…and maybe the Customer Service Department too

Ok, that’s hyperbole, but it got your attention!  Neither of those departments is obsolete: in fact they’re both more important than ever before.  Why?  Marketing and service are the two main communication channels used by customers.  But when they’re viewed as functions specific to particular departments, it’s easy for other employees to view customer service as “someone else’s problem.”

It's time for businesses to empower employees in all departments to focus on creating an excellent experience for each customer. (iStockphoto)
It’s time for businesses to empower employees in all departments to focus on creating an excellent experience for each customer. (iStockphoto)

A much better solution is to focus the entire organization’s energy on creating a positive experience for each customer.  Every department should understand the company’s marketing strategy, be committed to customer satisfaction, and empowered to deliver excellent service.

That’s the basis of the relatively new trend called “customer experience marketing.”  Companies that used to focus merely on “closing the sale” now have to adapt to changing customer expectations that force them to aim higher: better service, better communication, and a seamless cross-channel shopping experience.

Six Elements of Customer Experience Marketing

Earlier this year, Direct Marketing News released the results of a study that asked customers to define the elements of good customer experience marketing:

  1. Customers expect an improved experience with every point of contact in your organization.  So it’s no help to have a great billing system if the sales department is non-responsive.
  2. Customers expect a seamless experience across all communication channels.  Customers expect good service across all channels.  Don’t brag that you answer all calls within 1 minute – but then take 3 days to send a canned email response to queries.
  3. Treat customers well during the entire lifecycle – not just when you’re asking them for money.
  4. Let customers’ individual preferences drive the frequency, message, timing, and delivery method.  Customers are often willing to share personal information with trusted organizations if it results in a better, more individualized customer experience.
  5. Customers respond better to high-quality personalized communication.
  6. The focus of customer experience marketing should be on engaging customers, not managing them.  Customers want to build a trusted relationship with a company. During the survey, many complained about feeling “manipulated” rather than engaged.  The former is a relationship based on power; the latter relationship is based on trust.

Three Ways To Boost Your Customer Experience Level

Be careful: if your customers feel as though their “experience” is just a marketing gimmick, they’re having the wrong experience entirely.  Keep these tips in mind when you’re coordinating your message and service across channels:

  1. Avoid forcing customers into a particular channel. Even if customers prefer to contact a business initially by online chat, email, or even Twitter, they quickly pick up the phone when there’s a problem.  And an already-frustrated customer becomes even angrier if the telephone service is poor or even non-existent.
  2. Use a multi-sensory approach to enhance the in-store shopping experience.  Everything from store displays to overhead music to scents should reflect your marketing focus.
  3. Be helpful and personal – but stay professional.  You wouldn’t let just anybody design your company’s Web site or appear in a TV commercial.  Keep your on hold music appropriate and use professionals to develop and record your messages.