The Customer Experience Management Guide [Chapter 1]
Customer experience. It’s the latest marketing buzzword. But what does it mean for your business?
The Customer Experience Management Guide breaks down the buyer’s journey step by step, providing you with comprehensive information on how to use marketing content to create a best-in-class customer experience that drives business growth.
Start here with Chapter 1, where we’ll dive into leading analyst perspectives and research on customer experience marketing and the future of customer experience.
The Pendulum Swings Back Toward Alignment
B2B marketers have come a long way in the last decade.
Over the past ten years, technology has changed how we operate within our organizations. It has empowered buyers and made marketers accountable for serving them at every stage in their journey. It has also produced a myriad of digital channels, and a portfolio of new tools to engage customers across them.
Marketers have hustled to adapt to this digital transformation.
But for all our progress, few have mastered the transition. Chaos still reigns within marketing organizations, and the repercussions go beyond company walls. This internal chaos results in a disjointed, confusing experience for our customers—and if we don’t address this challenge now, it will only get exponentially more difficult.
As the Economist points out in their report, “The Rise of the Marketer: Driving Engagement, Experience and Revenue”:
“Marketers have seen their jobs transformed over the past ten years. The transformation is happening again—but faster this time.”
“Marketers have seen their jobs transformed over the past ten years. The transformation is happening again—but faster this time.”
If modern marketers are to capitalize on new technologies and deliver a positive customer experience, the pendulum must swing away from confusion and silos back toward simplicity and alignment.
CEB foresaw this shift in its 2012 report, “The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing.”
The report details three stages of digital maturity for B2B marketers. After the first stage, which is characterized by experimentation, marketing teams gain greater expertise by leveraging new technologies. At that point in the second stage, “several performance gains are earned, but many new managerial issues emerge.” Specifically, teams silo around these digital tools, yielding misalignment across internal departments and a fractured buyer experience.
CEB’s third stage of evolution is called “multichannel management,” where silos break down to provide a more aligned, integrated impact on the market.
A recent Salesforce report, “The 2015 State of B2B Marketing,” reinforces that the most critical challenge facing marketers today is taming the chaos wreaked by the past decade’s technology:
For the past ten years, digital channels and data points have been accumulating at breakneck speed. Every industry has been disrupted. The customer now rules, and speed is the new currency of business. Marketers have scarcely had a moment to make sense of it all with a single big idea that ties everything together. Enter the customer journey. A growing number of marketers today are envisioning their entire marketing strategy under the umbrella of a cohesive customer journey, which we defined in this survey as ‘all interactions your customers have with your brands, products, and/or services across all touch points and channels.’ According to recent research, 86% of senior-level marketers say that it’s absolutely critical or very important to create a cohesive customer journey.
We’ve come a long way with digital technology, but the next step is to simplify the impact of technology on our buyers and deliver a more consistent customer experience.
And it’s marketers—as the owners of digital channels, messaging, and market insights—that must take responsibility for this mission. In fact, it’s already happening.
The Economist reports that over the next three to five years, 75% of marketers say they will be responsible for the end-to-end experience over the customer’s lifetime.
Siloed teams tend to center on different tools and deliver different messages to the buyer. The recent report, “Scale Your B2B Customer Obsession with a Go-to-Customer Strategy” (Forrester Research, Inc., August 31, 2015), has this to say:
Organizational silos splinter the buying experience. Only 23% of B2B marketers claim to have a customer-centric—versus a channel- or product-centric—organizational structure. B2B companies create jarring customer experiences when responsibility for engagement with a buyer flips from team to team: from digital marketing to demand generation to inside sales to field sales to service. And it’s getting worse, as marketers in brand, demand gen, and product marketing are moving to engage customers further downstream in the buying process, while sales is trying to engage buyers earlier, often via social channels. With no single function accountable for creating a consistent experience across the life cycle, B2B firms end up delivering a disjointed collage of experiences.
Forrester further examines this dynamic in “Make Your B2B Marketing Thrive in the Age of the Customer” (Forrester Research, Inc., September 11, 2015):
Business transactions silo customer relationships. B2B firms divide customer interactions across functional teams, with marketing leading the promotion effort, sales doing the deals, and customer service handling implementation and support after a sale happens. Hard handoff points create jarring customer experiences as staff tosses buyers from one department to another. The situation worsens as firms grow and begin to specialize, leaving no single function accountable for understanding the buyer’s journey or for creating a consistent experience from awareness to loyalty.
All marketers struggle to provide the consistency their customers need. To understand the impact of today’s disjointed customer journey, let’s look at a fictional security-software firm and its customer experience, which is unsettlingly familiar in its misalignment.
A Customer Journey Fable: The Inconsistency of Securita
Securita is a fictitious company that provides modern security software-as-a-service (SaaS). It has high-performing teams across sales, services, and various marketing functions. The marketing department developed new prowess across digital channels and tools, adopting many of the best practices around demand generation and content marketing. But disparate technologies and channels have left Securita’s customer journey disjointed.
Here’s how it happened.
To earn the attention of buyers at the top of the funnel, Securita turned to buyer-centric content marketing. Securita’s CMO charged the corporate communications team with producing thought-leadership content. They responded with a set of content assets—eBooks, blog posts, and videos—around the theme “system security for modern platforms.” This content focused on best practices for security management in the cloud, in big data, and in mobile.
The team delivered authoritative content and avoided talking about Securita’s specific solutions, instead addressing the knowledge needs of their target personas. Web traffic spiked and new leads poured into the database.
The demand generation team at Securita was responsible for moving these leads into purchase-ready opportunities. Demand gen didn’t have the content-production resources of the corporate communications team, so they stuck with a tried-and-true theme: using examples of security threats to develop urgency in the leads.
