WPP’s Customer Experience (CX) series, an online live event organised by the network on November 26, discussed the present and future of experience and intersection of brand and customer experience.
Jason Gaikowski, Executive Director of CX & Global Lead for human-centred Design VMLY&R, Tripti Lochan, Co-CEO Asia at VMLY&R, Vyshak Venugopalan, Head of Solutions Consulting at Adobe India and Meghna Apparao Chief Business Officer, Licious participated in the panel discussion.
Saurabh Mathur, Head, Experience and Technology at VMLY&R opened the discussion by speaking on three most important aspects of customer experience — culture, technology and human-centred thinking.
Mathur said as customer behaviour shifts, an ecosystem has woken up and brands don’t always get to choose when and where they engage with their customers.
In this environment, the importance of CX has grown tremendously. Delivering memorable experiences helps business drive conversions, engagement and loyalty throughout the customer journey.
Gaikowski elaborated on the evolution of CX and its intersection with brand management.
“It becomes clarifying and useful to begin to think about CX through the lens of brand management,” he said.
Gaikowski said from World War II till the year 2000, the marketing industry worked together to focus on the idea to make a great brand promise. “We tend to understand people, talking to human truth, find deep insights about people and connect them with compelling creative ideas that touch people’s heart and mind, build great brands and brand equity,” said Gaikowski.
“From about 2000 to 2020, we have this additional job of making the brand promise really engaging,” he said.
According to Gaikowski, brands don’t compete with other brands; they compete with the type of experiences others provide to consumers. “Customers get very sensitive when there is a gap between what the brand is promising and the experience customers actually have. Brands are making promises that they are not living up to.”
Gaikowski said the customer experience in a modern brand management comes down to this:
- If a brand has a great product, service and a great company but a bad brand promise, it is not good for your organisation. He said human beings do not like it when brand promises are broken as it erodes trust, faith and confidence and erodes a brand created with hard work of so many decades. “Customer experience today is the single most important key to differentiation among brands,” Gaikowski said.
- Rising investments in CSR or stakeholder capitalism is the source of competitive advantage. “It actually raises the bar but the kind of promises our brands make, they need to stand for more. You have to be about human, health and happiness,” shared Gaikowski.
- The bar brands raise for making a promise, they should focus on keeping that great promise. That’s a recipe for modern brand management and for success. Gaikowski said CX allows brands to keep great promises, and at VMLY&R they think about this through the lens of connecting the brand experience and brand promise to the customer reality and experience and that connection are very important.
- Brands must find ways to relate to consumers on a personal level. “Talking less about my audience and thinking a lot more deeply about a person. When we think about customers as people we know and relate to, we get deeper insights into what matters and meaningful and what matters and add value to their lives,” said Gaikowski.
- Brands should stand about human good. It's not enough to think about how to get people’s attention, it's about how brands give value to consumers lives.
Gaikowski said it's important for organisations to recognise and make customer experience a strategic imperative. Making customer experience an equal partner to marketing, brand awareness, sales and operations.
According to the panel, 84% of companies truly aspire to be a CX leader but there’s a gap and only 17% of customers consistently have great experiences.
Gaikowski said every country has an opportunity for CX and every company is already doing CX. CX gives your brand a competitive advantage — a higher level of growth, customer acquisition, loyalty and return in ad spends.
The industry overall is at the beginning of the CX journey, only 8% of firms are evolved and it’s a really important work for future brands and businesses.
Gaikowski gave three suggestions for modern brand management:
*Better energy-making and keeping great brand promises.
*Solve problems that create shared human value and business value.
*Invest across the customer journey. Let’s use all our creativity, technology and smart thinking to help people prosper and I promise you that the brand will benefit.
Lochan said we are living in a customer era where it takes forever to get a good customer and we can’t risk losing them. CX is everything and once they get good experience, not only they buy more, they will also give brand their personal data and they will be loyal and share their experience with their closed ones. However, a single bad experience will drive customers away even for the brand that they have loved.
According to Lochan, a lot of companies are making investments in technology, infrastructure and the fact that consumers are disappointed after all this investment makes a point that there is a disconnect.
Venugopalan shared four traits of a good CX.
* Any interaction with customers should be delightful.
* It has to be personalised
* It should be highly relevant.
* Empathetic in nature.
Venugopalan said CX shouldn’t be inside focused but also externally focused.
Apparao said CX practitioners should keep in mind that they are the voice of the consumer. “We represent what our customers want but we may not be the actual consumer and that distinction in thinking and brand activities is very important.”
Speaking on the role of employees and organisational culture in CX, Gaikowski said, “When firms invest in employee experience, we consistently see those employees delivering good experiences to customers.”
Gaikowski said employee engagement is a massive opportunity for a better CX for brands but it is under-leveraged in terms of how businesses work today. Companies are really good at investing in technology and very bad in investing in people’s ability to maximise the value and potential of that technology. 50-70% of technology investments go underutilised because firms aren’t making the investment towards employee and employee capability to unleash the power and potential of the experience of partners at business and employee experience together in the business delivering customer experience, it’s absolutely essential.
Venugopalan said that in a survey Adobe had done in India, it found out those businesses that invest in CX as a strategic priority outperformed their targets.
Replying to the question, “Are brands thinking about CX in other parts of the world,” Gaikowski said, “Companies are recognising that they are investing in CX and CX transformation happens really very fast because if your business relies on third-party data and depends on third-party distribution, you are in a massive disadvantage both in terms of sales and experience. Firms globally are waking up and recognising the importance of first-party authentic relationships with customers. Even B2B brands are rapidly working to get first-party data relationships and distribution relationships and rapidly trying to rebuild themselves along the lines of digital native D2C brands. CX skill sets and capabilities are at the core of delivering the transformation.”
Venugopalan said India is a country where customers really expect technology to deliver human touch experience and we are by far the number one country where the expectation is very high.