We have all been in a bad relationship before. A suitor woos us with the moon and the stars, and soon we are in the swoon of passion. Commitments are made and a honeymoon period ensues, but too quickly promises are broken. We reach out to share our needs and frustration but are left feeling emotionally abandoned. And worse yet, when we threaten to break it off, suddenly the attentive suitor is back, effusive with apologies and promises of change. And thus, the cycle continues.
Of course, I’m speaking about the state of marketing today. Marketers woo new prospects with lucrative offers not available to their loyal customers. Through careful positioning and advertising, marketers promise us the world—our internet service will be shockingly fast; our banker will give us one-to-one attention to guard our financial interests; and hot men and women will gawk in slack-jawed wonder as we pass in our new car. But once we make the purchase and are committed to the relationship, the marketer moves on, focusing on the next prospect.
Too often, we’re left with a product that doesn’t deliver as promised–our internet service chokes while we watch a streaming movie; our bank continually adds new fees; and our car not only doesn’t cause people to gape but suffers from safety or environmental flaws. We call customer care to get some of that “customer obsessiveness” we were promised, and they refer us to the terms and conditions—that is, if someone answers the phone due to the consistently “unexpectedly high call volume.” In short, we loved the marketing, but we don’t love the experience. As the brand’s commitment to us drops, so does ours for the brand, but when we threaten to switch, the marketer quickly returns with new promotions and promises. “Wait, baby, I’ve changed; it’ll be different this time!”
Consumers and Marketers currently are in a bad relationship. Consumers don’t trust marketers, with only 4% of Americans believing the marketing industry behaves with integrity, which is lower than the rating Congress earns. Trust in business is better, but it continues to erode, with trust falling in 16 out of 27 countries in the past year. As a result, consumers are tuning out brand messages (and increasingly have the power to do so). The use of adblocking software grew 41% in a year, 56% of people who view time-shifted TV skip every commercial and 69% have unfollowed brands on social channels, closed accounts and canceled subscriptions to avoid irrelevant marketing messages. Of course, all of this hurts business’ bottom line, with 53% of US consumers switching providers due to poor service in at least one industry in the past year and 34% being open to offers from nontraditional players.
Too many marketers think the problem is one of content and communication—if only they could find the right ad campaign, audience to target or engaging Facebook post, they could solve the problem—but the issues are classic ones familiar to marriage counselors. They include divergent goals, a lack of common values, an unwillingness to commit, an inability to communicate honestly and the primary driver of relationship woes, money problems (brands want to maximize margin and consumers want to maximize value). The solution to the relationship issues for marketers and consumers is customer experience (CX) management, and this is why I have joined Gartner’s research team dedicated to Marketing Leaders. I hope to offer insights and advice for marketing leaders troubled by their weak relationships with consumers and looking for stronger loyalty and advocacy and better financial results.
It will not be easy, because much of the problem is one of marketing goals and metrics. Gartner’s recent research uncovered that 16% of marketers say that converting leads to sales is the highest area where senior management’s expectations increased this past year; that compares to just 10% for customer retention and 6% for consistent cross-functional customer experience. This focus on acquisition can leave marketers looking like lotharios at bar time hoping to add notches to their bedposts; meanwhile, consumers are searching for brands that will commit to them individually with excellent products, service, value and experience over the long term.
In our ever more transparent world, where empowered consumers trust Word of Mouth far more than brand messaging, the old ways of picking up prospects will work less and less. This is why the importance of customer experience is rising, and I look forward to helping marketers optimize their CX efforts and investments. Watch this blog and the customer experience research published to the Gartner Portal for Marketing Leaders for my posts and document about customer experience. I will be researching and writing on topics such as the role of social media and Word of Mouth in driving CX success, the importance of aligning corporate purpose and objectives with customer experience strategy, ways to measure the impact of your company’s CX efforts and how to understand the customer perspective via voice of the customer (VoC) programs.
For those of you who do not already know me, I have spent twenty years working in brand strategy, digital CX, social media, and VoC. My experience includes everything from managing a Prodigy community to leading a digital experience agency to directing social media at a financial services firm to managing voice of customer Strategy and Action at a Fortune 100 brand. In the past two decades, I have developed, executed and managed programs involving websites, email, mobile apps, kiosk and tablet programs, branded games, content, communities, social networks and augmented and virtual reality.
I look forward to working with you to identify any damage that may exist in your brand’s relationships with its customers, eliminate the factors that are reducing trust and loyalty and put your consumer marriage back on the right path. It will require data, analysis, self-assessment, honesty and a willingness to change, but I know brand love is in the air. We just need to find the right customer experience for your brand to build stronger, more resilient, more valuable relationships with its customers.