Relying on nurture campaigns consisting of emails and webinars, the demand gen team delivered powerful case studies on companies that avoided disastrous, career-ending security attacks thanks to Securita software.
However, most of these stories were old, and involved traditional on-premise and data-center security environments. The buyers attracted by top-of-funnel messaging around security in the cloud, big data, and mobile were now confused by the traditional architectures.
Just what is Securita about? these buyers wondered. Cloud and mobile, or on-premise security?
Due to this confusion, fewer leads converted to opportunities than demand gen expected, and they missed their forecast.
Some leads were scared enough by these disaster stories to investigate further, becoming sales opportunities. During calls with these leads, the sales team used decks and scripts developed by product marketing.
These sales tools focused on Securita’s data protection, fraud protection, and identity protection services, with third-party white papers showing how Securita scored better than the competition on these features.
At this point, buyers were really confused. They initially became aware of Securita through thought-leadership content on cloud, big data, and mobile security. Next, they heard stories about on-premise security disasters. But the content prepared by Securita’s product marketers and delivered by sales discussed data, fraud, and identity protection services, and didn’t address the other topics at all.
As a result, buyers struggled to understand how Securita would meet their software security needs. Most chose to purchase alternative solutions, and sales struggled to hit their revenue numbers.
A few buyers, convinced by the third-party white papers, purchased Securita. They moved into a post-sale process run by the services team. The services team had recently transformed their process to focus on “Safety Score,” a metric they created to measure security maturity. In the kickoff call with the customer, the services team explained that all interactions with Securita would center on this Safety Score, and that they’d track progress over time.
Customers were caught off guard. The concept of a Safety Score hadn’t been introduced during prior interactions with Securita. Also, it focused on broad progress with software security, but most customers needed to address data, fraud, or identity protection challenges.
The surprise and misalignment produced by the Safety Score delayed customer implementation, and in SaaS, delaying time-to-value can be lethal for customer engagements. Much of the early interest in Securita waned. Customers struggled to get value, and many failed to renew a year later. Of those who did renew, few upsold and even fewer became the advocates Securita needed to drive further growth.
The Moral of the Securita Fable
In the Securita story, each team did an excellent job creating content for their part of the customer experience: corporate communications produced engaging thought-leadership content; demand gen created urgency-driving nurture content; product marketing delivered authoritative sales and third-party content; services executed a comprehensive post-sale experience around the Safety Score.
All of this content was outstanding—but only on a standalone basis. It was totally misaligned across the customer journey. At each stage, the customer became more confused about Securita, and conversion to each subsequent stage suffered. As a result, opportunity, revenue, upsell, retention, and advocacy metrics all disappointed.
All marketers suffer some form of the Securita fable, responding to technology with siloed teams focused on different tools, sales stages, and content.
The resulting customer experience is disjointed, and it kills business.
The Value of Consistency
As the Securita fable explains, marketers must focus less on standalone content and more on alignment and consistency across the customer experience. While this concept makes sense on an intuitive level, researchers have also proven that cross-experience consistency trumps single-experience delight.
McKinsey looked into this issue in “The Three Cs of Customer Satisfaction: Consistency, Consistency, Consistency.” They found that a focus on consistency across the customer journey—as opposed to individual interactions—yields significant customer results:
Measuring satisfaction on customer journeys is 30% more predictive of overall customer satisfaction than measuring happiness for each individual interaction. In addition, maximizing satisfaction with customer journeys has the potential not only to increase customer satisfaction by 20% but also to lift revenue by up to 15%.
Jake Sorofman, of Gartner, argues for the same focus on consistency in the customer experience in a blog post titled, “In Customer Experience, Consistency Is the New Delight.”
But in the game of customer experience, I’d argue that consistency will always trump delight. Why? Because delight is episodic—it’s once and done. It’s artificial—it’s rendered because someone else is watching. And because delight doesn’t scale—by design, it disobeys basic customer economics. While delight has a purpose in customer experience strategies, it will never move the needle like consistency.
Sorofman goes on to identify the main barrier to consistency: internal silos.
For many companies, consistency is lost in the gaps between organizations, systems and processes. … Consistency is often compromised when good intentions work at cross purposes; when one organization makes promises that other groups can’t or aren’t willing to fulfill. These promises may begin with the right intentions, but they end up making the experience appreciably worse for the customer who’s whipsawed by the dissonance from one interaction to the next. All the choreographed moments of delight can’t overcome that sort of thing. So, before you seek to delight, focus on getting the experience right. It’s your consistency that will delight customers the most.
To achieve consistency, then, marketers must close these gaps between people, programs, technology, and channels.
Content at the Center of Customer Experience
B2B marketing analysts report consistency as the top priority for marketers today. In “Make Your B2B Marketing Thrive in the Age of the Customer” (Forrester Research, Inc., September 11, 2015), analyst Laura Ramos lists four imperatives for marketers, two of which center on content and consistency:
- Ensure that digital and physical experiences are consistent and reinforcing
- Invest in relevant content; repurpose it for physical or digital use
You can’t discuss customer experience management without content. Content is the fuel for digital channels and marketing initiatives, core to the delivery of your message. If marketers can overcome organizational gaps, deliver the consistent content, and use it strategically to engage buyers across the funnel, you’ve already made important gains in customer experience.
But how, in practice, can B2B marketers break down internal silos? How can they align technologies, channels, initiatives, and people to deliver a consistent customer experience and meet their goals?
This guide will provide you with tools to face these challenges today. It will also look forward to the future of customer experience, and help you prepare for important expectations on the horizon.