Customer experience and marketing automation: separated at birth – reunited by a common purpose

How to harmonise two distinct disciplines to achieve unbeatable customer service.

Customer experience and marketing automation. It is not uncommon for multiple departments within a company to debate who ‘owns’ customer experience (CX). Marketing, customer services and IT may all lay claim to it for different and equally valid reasons – all of which relate to how they influence, respond to and solve problems for customers.

If this sounds familiar to you and your business then you’re not alone. The reality is that nobody really ‘owns’ customer experience. Many people will argue passionately that CX is everyone’s responsibility, and while that can be taken a little too literally by some companies, it’s fair to say that anyone or anything – including chatbots named Gladys – that communicate with customers has a role to play in making sure that the interaction is a positive one for both customers, colleagues and the company.

Like any other worthy endeavour, building a great customer experience begins with an innovative and creative design process that is truly collaborative and starts long before a customer is aware of, even thinks about or knows, your product. Experience has shown that there are many willing participants in CX, both inside and outside an organisation and that all employee and customer voices need to be heard, appreciated, and actioned for it to be a success. 

The organisations that really ‘get’ CX have clearly demonstrated that their commitment to customers and colleagues isn’t just talk. They align rational thinking, organisational engagement and emotional connectivity with intelligent technology solutions that make customers happy and keep them coming back for more. 

Building the bridges – supporting the strategy

To help achieve this ideal level of alignment, businesses need to lay the structural and operational foundations to develop a model that can span marketing and CX activities:

  1. First, you must uncover where the challenges lie in consistently delivering a great customer experience at every touchpoint, both those that you own and others outside your control – and understand the role and importance of a cross-functional approach to meeting them.
  2. Then, it’s vital to develop a greater understanding of where you want to go in terms of a realistic customer experience ambition. What’s the destination and who are your internal and external travelling companions? Marketing, IT, HR, etc.
  3. Next is the key planning phase to identify priorities, understand potential roadblocks, gain company-wide support, and truly build a climate of organisational engagement that forms the basis for a company-wide agreement, or social contract to work collaboratively in the customer’s interest.
  4. Finally, you need to develop a long-term customer experience blueprint that enables you to foster innovation and creativity, while maintaining operational excellence and enhancing customer engagement.

When you get this right, colleagues from across the business will have a stronger, measurable understanding of the brand, your strategic vision, purpose, and the value that the company brings and what it means to customers. All you need to do now is join the dots, which is where marketing automation plays a vital role.

Joining the dots

While looking through the lens of customer experience, marketing automation can be an invaluable tool for the improvement of both loyalty and customer satisfaction, and the high degrees of message personalisation available across multiple channels mean there has never been a better time to look at your CX in this way.

Marketing automation can be deployed to great effect to navigate the non-linear world of customer journeys on the road to (or from) purchasing a product or service. It can ensure you act on customer decisions at the right time, or even influence them to purchase with you over a competitor. The compelling power of targeting the right customer (or prospect), with the right message, at the right time on the right channel should never be underestimated. It literally makes the difference between first and second place, and there are no prizes for second place. 

A manageable way to harmonise marketing automation and CX is to decide on a couple of personas, or customer groupings to focus on, in this way the incremental value can be more easily measured. For example, in the grocery retail vertical, two personas to examine could be: 

  • 18-25, low basket value, frequent shopper
  • 35-49, high basket value, weekly shopper 

For these, we would then recommend creating idealised customer experience maps, recognising that these won’t necessarily be linear, and always adaptable, combining the behavioural knowledge from the CX world, with the sophistication capabilities of marketing automation. The challenges and desired outcomes can then be distilled for realistic journeys, coupled with a detailed examination of available data. The difference between what you can achieve with the elements you have available now, and what your customer journey looks like becomes your roadmap vision for the future.

Marketing automation exists as a combination of people, processes, data and technology. Any weaknesses or shortcomings in any of these areas can lead to underperformance of your marketing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and engage outside experts to ensure your marketing technology continues to complement your CX and measures the relevant KPIs. 

CX can be summed up as putting the customer at the heart of everything you do, and really meaning it – and marketing automation is that everything.

Gerry Brown is The Customer Lifeguard; Tim Biddiscombe is the Managing Director (EMEA) of Purple Square.

This article originally appeared in on 18th January 2022.


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