- Providing remarkable customer experiences should always be a top corporate responsibility
- CMOs can research and drive action to continuously improve customer perceptions of your firm in contrast to competitors
- Vendor-of-choice data must be captured and shared, and drive real organizational changes across functional departments
When you hear the names Nordstrom, Ritz Carlton, Amazon, Singapore Airlines, Wegmans, L.L. Bean or Apple, what comes to mind? Is the impression positive? But what about if you’ve been unable to get good customer service from these companies, or had to return a product that didn’t meet your expectations? How do you feel then?
It’s obvious to anyone who knows me: My biggest hot-button issue is customer experience, obsession and loyalty. I love reviewing company case studies with my graduate marketing students to discuss customer-centricity, company culture and the real actions required to get there.
Providing remarkable customer experiences should always be a top corporate responsibility. Ultimately, it’s the CEO’s responsibility to provide the leadership, culture and autonomy to drive a customer-centric enterprise. He or she can delegate that responsibility to the CMO or another to be the key customer evangelist, but must fully support the process.
Today, the CMO is often responsible for driving and continuously improving customer experiences. The best brands make strong emotional connections with customers by positioning and deploying a unique, remarkable and sustainable value proposition. Strong brands accrue robust financial benefits, including greater customer lifetime value, cross-sell and up-sell growth, and stronger social word-of-mouth references, attracting additional customers.
In my past CMO roles, strong customer experiences and brands have always been a top priority. A robust tool for continuous improvement of customer experience is the Net Promoter Score (NPS) metric. Here’s a real-life example of a company that used the power of NPS to lead a one-year, last-to-first customer experience turnaround.
At an EMEA-based $700MM company, we instituted NPS globally, including obtaining benchmarks of our five key competitors’ product and cross-functional support areas. Our North American NPS scores were initially behind those of our competitors. Marketing assembled and led a cross-functional team to analyze the issues, recommend solutions and implement required changes that we learned from research into detractors (i.e. those who gave a score between 0 and 6, on a 10-point scale) and passives (i.e. those who gave a score of 7 or 8).
The promoter comments were leveraged in our marketing communications tactics to reinforce the positive aspects of our brand. Metrics were monitored quarterly and benchmarked against competitors’ metrics semi-annually. One year later, our NPS scores exceeded those of our competitors by a significant margin. Here is the process we deployed, along with some key learnings that I hope you find helpful.
Vendor-of-choice data must be captured and shared, and drive real organizational changes across functional departments. A four-step process is required, leveraging the NPS metric:
- Vendor-of-choice measurement. Develop a process to research customer and prospect perceptions of the organization across all functions, including overall brand, sales, marketing, delivery, customer service and support, and products or services. Repeat at least quarterly, if not monthly. Benchmark competitive NPS at least semiannually.
- Vendor-of-choice analysis. Analyze promoters to create promotions, buzz and new content. Analyze detractors to develop areas for improvement. Leverage the information, complete a thorough SWOT analysis, fostering realistic assessments of the firm’s position, issues and opportunities.
- Action. Include NPS results in functional performance appraisals, including the CEO’s. Develop clear incentives for driving customer performance improvements across the organization. Develop and gain approval on action plans, including timeframes and responsibilities, to drive continuous improvement with a robust follow-up reporting and meeting cadence.
- Improvement. Ensure clear responsibility and authority is delegated to monitor and review the execution of action plans and communicate organizational successes. Measure and report results, covering both successes and gaps that must be filled to instill customer-centricity and improvement into the culture.
In all steps, make no assumptions. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. CMOs have a golden opportunity to research and drive action to continuously improve customer perceptions of your firm vs. those of competitors. Create a robust process to capture, analyze and act upon their voice to make real and meaningful differences in their experience.