3 questions all CMOs should ask themselves about their customer experience

Way back in 1981, Atari launched a video game called Asteroids for its new home console. Asteroids was pretty straightforward. You were a luridly colored spaceship shooting at huge chunks of luridly colored interstellar rock, which became smaller chunks of rock if you hit them. Your goal was to obliterate all the rocks. [body]

The problem was, the more rocks you hit, the faster they came. No matter how good you were, eventually you’d be swarmed by asteroids and your ship would explode.

In 2019, many CMOs feel like a tiny spaceship afloat in a hostile galaxy where interstellar debris from a planet called Digital Transformation is bombarding them from all sides. Yes, there are companies maneuvering our still-pretty-new digital landscape with finesse and getting astounding results. But for plenty of us, transitioning to digital fluency isn’t straightforward at all.

The good news is, while the tools and metrics we use to deliver and measure the success of brand experiences have changed a lot since analog times, core consumer values have not. Digital consumers still expect a consistent brand experience that speaks to their needs and they reward companies with loyalty when they provide it.

But the question that many CMOs of digital-first companies have isn’t why customer satisfaction is important. They want to know if they’re doing it right.

Our advice is to start by asking the right questions. Here are three we always ask ourselves when deciding if our digital strategies are meeting consumer needs.

“In 2019, many CMOs feel like a tiny spaceship afloat in a hostile galaxy where interstellar debris from a planet called Digital Transformation is bombarding them from all sides.”

Am I leveraging disruption in ways that are improving my customer experience?

Since it was appropriated by Silicon Valley in the late 90s, the concept of “disruptive innovation” has been an odd bedfellow for content marketers. These days, many CMOs feel they have to be disruptive just to survive. Motivated by fear, they end up focusing on innovation for innovation’s sake, rather than on leveraging disruption sensibly to service their brand value propositions.

The fact is, disruption doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing transformation of your company’s services, mission or products. As Nathan Furr and Andrew Shipilov drive home in their deep dive into the mechanics of disruption, healthy disruption can be as simple as harnessing digital tools in smart ways to better serve your customer needs.

Consider the case of G7 Taxis, a Paris-based taxi company founded 70 years before Atari. Hardcore digital disruption from Uber was expected to kill G7 because Uber offered a more flexible, cheaper, user-centered experience (without the notorious rudeness of Parisian cabbies).

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Instead of reinventing their core identity to challenge Uber on Uber’s terms, G7 Taxis stepped back and sagely reimagined their core services so they could better serve their customers. They developed their own app and promoted what they already did better than Uber: their drivers were better trained and they didn’t have a surge pricing policy (unlike Uber, whose rates shoot up at peak travel times). Finally, to correct their brand image, all G7 drivers took etiquette classes.

“Healthy disruption can be as simple as harnessing digital tools in smart ways to better serve your customer needs.” 

The upshot?

G7 Taxis survived an actual life-or-death digital disruption not by transforming itself into something it wasn’t, but by going digital where it made sense and turning one of Uber’s digital innovations (the surge pricing algorithm) into its own competitive advantage. They delivered a product, in other words, that actually responded to consumer needs and expectations.

Is our brand consistent across all consumer touchpoints? 

Listeners use Spotify because of its unified content experience. That experience can be felt in every layer of Spotify’s brand identity and across all Spotify’s stakeholder touchpoints. Whether you use Spotify’s mobile app or desktop web browser, subscribe to its company newsletter, register using one of its sign-up forms, catch a Spotify billboard on the metro or a digital ad on your Instagram feed, that experience is the same.

This isn’t an accident. Brand consistency drives consumer loyalty. In fact, statistically, 64% of your customers return just because they identify with your brand values.

For CMOs, delivering and safeguarding brand consistency is, therefore, vital for customer satisfaction. Practically speaking, this means assessing where consistency is shining through the brand funnel and where it’s falling through the gaps. Because when there’s a rift between what consumers expect and what they get, they will spot that discrepancy every time, and eventually look elsewhere for a more consistent brand experience.

That betrayal of expectations could be as seemingly insignificant as Gap’s 2010 logo reboot, involving a switch to the clean, cool Helvetica typeface. While designers might have welcomed the new look, Gap customers were disoriented and uncomfortable with it.

If you know anything about the ultimate deciding power of data, you probably already know the end of this story.

Gap ditched the new, sleeker logo days later.

“When there’s a rift between what consumers expect and what they get, they will spot that discrepancy every time, and eventually opt for a more consistent brand experience.” 

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How can I make sure our brand promise translates into customer satisfaction? 

More than 90% of 18-34-year-old online consumers have reported that they trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family.

If you journey further down the customer satisfaction rabbit hole, you’ll also find that consumers are generally much more likely to complain about a bad customer experience than advertise a good one, and they share the bad news with three times as many of their friends.

Bad news travels fast.

Or, if you turn that idea around and look from another angle: how customers feel about your brand is measurably important to your bottom line. So important, in fact, that studies have shown that acquiring a new customer can cost you up to 25 times more than retaining a loyal one.

While the quality of your actual products and services will ultimately decide if consumers remain loyal, you shouldn’t underestimate how much of an impact an effective, user-centered customer service policy can make.

Do you always track incidents where customers have reported dissatisfaction at any stage of their brand experience? If you don’t, make that a priority.

“How customers feel about your brand is measurably important to your bottom line.”

Do you solicit feedback from existing customers to find out why they have remained loyal? If you haven’t thought about this either, you should, because knowing what you’re doing right is just as important as knowing what you need to fix.

Finally, do you have a customer recovery process in place? Whether it’s sending a concerned follow-up email, making a phone call or offering a service or product on the house, reaching out to unhappy customers can dramatically alter their perceptions of your brand and spin those feelings back from unhappiness to satisfaction and loyalty.

Conclusion

When Atari launched the Atari 2600 home console in 1981, it wasn’t so much a disruption as a revolutionary expansion. Atari video games had been played in arcades until then by legions of loyal fans.

Eventually, Atari, like its vector-based spacecraft in Asteroids, bit the dust. But the gaming industry kept going, reimagining and transforming itself in the decades since.

While the content (storyline and visuals) of a popular game today like Red Dead Redemption might seem like a foreign animal to a player of Asteroids in 1981, the nature of the games themselves and the way they’re played remain the same.

Likewise, as we respond to the non-stop demands and opportunities of an ever-morphing digital economy, focusing on the core needs of our customers is just as important as any industry disruption we can make.

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