For many organizations, their definition of customer experience falls into a customer support department heavily staffed to keep wait times for call centers low. But that’s missing the mark.

Customer experience truly stands as the one way to create a lifecycle story for customers across all channels. And with today’s über online customer, marketing spend has geared up to outpace IT in technology to get the right infrastructure in place. In fact, if Gartner research is any indication, CMOs will have larger IT budgets than CIOs within the next five years.

That was the discussion at a recent Business Marketing Association (BMA) regional conference in Denver. Designed to facilitate conversations between marketing and IT executives, the agenda included insights from leaders in customer experience, as well as experts in content marketing who help keep customers engaged across all channels.

Forget the Warm Fuzzies

Customer experience isn't just a feel-good tactic; it's a foundational element in acquiring, serving and cross/up‐selling customers. Marketers have to understand how to design the customer experience, enable it and use it to grow value because today, it’s the experience that defines organizations. There’s a big difference between problem solving for customers and creating delight. Customer support addresses the former while customer experience delivers the latter.

But to create a truly meaningful customer experience, companies have to be prepared to measure everything they do throughout the customer experience lifecycle, from strategy to delivery. Doing so requires a solid foundation in technology because it’s metrics that create understanding around where and how often a customer engages and then generates the ability to create a consistent experience across all touch points -- social media, apps, email, a phone call, click-to-chat and so forth.

With the plethora of things and ways to measure customer experience, panelists talked about the need to simplify measurement. One approach is Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS simplifies data collected into one number that can be tracked over time, reported quickly and allow for adjustments in processes rapidly.

Creating Digital Conversations

Since customer experience is intended to create meaningful relationships, one of the linchpins for making this happen is content.

If you expect customers to keep coming back to you, it’s because you have content that matters to them. Content creates conversations, but it has to be a two-way street. Some companies focus on listening to customers, which is an indisputable first step. But there also has to be a point when they engage. How would you feel if you were at a cocktail party and someone followed you around all night but never said a word? Creeped out, most likely.

Once you have your content marketing plan and platform in place, companies have to resist the urge to control the conversation. Communities want to interact, to comment, share perspectives and openly criticize what doesn’t work. That’s hard for some companies to stomach. But authenticity is a big part of the customer experience and building engagement.

Looking Ahead

Customer experience is a challenging world and will continue to become more complex over the next 24 months. In looking down the road, the panelists spotlighted some key trends:

  • The easy button: The world has become so complex that customers crave simplicity. Those that can crack the code on this will capture the hearts of an overstimulated audience.
  • Make it personal: For customers to believe that you really care, your content has to be targeted and valuable. Understand your audience’s preferences, then deliver experiences in creative ways. Sometimes Amazon.com may know you better than you know yourself.
  • Continued convergence of social: Companies will focus on integrating social for business into the customers’ daily lives. Look for TVs that allow viewers to watch programs and also include Twitter hashtags at a particular moment in the show or point people to other social sites.
  • Executive Recognition: Customer experience will be a boardroom conversation, with new roles such as the Chief Customer Officer or Chief Experience Officer who work across the organization.

Without a doubt, technology stands paramount to enabling companies to create personal conversations with customers and develop meaningful relationships. Marketing solidly sits in the driver’s seat in making decisions about the technology platforms that drive both the strategy and execution of customer experience and content marketing.

Panelists for the BMA regional conference included:

Customer Experience

  • Moderator: Mila D’Antonio, editor-in-chief, 1to1 Media
  • Mark Grindeland, chief marketing officer, TeleTech
  • Eric Jones, vice president, digital marketing, R2integrated
  • Dr. Laura Brooks, vice president, innovation and strategy, Satmetrix

Content Marketing

Editor's Note: To read Carla's previous report from the BMA conference:

-- Is Marketing Absorbing IT's Role for Marketing Automation? #BMAthriving