Customer Experience: A Competitive Differentiator

Customer Experience|8 Minute Read

Customer Experience: A Competitive Differentiator

‘Good’ customer experience (CX) just doesn’t cut it for brands, in this day and age.

An above-and-beyond, front-end customer experience strategy is the new standard for large-scale organizations across industries: from fast-moving consumer goods companies, to direct-to-consumer retailers, to subscription-based businesses.

Every interaction with customers across touchpoints — visits to your website and brick-and-mortar stores, chats with call center and customer support representatives, personalized email promotions and targeted ads — needs to contribute to a high-quality CX.

Fail to meet lofty customer expectations, and it’s all but assured your company’s reputation will diminish — starting with poor word of mouth and, eventually, ending with lost revenue.

Conversely, a positive customer experience provided by you, your marketing team, and your business as a whole across every touchpoint can do wonders for both your brand image (i.e., customers’ perception) and bottom line (i.e., greater customer loyalty).

It’s the brands that pride themselves on delivering a best-in-class CX to their target audiences that ultimately differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Of course, prioritizing increased customer satisfaction in the form of a new customer experience strategy is one thing. Realizing such a CX strategy improvement is quite another.

Specifically, it’s a task that requires getting the right tools — and scrapping inefficient ones.

customer experience strategy

How legacy technologies contribute to a poor overall customer experience

The Harris Poll’s 2019 Customer Experience Index discovered a sizable disparity between how brands perceive their customer experience strategies versus how consumers do:

Nearly half (48%) of consumer-centric organizations polled said their CX efforts were “exceptional,” compared to just 22% of consumers surveyed.

One way these companies can bridge this (significant) gap in customers’ perception of their CX strategies? They can identify and eliminate ineffective tools that prevent them from ‘delighting’ individuals throughout each customer lifecycle stage.

BlueConic COO Cory Munchbach explained to CMSWire how she often gets asked by marketing leaders at big brands across industries how the most popular data-driven technologies differ from one another. Her response to these executives?:

“In a world where customer experience is the ultimate competitive differentiator, the better question to ask is: In what way will technology fundamentally transform how my marketing, and therefore how my business, understands and interacts with customers?”

That begs the follow-up question: Which, if any, of the most commonly used technologies found in enterprise organizations’ martech stacks help them improve CX?

martech stack

Customer experience technology option #1: Master data management (MDM) solutions

A nearly complete single customer view doesn’t make up for the fact master data management tools don’t offer activation capabilities for marketers. What’s more, they’re entirely IT-owned and -operated systems meant for more than just marketing use cases.

The trademark of a modern CX strategy is the ability to leverage real-time data to connect with customers in (you guessed it) real time. This technology prevents just that.

Customer experience technology option #2: Marketing campaign management tools

Outbound campaigns certainly have a place in marketing programs today. For instance, short-term campaigns are best for promoting specific products or services upon launches.

But campaign management tools can’t inform marketing where individuals are in their respective customer journeys because — well — they just don’t know.

The tools ‘push’ channel-specific messaging to target customers and prospects based on where day-to-day marketers believe they are in their respective journeys.

More often than not, this leads to watered-down, inefficient marketing.

Customer experience technology option #3: Customer journey orchestration software

This system, on the other hand, does supply robust (if somewhat abstract) journey analytics that help marketing professionals get a sense of customers’ typical paths to purchase.

But journey orchestration software typically requires the help of data scientists to extrapolate insights before marketers can use the data to improve customer experiences.

These dependencies create time delays that prevent marketers from understanding where individuals are in real time and targeting them with well-timed, relevant messaging.

Customer experience technology option #4: Marketing cloud suites

Customer data comes from a variety of places. Particularly for large-scale brands with sizable martech stacks. However, the major marketing cloud suites restrict marketers’ ability to unify all data that lives outside their walled-off suites and activate said data within the suites.

How can marketing provide a top-tier CX with only a partial view of the customer?

martech stack

The mindset (and martech) required for a strong customer experience strategy

In a 2007 Harvard Business Review post, CX experts Chris Meyer and Andre Schwager detailed three specific reasons why enterprise leaders preferred a “customer-facing group” (see: marketing) to own their customer database technology (with support from IT as needed) so they could essentially own their companies’ CX strategies:

“It saves money; it protects customers from redundant and annoying solicitations; and it permits direct comparison of customers on the basis of their location, choice of product, or some other criterion.”

Fast-forward a decade-plus later, and this reasonable (nay, ideal) approach to customer experience management still hasn’t been adopted by business leaders at many brands.

