I spent the first eight years of my advertising career working for a top London agency where the consumer didn’t really come into the equation, except for a few demographic descriptors in the target audience section of the creative brief. If the resulting ad was clever, it sailed through internal approvals and went off to the client.
In the early 90’s, I started going to research groups. It was clear that ‘clever’ advertising wasn’t hitting the mark with a marketing-savvy consumer who was feeling no job was for life, had little trust of the church or big business, and was experiencing the anxiety of being time poor – everything that researchers are telling us today. In that way, nothing is new.
At the time, the industry was more interested in awards than it was in listening to an evolved consumer. Thankfully, things have changed – you’d be hard pressed to find an agency or a client that doesn’t acknowledge the primacy of the customer today.
Like all paradigm shifts, however, it takes time for new thinking to take shape in the practical world. While a growing number of clients are adding ‘customer experience officers’ within the ranks of their organisation, and more and more agencies are adding CX divisions, our industry is still clutching onto the old-fashioned notion of marketing being about communication messages.
Twenty-plus years ago when I opened the doors of Lavender, I was adamant that to appeal to consumers, we needed to look beyond communication – to create more meaningful experiences and to make marketing feel like service.
Marketing as a service
In today’s abundant world, the majority of companies (and brands) are in product parity with their competition – which means service is differentiation.
Marketing as a service is a whole-picture view; it’s about the entire customer journey. Wherever a customer comes into contact with your organisation – whether through retail, web page, kiosk application, IVR system, mobile app, display or email – we have to provide a pleasant, frictionless and memorable experience that creates value for your customers and value for your organisation.
For a bank, as an example, it’s not just about the in-branch or call centre experience (although this is important). It’s also about the intuitive simplicity of onboarding, authenticity of contact and messaging, the thoughtfulness behind data use – and how then these reflect customers’ expectations of the company.
Of course, the ads play their part, it’s just the rest is so much more significant. Customers now expect that if they do something in one place, it will be recognised in another. Getting this right means not only do you keep your customers, you turn them into positive referrals. The best kind of marketing.
To effectively adopt a ‘service as marketing’ mindset, you need to know who your customer is and what their needs are at multiple touchpoints. In today’s environment, where organisations have a plethora of customer data available to them, there is no excuse for not creating intelligent interactions with customers.
The trick is to see the meaningful business opportunities and learnings from within the customer data you already have, and better understand how to service customers appropriately in acquisition, onboarding, retention and quality assurance.
Where to next?
To broaden the landscape beyond communication means employing or accessing a broader range of expertise. Brilliant customer experiences never come from just one person or one field; they’re the result of a progression of inputs leveraging left and right brain thinking.
When you listen carefully to the consumer’s pathway and learn their priorities, many more solutions become apparent to you. For agencies that delve into clients’ service experience, it becomes clear how a better way might be achieved.
Sometimes, extra value can be created by simply moving the deckchairs and sprinkling what already exists with some fresh innovation. I’ve always loved the scene in the Apollo 13 movie when a team on the ground creates a coupling for the spacecraft by using a range of obscure objects available on board.
CX Lavender founder and chairman Will Lavender