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.

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