of customer-feedback channel in place, whether it’s in the form of surveys, or analysis of complaints data and of online reviews and opinions. The crucial question is what happens next; how does the customer champion ensure that feedback doesn’t fall between the cracks?

Bates believes it’s essential for someone senior – perhaps a chief experience officer – to be in charge of collecting feedback and putting things right when they’ve gone awry. This should be “someone who has clout within the business”.

Improving your net promoter score

Many businesses use a system known as net promoter score (NPS), which is designed to measure the strength of their customer relationships and predict business growth. Instead of basing assessments on subjective opinion, this approach normally uses data collected from responses to a key question, such as ‘how likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?’  

In theory, this is the most important factor that will determine whether your existing customers will advocate your business or services, and so promote growth on your behalf. One of the users of this system is international glass manufacturer Guardian, where the role of customer champion is overseen by Lance Altizer, marketing director Europe. He confirms that the company’s customer strategy involves linking its NPS scoring system to a response request from senior management.

“We have a mechanism that alerts senior management when the NPS score of certain customers drops, so we can follow up on the issue straight away,” he says.

Map the customer journey

Although chief marketing officers are often given the role of customer champion, the range of their duties can mean they spend precious little time in the boardroom. However, the marketing team probably understands the customer’s needs, desires and motivations more acutely than anyone else in the business.

As such, they well-placed to consider the customer journey as a whole – from the first indication of interest to post-experience reflection. That’s another job for the champion, says Bates. As a case in point, he cites a travel firm offering rail holidays whose knowledge of its client base didn’t stretch beyond the moment they boarded and disembarked the train.

“The firm didn’t know how those customers were aware their company existed because the bookings were done by a third party, a tour operator. A customer champion should be talking to that operator, getting feedback about the customer experience and the type of experience they’d like to have. That way, you may find you need to reset the expectation level. Customer-journey mapping can prove valuable here.”

Joe Rohrlich is executive vice president and general manager, EMEA, at Bazaarvoice, a network that connects brands and retailers directly with customers. He argues that marketers aiming to become the customer’s champion need to appreciate the role of data in mapping the consumer purchase journey.

“With the number of mobile devices and connections set to grow to 11.6 billion by 2020, brands and retailers suddenly have access to a huge amount of user data.” Used correctly, “this can be leveraged to provide what every consumer longs for – a more personalised and seamless shopping experience.”

However, Rohrlich argues that despite the reams of data now available, brands still struggle to meet and exceed customer expectations. “With 39% of brands ranked as ‘falling behind’ or ‘lagging behind’, and 64% of marketers not fully clear on the origins of their data sources, brands need to act now and update their strategies to reflect the needs and demands of today’s consumer.”

He says the key to this is to understand the new patterns of customer behaviour, such as the growing tendency for consumers to research products online, before buying offline (ROBO).

Choose the metrics that matter

One useful way of simplifying this task is to choose customer metrics that resound in the boardroom. “Asking customers whether they think they’re getting value for money can bring you back to basics. I’d pick two or three metrics and link them to the business’s key performance indicators (KPIs), whether that’s profitability or market share,” says Bates.

Also, he adds, businesses should ask themselves if the frequency of the feedback reflects the ability of the business to absorb and act on it, while still representing the ‘current’ customer experience. 

Many customer-savvy firms are already employing these techniques. However, it’s clear that a large majority could bring on board more practical steps – not least by recognising the role marketing plays in championing the customer throughout the organisation.

Register for CIM’s member-only webinar on how to engage with and retain your customers: https://exchange.cim.co.uk/webinar/practical-insights-how-to-engage-with-and-retain-your-customers/

Andrew Mourant
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