Here’s one piece of compelling evidence to support that claim:

The “ability to develop the necessary capabilities to design, deliver, and monitor the customer experience” was marketing leaders’ top CX-related challenge, per the August 2019 CMO Survey.

This used to be a legitimate excuse for enterprise CMOs. That’s simply no longer the case.

Why? Because they can now improve all critical components of their programs with a pure-play customer data platform (CDP) as their foundational marketing technology.

Pure-play CDPs were explicitly designed to solve for three distinct CX challenges:

  • 1) Speed: Quicker time to market thanks to real-time data unification
  • 2) Agility: Dynamically updated segments to enhance personalized messaging
  • 3) Flexibility: Data-agnostic nature makes integration with other tools easy

And with increased speed, agility, and flexibility, you can build a modern marketing strategy that addresses your most pressing customer experience pain points, including the need for:

More robust, real-time customer analytics and insights

The bedrock of best-in-class marketing programs is access to all insights and information associated with visitors, prospects, subscribers, and others in one’s database ecosystem.

The pure-play CDP provides such a single customer view as well as detailed, marketer-friendly dashboards featuring all relevant data for every individual and segment.

blueconic

More intelligent, cross-channel customer engagement

Transforming your passive and inactive buyers into more loyal and engaged customers becomes far easier with a unified customer database at your fingertips.

For instance, BlueConic customers build lifecycles to orchestrate timely, relevant messages to each individual based on where they are in their unique journey and move them from one lifecycle stage to the next as their behaviors, interests, and circumstances change.

More streamlined consent management processes

Improving CX also requires ensuring you market solely to individuals who’ve opted in to receive promotional messaging and allow you to use their data in marketing (e.g., individualized email deals, custom homepage experiences, targeted social media ads).

Certain CDPs with consent management functionality — like BlueConic — can help with this.

More dynamic customer segmentation capabilities

Some customer data platforms provide multi-dimensional segmentation capabilities to enable the development of hyper-specific segments and streamline segment analysis.

In BlueConic, for example, our customers can construct segments in mere seconds and easily analyze and compare groups of prospects and buyers based on various criteria and attributes (e.g., propensity to churn or buy, CLV or RFM scores).

Moreover, our customer data platform automatically moves contacts in and out of segments in real time based on their latest profile changes (i.e., when they reengage or purchase again or opt in or out of receiving marketing messaging).

More simplified means to build machine learning models

The days of relying on data science to build, train, and deploy machine learning models are over. Well, at least when you have the right CDP in place.

For instance, BlueConic offers out-of-the-box models that help marketers enrich profiles with the aforementioned customer scores. Thus, in turn, informs segment inclusion (and exclusion) and subsequent activation to target segments.

customer experience strategy

‘Always-on’ customer-centric marketing a must to build a high-quality CX strategy

Refining your marketing strategy with a pure-play customer data platform in place leads to operational efficiencies for your team and across your organizations.

The trick is ensuring you leverage the high-quality, first-party data in your customer data platform accordingly each day so you and your team can say you’re truly customer-centric.

As our aforementioned COO Cory Munchbach noted to Forbes regarding data utilization:

“Data collection can introduce new information, but it won’t result in smarter engagement or better outcomes if it’s not managed correctly.”

Confidently utilize the consistently updated and integrated data stored persistently in your CDP’s customer profiles, though, and you’ll make substantial headway with both your CX strategy and most important metrics: acquisition, retention, and the like.

The key, of course, is getting buy-in from leadership to evolve your current martech setup (which likely features at least one of the aforementioned legacy systems) and investing in a pure-play CDP to become your new customer experience ‘compass.’

In a separate piece for Forbes, customer experience ‘futurist’ Blake Morgan noted many digital marketers comprehend the importance of a customer experience strategy.

But “if they can’t clearly communicate the benefit to the company, to executives,” Morgan elaborated, “they run the very real risk of losing support” for CX tech investment.

In addition to explaining the benefits that come with securing a customer data platform, marketers interested in using the advanced martech needed for today’s challenges also need to relay the downsides of sticking with the status quo martech-wise to their C-suite.

For instance, you can note how many “marketers’ technological infrastructure frequently falls short of the level required to enable a truly great customer experience,” as a 2018 Econsultancy survey discovered, noting “legacy technology and infrastructure” was the biggest barrier to CX success for many of the marketing professionals polled.

Bottom line: People and processes play a pivotal role in your customer experience success. But the technology you choose is equally as important for ensuring you have the requisite resources to amplify your CX efforts and boost customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Looking to improve your customer experience strategy? Watch our webinar to discover how you can deliver more compelling cross-channel experiences to your audience.

customer experience strategy

See what BlueConic can do for you.