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What It Means to Get Customer Service Right

Every touchpoint a consumer has with a brand—be it a TV ad, social media post, customer service call or branded end-cap—is part of the customer experience. For years, marketers and their companies have been working hard to make the sum of those experiences as cohesive and value-additive as possible. But like many marketing efforts, such endeavors are often met by taking two steps forward and one step back.

This is particularly true for the customer experience, which relies heavily on data, technology and the integration of the two to pull it all together. While the past few years have yielded technology and tools that have helped improve customer experience efforts (think cross-device identity graphs, online-to-offline [O2O] data matching and more advanced attribution approaches), they have also brought new obstacles.

It’s not surprising to see results like those from Econsultancy, which found roughly the same portion of marketers surveyed in 2015 and 2019 reporting limited confidence in the maturity of their customer experience efforts. Just 8% of client-side marketers worldwide rated their customer experience maturity as “very advanced” in 2015; 10% did the same for 2019.

How to define customer experience, let alone whether a company delivers a good one, can greatly depend on the company size, product, title or department.

“Everybody talks about the customer journey, and much like when you say the color green, there are an endless number of shades that come to mind. There are so many variations, and the same is true with a customer journey,” said Julie Roehm, chief experience officer at party supply retailer Party City, who was interviewed for our recent report, "Customer Experience 2020: Advancing Core Marketing Practices and Case Studies of Success."

While each supporting actor in an organization may differ on customer experience, to “get it right,” everyone must align on the overarching goals and visions of delivering that experience. And no marketing department or CMO will be successful in pursuing and executing customer experience efforts unless the CEO and executive teams are completely on board.

A solid customer experience strategy needs a set of core building blocks. These include proper audience segmentation and mapping the customer journey to identify all physical and digital touchpoints with which your audiences engage you. From there, identifying the right personalization strategy (spoiler alert: One-to-one personalization isn’t always possible or best), getting messaging frequency right and looking to build longer-term relationships is key.

And no strategy will be successful without proper measurement and attribution. This is exceptionally difficult to implement, but it is critical for companies hoping to best understand how each touchpoint is affecting key performance indicators (KPIs) at the channel and organizational levels.

For marketers today, the advanced technology, tools and strategies necessary to build a holistic customer experience is a top priority, and for good reason. It’s largely assumed that having a single, omnichannel and, in certain instances, a real-time view are table stakes to succeed at everything from segmentation to personalization and measurement. In reality, only a minority of companies possess these advantages. An April 2019 survey conducted by data management software firm Syncsort found that just 26.7% of data professionals worldwide said they had either a “very good” or “excellent” ability to obtain a single customer view.

“There are still a lot of siloed data sources that are needed to map the customer experience,” said Amanda Martin, vice president of enterprise partnerships at marketing agency Goodway Group. “If you can unite them internally, the value of your first-party data is even greater. Marketers can’t assume the data from their website or lead generation is the only data they have. They have to really look at anything and everything their company is collecting on the customer.”

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