This post is incredibly timely based on my discussions and posts surrounding customer experience. The Big Data talks is about all of this. Leveraging data throughout an organization to understand the customer journey, in order to enhance the customer experience. This is what is going to differentiate brands.
In October of 2014, Loyalty 360 reported that Mercedes Benz CEO advised that Customer Experience is the New Marketing. I am in fact a Mercedes Benz owner. I love my car. In fact, when I gotten into the market for an entry level luxury car 4 years ago Mercedes was my front runner. I test drove Audi, Lexus, BMW and Mercedes Benz a number of times. In the end, Benz won out anyways.
It was the first time in my life that I truly understood a man’s obsession and love for a vehicle. When my dad suggested that I go to Wal-Mart for all season mats and a snow remover, I looked at him like he has a third head. Was he nuts? I wanted all Mercedes Benz things for my baby. I wanted to be part of the Mercedes Benz experience. I wanted to be known as a Mercedes Benz owner, because to me it symbolized that I had the best. It meant that I was going places, and I was going places because I wanted the best out of life.
This is branding at its strongest. Having a customer associate their lifestyle and personality as a reflection of a brand because of what that experience means. I give leniency on the road to other Benz owners, I tend to look for parking beside other Benz’s because I already know those owners will respect my car, and should we happen to see each other getting in or out of our cars their is always a friendly nod and smile.
I recently had to switch banks because of an employer change. I took a day off of work and made sure to take care of it all because I wanted peace of mind. So you can imagine my surprise when over a month later my car payment bounced in my old account causing an NSF charge that pushed the account into an overdraft that I didn’t have.
Switching my banking information with Mercedes Benz was fairly simple compared to some other companies I had to deal with. I just had to send an e-mail with a scanned void cheque (unlike other companies that required me to fill out another PAP agreement, provide ID, a void cheque and either fax or go in in person).
Mercedes Benz claimed that they had not received the e-mail despite me forwarding through the e-mail I sent to them originally a month prior.
They needed more time to investigate and in the interim a second attempt for payment went through the old account with a secondary NSF charge. Thankfully this time my bank reversed the charge because I had put a stop payment on the account.
In the end Mercedes agreed to reverse the NSF. I felt really elated. So thank you Mercedes Benz Financial for doing so.
But what could have been done to make it a better customer experience for me and ensure customer retention?
- Mercedes Benz Financial could allow customers to change their banking information on their website. This is where customers go to check their balances and payment history, and would make tracking of online activity and confirmation so much easier.
- Empower customer services representatives to be able to to act immediately for the customer rather than confining them. By looking at the activity on my accounts, calls made, and the correspondence they would have noticed that I had been with them for 4 years, there had never ever been a missed or bounced payment, and that my finance was coming up for renewal.
- The data Mercedes Benz has on me would have given them pretty powerful insights into my behaviours, patterns and interests. They also have had call profile outlining the reasons I call them and whether I am difficult or easy to appease.
Using these insights and empowering their reps can save them thousands of dollars in efficiencies and provide a best in class customer experience. While I can’t say that I would change my car (because I do love the brand and the car), I do see great areas of opportunity for a beloved brand to kick things up a notch, to provide an even greater brand experience.
Here is the thing… in certain regards it makes sense that you have individuals who are familiar with publications, or broadcast and of course digital. However, a well rounded practitioner should be well versed in all areas of communications. As we move forward with technology, more and more it becomes apparent that these mediums bleed into one another, and have become tripods with each one depending on the other.
Yes there are definitely shifts in the way organizations spend their advertising/communications/pr dollars, with more moving away from print and into digital. That being said, it does not mean that all the mediums disappear and one will emerge the champion. Audiences consume information in so many different ways, and the most important decision you need to make as a practitioner is where to find them, if that medium makes sense for your target and what you are trying to achieve.
When you divide the three mediums so specifically, you end up with departments that compete for dollar spends based on their specific “specialty”. I’m not disputing that it does not make sense that happens, but I will say that divisions like that mean that it becomes a personal interest on obtaining larger dollars, rather than whether or not it makes overall sense for a campaign or an organizational objective.
I firmly believe that at this juncture in the evolution of our industry, being a digital specialist should not exist. I’ve mentioned this before, and I will mention this again – digital is another medium. It is another tool in the tool belt for marketing and communications practitioners to use. There should be no reason why anyone on any team should not be familiar with all three mediums, have some exposure to all of them, and have a firm grasp and understanding how they all should be used.
Teams should be educated in all ways that each of the mediums change. That being said, I also believe that every professional should have a vested interest in self education and keeping themselves current and relevant as well. The future of digital in these professions is that it will be common place – as it is in every day life already.
Having had the opportunity to become a well rounded communications practitioner, it is really interesting to see how people use the word “strategic” when speaking about executional things. It’s almost as though the word “Strategy” or “Strategic” has become a buzz word and somewhere along the line, it does get confused with tactics and/or execution.
Press releases, websites, contests, a page in a magazine, a commercial, Facebook pages, Twitter pages – these are all the tactics. HOW you use them and your plan for that, should be tied into a bigger concept that is then linked into a specific objective. Confusion over the word “strategy” is prevalent in all communication/marketing disciplines and this truly impacts creative as well. Creative is encompassed into a large part of what we do and being creative also requires strategic thinking.
This post was inspired by my friend and colleague Lisa, (@lisawrites) when speaking about the creative process and creative strategy. Much like the communications process, the creative idea (images, layout, copy and design) has to link to some overarching theme that does inspire, engage or cause something to happen. Pretty or Twitter or a Website are not a strategy, but they are definitely tools that can be used to make something happen or reach an objective.
As common as this is, I do encourage communications and creative teams to think like this:
- What is your organizations overall objective?
- What is your organization’s overall goal/s for the year? How do you understand these goals linking into achieving their objective? (Not sure – then ask!)
- How is this campaign or idea going to help the organization achieve the above two things?
- What is the main objective for this campaign? How does it link to your organization’s objective?
- What are your goals for this campaign and how does that tie into your organizational goals for the year?
- Who are you trying to reach? Why do you need to reach them? (Creative teams need all the above information and absolutely need to be linked in at this point and moving forward)
- When do you reach out to them? What do you want them to do/say/think/believe?
- Where are they? How will you reach them? (Here are the tactics! See how far down the list it is? All the other stuff needs to happen first before we get here!)
- How will you know if what you want them to do is being done? – In other words – what are your metrics of success or KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).
- What are your benchmarks? What will you do if your KPI’s are not performing the way you would like? What other areas of support will put into this? What is your plan B?
Once you have these in your pocket you can execute. By no means am I implying that this step by step process is linear at all! In most cases, it will be more matrix like with lots of back and forths and adjustments, all while being sensitive to deadlines and budgets. As a rule of thumb I try to follow the above. Now, more than ever in my career (especially because I work production focused advertiser initiatives a.k.a – the actual execution), I see how critical the above steps are. Not all campaigns will perform the way you hoped, but that also means there are key learnings that can be pulled from that to understand your organization and its objectives even better.