Secret Marketer: Brands claim customer experience is a top priority, really they’re just paying it lip service

Brands are just paying lip service to customer experience as requests for call centre staff to improve the service are being met with resistance.

I have to admit, I am not the most patient person. I am even less patient when it comes to being put on hold by so-called ‘customer service departments’. We are all familiar with the inevitable message, “your call is very important to us, we will be with you shortly”, while you die a little bit at the other end of the line.

We are hearing a lot about customer experience lately. I cannot help thinking, however, that brands are really just paying lip service to it.

Our high street banks are supposedly embracing customer experience while at the same time operating branches with no till staff.

This is the big opportunity in marketing: the selling of ‘experiences’ versus the selling of ‘things’. It is the experience of having and driving a new car that we like; the car is just an object. Far too little thought is invested in the experience and for bigger companies, there is the constant pressure to standardise and commoditise experiences.

Yet talking directly to a well-trained person behind the counter or on the phone is often the best possible customer experience of the lot, and one that really lowers the cost of customer acquisition by improving retention.

This particular piece of insight does not appear to have crossed the mind of our chief financial officer and CEO. When the discussion comes up about increasing the number of people in the call centre, or increasing the hours they are available, I meet a wall of resistance.

Despite our having identified customer experience as a priority, developed plans and refined them, now that the time has come to implement, the bean-counters are rowing back. They point to the cost for each extra ‘head’ and the lack of positive effect on the bottom line.

Of course, I do talk in terms of customer experience driving cohesion across communications and I try to drum home the brand experience following through on our proposition.

I have brand measure improvements and their link to the bottom line. However, this is the one challenge that they do not teach you how to handle in marketing textbooks: when facts, figures and logic don’t convince.

In times like this, a well-thumbed copy of the Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ can come in handy.

I am in the process of building support among the other members of the management team, appealing to their self-interest and showing how this is going to reduce costs on the operational side of the business, so we can present a unified front.

The next monthly management meeting should be fun. Wish me luck.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here