This is part two in a two part series. You can read part one here

In part one of this series, we discussed how setting a brand strategy for your business gives you a plan for how to solve your customers’ needs with your unique capabilities as a company:   

An image with the text: Your brand strategy is the plan for how you solve your customers’ needs with your unique capabilities as a company now and in the future. 

In part one, we covered steps one and two, while this post will cover steps three and four. 

Let's dive in:

3.    Empowering individuals and teams

Your capabilities as a company: This is how we’re positioned to do something about your problem.  

As data becomes democratized and teams meet with customers regularly, individuals and teams have the insights to make informed decisions that give customers the right information quickly. When it comes to marketing’s role in this process, there are two important aspects to cover: breaking down silos and social media. 

Every department “owns” the customer journey

As Maria Osipova, vice president of marketing at MediaValet, nicely puts it: "The most effective strategy marketing leaders can drive is ensuring that everyone 'owns' the customer."

Marketing has traditionally been further removed from the customer, and certainly hasn’t taken any type of ownership over the customer journey. But in order to create a truly seamless journey between different company touchpoints, every team and every employee must have a stake in the success of the customer journey.

Experts and data alike back this up:

  • Nearly 60% of respondents in a McKinsey study from leader companies strongly agree that their customer service, sales, and marketing functions must work closely together to improve the customer experience.
  • According to Ryan Buell Professor at Harvard Business School, “Employees suffer when they are cut off from the business’s front lines, as they lose the motivation and enjoyment that comes from making a difference in people’s lives and are denied the opportunities to learn and improve that arise from interaction with customers.”
  • 48% of businesses say siloed working behavior is the greatest barrier to delivering a smooth customer experience.

When every department “owns” the customer journey, it’s easier to execute on cross-functional, collaborative, and agile marketing activities. The traditional bureaucracy that slows down customer engagement initiatives falls away, as the entire company works towards a single vision of the customer journey.

Companies that hope to survive must evolve to meet this challenge. The nature of how customers interact with brands is changing dramatically. According to research from Forrester, 95% of customers use three or more channels to connect with a company in a single service interaction, with 62% using more than one device. On top of that, Accenture found that 65% of customers expressed frustration over inconsistent experiences or information presented across channels.

Image with this text: , 95% of customers use three or more channels to connect with a company in a single service interaction, with 62% using more than one device

Customers don’t differentiate between channels or departments—they want a cohesive experience. In order to achieve that, the marketing team and entire organization must have a customer-centric approach. This keeps engagement initiatives customer-centric, responsive to changing demands, and encourages all departments to own the journey.  

Actionable tips for company-wide customer ownership: 

  • Create cross-functional teams with members from marketing, CX, sales, and product in order to develop end-to-end customer initiatives that truly address the customer’s needs. Encourage teams to sit together often.
  • Use sprints or agile methodology to execute on work quickly and respond to changing customer behavior and demands.
  • Get customer feedback consistently, so teams are able to iterate on their campaigns and gain a deeper understanding of the customer.
  • Use long-term metrics that are specific to each department’s goals. This ensures each team is incentivized to achieve a better customer journey within a collaborative environment. 

Social media: the frontlines for agile CX

According to The Harvard Business Review, “successful customer experiences are anchored on social media.” Why? “The speed at which social works and the ability and expectation to actually engage with customers is becoming greater every day,” says Douglas Palmer, a principal at Deloitte.  

Customers are empowered with social media like never before to express their thoughts, feedback, and feelings. They can instantly interact with a brand in a private message or in a public post. Because of that, many companies put social media at the forefront of their customer experience investments.

For context, according to the same Harvard Business Review study, 42% of businesses think social media is extremely important for the customer experience now, and 75% think it will be extremely important by 2020.

Image with this text: 75% of businesses think social media will be extremely important for the customer experience by 2020

Social media isn’t simply for answering customer questions or offering support. Instead, leading companies use social channels for product awareness, lead gen, sales, and reputation management. These companies don’t see social media as simply a technology or inexpensive marketing channel. Rather, social media is front and center in the personalized experience they provide customers.

And these businesses have the results to back up their approach: companies with integrated CX social media programs experience stronger revenue growth and much higher quality customer experiences.  

The modern customer journey isn’t linear. Customers look for product reviews, testimonials, guides, tips, and more at all stages of their journey, and they often turn to social for content and input.  

Actionable tips for owning the social media customer journey:

  • Informed, empowered teams are everything. In order for CX and marketing teams to give customers what they need on social channels, they need transparent insight into the touchpoints that a customer or prospect has had with the company previously. Teams should be empowered to respond quickly, so customers get the information they need, when they need it.
  • Be proactive. Companies need to have social listening tools in place so teams can pick up on questions and trends before they land in a Facebook direct message. Be proactive by reaching out directly to users talking about your brand.
  • Become more comfortable with risk. The speed at which social media moves means teams must react quickly. It also means that mistakes will happen. Companies must create a culture that’s more comfortable with risk. Employees should be thoroughly trained on brand voice, appropriate responses, and when to escalate a situation.
  • Use a transparent social platform. A unified platform where social messages can be seen across all channels is imperative for a smooth customer journey. In the face of system outages or a website going down, teams need to have the ability to stop scheduled social messages about unrelated activities. 

4.    Foster customer loyalty and never stop

Now and in the future: This is how we’ll foster our relationship with you in the long run. 

There’s a very strong business case to be made for fostering customer loyalty in the long run. Harvard Business School found that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.

It’s also 16 times as expensive to build a long-term business relationship with a new client than to maintain the loyalty of an existing customer.

Image with the text: it's 16x as expensive to build a long-term business relationship with a new client than to maintain the loyalty of an existing customer

According to Oracle, customers are loyal to brands for the following reasons:  

  • Friendly employees or customer service representatives (73%)
  • The ability to easily find the information or help they need (55%)
  • Personalized experiences (36%)
  • Brands with a good reputation (33%)

In the same study, when asked specifically how companies can better engage with consumers to spend more, respondents said the following:

  • Improve the overall customer experience (54%)
  • Make it easy to ask questions and access information before making a purchase (52%)
  • Improve search functionality and overall website usability (36%)

It’s clearly important for brands to offer value to customers: help, information, and personalization at the right time. And that isn’t exactly rocket science. It’s simply a matter of brands offering helpful, tailored information at the right time in the buying process and being available to help customers immediately.

To do that consistently, across all departments and all channels, remains hugely challenging for many brands.   

Actionable tips for building customer loyalty:

  • Show appreciation. Your current customers keep your business afloat (and keep your team employed!). Show long-term customers that you appreciate them with loyalty programs, discounts, or invitations to in-person events.
  • Ask for feedback. There’s always room for improvement. Ask customers for feedback on recent interactions with your team, the materials they received, an event you hosted, or a new product/service. When customers give feedback, they also become invested in the results.
  • Offer a thorough onboarding. The initial account creation or purchase is only the very beginning of your relationship with a customer. Invest in its longevity by offering a thorough onboarding program—complete with video tutorials, thorough and helpful information, and a nurture flow that lets customers know they’re being looked after.
  • Personalize the experience. 70% of customers say understanding how they use products and services is very important to winning their business. Tailor your offers and communications to each customer’s behavior and preferences.

Learn more about the customer experience 

To learn more about how marketers are creating better customer journeys and the challenges they face in doing so, download our recent report done alongside IDG

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