1. Customer data: How much is needed, how do you get it and when should you deploy it?
It is unsurprising that data is at the bottom of every conversation about the customer today as it is the driving force behind brand strategies. But as attendees at a recent briefing organised by Marketing Week and Salesforce recognised, in their haste to jump on the data bandwagon some are losing focus about how to apply data for maximum benefit.
“Our challenge is how to get people to be more data-literate; to understand what data is and isn’t needed. We also need to know how to use it to get long-term benefits, even though the business is thinking about short term ROI,” said Jeremy Mai, global digital marketing manager at Reckitt Benckiser.
Lisa Ravenscroft, head of brand strategy at William Hill, responded: “We have had an embarrassment of riches in terms of online data but we’ve also had to bring in qualitative research. We add in other views, such as customer panels with a quick turnaround, about how much personalisation is too much, for example. This is helping us resolve the tension between being hungry for learning and experimentation and changing things around too much. We’ve had to temper the velocity of some of the testing we’ve done.”
Relying on what the data tells you is also of concern. Ben Rhodes, director of customer marketing at Royal Mail said: “I’m a huge sceptic of research. People don’t tell you what they need [in surveys]. We have to be careful about optimising journeys too much because it’s up to marketers to pull on as many levers as they can. Insight is an output of data. It’s about joining the dots. You don’t get that from pure data.”
2. Where are the cracks in your customer experience?
There was much discussion about what constitutes good customer experience and the returns that eventually delivers back to the organisation. That it generates increased sales seems almost a given, as each panellist was able to identify examples of how customer experience had definitively benefited the bottom line. Salesforce’s head of digital strategy, EMEA, Jeremy Waite, noted that Facebook is focusing on making mobile checkout via messenger frictionless. This is to make the most of the customer’s desire to interact via the channel, while improving customers’ view of the ease of completing purchases on mobile devices.
However, many of the delegates were most interested in how customer data could lead to improved experience, creating a virtuous circle where those people are willing to release more data. William Hill’s Ravenscroft asked: “How do we create a reciprocity so that if you give us something, your experience is going to be better than if you didn’t?”
She explained that a recent government regulation that could have been a negative has the potential to drive improvements in customer experience: “[Automated gaming machines] now have a £50 limit. Players have to give a phone number so problem gambling can be spotted. Now, we can be data-driven in shops. We’re trying to fill in the gaps on the customer journey by saying that if you give us information, we’ll give you service that is substantially better.”
The conversation kept returning to the issue that solving individual customer experience elements may be a step in the right direction, which Ravenscroft termed as “random acts of customer-centricity”, but that doing so on an ad hoc basis without a wider strategy risks making a company function-focused rather than customer-centric.
The panel agreed that moving away from such randomness requires a ‘whole brain’ approach from an organisation, with silos in companies identified as a big barrier to break through. Salesforce’s Waite pinpointed this when he revealed that toy maker Mattel now views customers in terms of ‘family lifetime value’ and not just a single customer journey.
3. Changing corporate culture: Moving from a functional focus to a customer-driven enterprise
A challenge echoed by the majority of attendees, both audience and panel members, is the work needed to move the corporate culture from functional to customer focus. “You need leadership and structured changes in the organisation’s behaviour that changes the culture, which then impacts on customer experience,” noted The Co-operative Group’s customer data director Andrew Mann. “Starbucks’ Ideas campaign [crowdsourcing changes from customers] is really embedding listening to the customer in the organisation.”
Royal Mail’s Rhodes advised approaching the issue of corporate change in stages. “When you look at a big problem, it can feel like the sky is going to fall in. We had to go from a monopoly to a competitive marketplace. One thing we had was 140,000 [delivery] people walking up and down the streets – we had to learn what their values were. It starts to fall into place after things like that but it’s hard until you nail those pieces.”
He added: “We have to be clear on our purpose but also about what we’re trying to do commercially.” He gives the example of Barack Obama’s 2012 US presidential campaign, where his staff identified the swing states and those who might vote and built an engagement ladder that was both data- and customer experience-driven.
Salesforce’s Waite agreed that while technology is an important tool, success depends on who is using it: “It’s interesting to see that one of the people heading up Obama’s campaign [David Plouffe] is now leading marketing at Uber – one of the world’s fastest growing companies with the best experience. It says a lot about how you build organisational change. It’s being people first.”
William Hill’s Ravenscroft ended the debate on a suitably customer-focused note: “Brands’ interactions with customers are a series of micro-moments. Each person needs to value that interruption. We are trying to understand our role in the ecosystem of that person’s day – where you need to seek permission to interact and where spontaneity will add value.
“We have confidence that someone betting on a football game will want information but will expect to opt in for everything else. It’s a dimensioning of responsibility – giving opportunity versus choosing the right moment.”