Better customer journey is route to success for brands
It's hard to avoid a conversation about what the advertising agency of the future might look like in five years' time, never mind 20 years. It's a topic that frequently surfaces in many debates, thought-leadership conferences and general pub chats as the industry and its leaders ponder their future.
But it's also a topic which nobody can appear to reach a consensus on and it's likely that several different models will emerge as the industry embarks on what is likely to be a period of profound disruption over the next few years.
For an industry that has prided itself on being at the cutting edge in terms of dispensing advice on a wide range of areas from consumer and marketing insights, data, digital and innovation, it is somewhat astonishing that the industry has, so far, failed to disrupt itself to the same extent as other industries in which its clients operate.
A common theme in much of the recent debate, however, is the need for the industry to double down on the customer by offering better customer experiences. A happy customer is very often a repeat customer and possibly one for life. While this might seem blindingly obvious - given that marketing has always been about customers - the greater prevalence of technology and data has allowed marketers and their agencies get much better insights into their customers, their needs and offer a much better level of customer experience.
It might seem like a cliché, but we really are living in the age of the customer. While we are all familiar with the age-old maxim that the customer is always right, many businesses have struggled to truly understand the individual and often changing emotional and physical needs of their customers.
In the past, too many brands - and, indeed, their agencies - have spent far too much time and money chasing the next shiny new thing or protecting their own fiefdoms, instead of having a relentless focus on customers and the experience they get when dealing with the brands that play a role in their day-to-day lives.
Now, it's the customer who is in the driving seat and brands and agencies that fail to take this into account may not have a future.
Not surprisingly, the vast realm of customer experience - or CX as it is known in the industry - will provide some of the inspiration and guidance for many agencies as they plot their future. CX can be briefly summed up as a customer's perceptions, both conscious and subconscious, of their relationship with a brand as result of all their various interactions along the different customer touchpoints, for as long as they are customers. This experience can come from a range of different interactions a customer can have with a brand.
The reality is that every company that has customers and sells goods or services provides a customer experience, whether they consciously know it or not. That experience may be good, bad or absolutely shocking. It's also highly likely that many companies think that because they have a customer service department or a Facebook or Twitter presence, they are providing a great customer experience. Often, the exact opposite is true.
It is generally accepted that brands, and indeed agencies, that embrace CX as a key business differentiator will stand a much greater chance of business success than those that don't.
In the connected and social world that we live in, where brands are never more than a click away from a customer backlash, it is worth remembering that one good experience may only be shared among four or five people, but one bad experience could easily be shared with 300 people. In the CX world, it's the four or five people that count.
There are plenty of examples of companies that get CX. Apple, Amazon, Starbucks, Netflix and Nike are leading the CX charge.
For many companies and their brands CX can be challenging and not all of them will get it. Others may be delusional in their belief that because they have a customer service department or a loyalty programme, that this somehow equates with providing a good customer experience.
In short, CX is a culture that has to permeate every level of an organisation and at every touchpoint along the customer journey from the physical or online shopping channels, right through to its advertising, its logistics, content and its experiential and loyalty marketing initiatives. In other words, the whole kit and kaboodle.
The business case for customer-centricity of course is compelling. Not only does it offer firms a competitive advantage over their rivals but it helps future-proof their organisations. It also delivers to the bottom line.
For agencies looking to reinvent themselves in the uncertain future that lies ahead, there are many lessons to learn from the CX playbook.
While the customer may always be right, that very same customer also has the power to make or break a brand's future if they feel that their experience is not what it should be.
Sunday Indo Business