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Marketers Need to Fully Own the Customer Experience
Enough with the promotions, customers demand better service.
Posted Sep 7, 2009
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The CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) Council recently released the findings from its Customer Experience Board report. As the study's title, "Service Invention to Increase Retention," suggests, the CMO Council findings indicate that marketers need to fix the back-office service issues before continuing to spend -- or waste -- money on product and service promotions.

The study specifically examines five sectors that have historically battled a reputation for poor customer service:

  • telecommunications,
  • wireless,
  • cable,
  • satellite, and
  • Internet service providers (ISPs).

"Why continue to spend large sums when all we're doing is driving disenchantment?," asks Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council. For the most part, Neale-May sees companies going through an unproductive cycle of "acquiring and losing." Instead of spending so much on promoting the brands, new devices, marketers need to take initiatives to working more closely with technology, operations, finance, and customer service and support operations in order to gain valuable insight and, ultimately, improve the overall customer experience.

When asked to select their top challenges in today's market, marketers of global communication service providers reported:

  • Creating brand preference and differentiation in a more crowded market.........................................56 percent;
  • Increased innovation, price pressures, and competition from new and adjacent market entrants.........55 percent;
  • Need for rapid delivery of new and relevant applications and services..............................................47 percent; and
  • Increased churn and attrition rates..............................................................................................40 percent.

While these challenges are fundamental issues marketers have long struggled with, Neale-May says marketers rarely ever bother to delve into the heart of the issue, which, more often than not, require marketers to go out of their comfort zone to address:

  • customer needs and expectations not being met;
  • complex usability issues;
  • billing problems; and
  • quality and relevant product service.

Today, the pressure to be more customer-experience-oriented is exacerbated by the fact that consumers are exposed to a wider variety of options. No longer are they bound to cable television when a variety of niche programming is available free on the Internet. New mobile service providers, such as Metro PCS, are coming out with new plans that are much more flexible, adaptable, and affordable, all while allowing consumers to keep their existing phone numbers.

According to the report, the top five lifestyle shifts impacting the service provider business are:

  • Social networking and user generated content.....................................................48 percent;
  • Constant and immediate access through always-on devices and service...................42 percent;
  • Personalized on-demand service.........................................................................40 percent;
  • Wireless-only households...................................................................................36 percent; and
  • Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (IP) and other real-time communication options...........35 percent.

"You've got to wake up and start doing something more," Neale-May says, adding that there is a dearth of reactivation and recovery programs currently in this space. Currently, the market is dominated by the big five -- AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, and Verizon -- and all are holding onto their customers primarily through upgrades. With smart phone adoption rising and developers offering applications on these platforms, carriers are raking in some additional revenue (e.g., AT&T and its partnership with Apple's iPhone). However, Neale-May says that even the flashiest of applications can't solve telco's problems. "Feature frustration, function fatigue," he says; in other words, existing problems are only worsened when there's simply "too much stuff," he says.

Marketers are often focused solely on campaigns and demand generation without "going into the deep, dark, murky areas where you have to run numbers, look at the database, and track real-time information and interactions," Neale-May says. "That's not something they like to do much." Only an estimated 25 percent of marketers own the customer experience, when it should ideally be 100 percent, he says. "If they don't own it, or have no power to enact changes," he says, "you'll just have a leaky bucket" of customers going in and falling right back out.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine.

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