looking at the world upside down
When marketing adopts a customer service point of view, they can win customer loyalty and hit their KPIs PHOTO: Chris Anderson

At a critical moment in my junior year of college, I was rushing to print an assignment on a deadline when my HP ink cartridge broke. 

Even though the issue was my fault, HP sent a new cartridge without hesitation. 

No transferring me between departments, no upsell on a different model — it just sent it. Overnight. 

I have bought nothing but HP products ever since. 

A Forced Evolution

Now, as a CMO, it’s my job to attract and keep customers for life. Throughout my career, I’ve thought a lot about how that HP service representative accomplished this for the company without realizing it.

It’s made me understand that as marketers we are often too focused on just that — marketing. 

We live in a post-campaign world. Consumers are less influenced by deals and catchy ads, but care deeply about their ongoing experience with brands. In our connected, data-driven world, consumer expectations for brand interactions are higher than ever. 

That’s a good thing. As businesses, we change for the better when we’re forced to evolve, innovate and listen to our customers.

If marketers can think less about traditional marketing and more about ensuring that every brand interaction is meeting or exceeding consumer expectations, we’ll be more likely to win and keep customers for life. 

A Great Experience is an Easy Experience

“Good experiences” can mean a lot of different things, but I have found at least one common through line: they are easy. 

When you ask customers what is the most important thing businesses can do to win their loyalty, “make it easy for me” is what they come back to. More than your brand, product or price, making it easy for customers to do business with you is the No. 1 driver of loyalty. Convenience is the new key driver behind customer loyalty, and marketing is not exempt from these demands. 

Marketers have invested millions to create better, more engaging experiences for their customers. Yet people are abandoning apps at a rapid clip and failing to take basic actions that need more than a single step to complete. 

For example, I have been thinking about setting up paperless statements with my bank for months. Doing so would give me something that I want (to get less mail) and give the company something they want (to send less mail). 

After trying once or twice, I realized I’d have to set aside time to log into a portal, dig around on the website and find that setting. And that’s if I can remember my password (I’m in good company with those who can’t). I never did set it up and dread the time I need to do something more complicated with my bank.  

How Can You Simplify the Experience?

Now think about the first time you used Lyft. As soon as you open the app, everything is there. You can request a car, call your driver, check your status and add a tip to the fare without moving to a new screen. The app guides you through the entire experience, making each action and interaction easy.

Your customers understand some of their requests or issues are complicated and will require more than one step. But if it’s something they can take care of themselves, simplicity is key. Think about simple tasks your customer needs or wants to complete to maintain a relationship with your brand, and work to reduce the amount of steps that interaction takes. Then, guide them through the rest. 

By being proactive in delivering guided service experiences to your customers and giving them the necessary tools to get them where they need to go, you’re cutting out all the friction that enters the customer experience with the traditional “come and get” model. 

Customers want the ability to get things done themselves — but with guidance from the business on exactly what they need to do next. 

To Keep Your Customers, Think Like One

Take a walk in your customer’s shoes, and you’ll realize the high amount of interactions they have with your brand. 

What's more, consumers manage dozens of business relationships at a time, in addition to family and personal relationships. It’s easy to see why they might not be engaging with your emails, portals or direct mail. 

Campaigns are an important part of a marketing strategy. But it can be even more impactful to think about what your customers are going through with your brand right now, and help make those interactions more valuable. 

If that sounds a lot like customer service to you — it should. If you really consider your customer’s perspective, you’ll realize no one really wants to be marketed to, but everyone wants good service. And in many ways, good customer service is the best kind of marketing you can hope for.

Take the simple example of moving homes and reinstalling cable service. A marketer’s first reaction might be to use this moment to promote a new channel package or services bundle. But before the customer can give those offerings a thought, they must first return their old cable box. Something that should be simple and painless, yet so often turns into a confusing and frustrating process. 

As a marketer, making sure that box gets returned is not your job. But the person returning that box is your customer, and that’s the situation they are facing right now.

Ask yourself, “Is there anything I can do to make that customer’s life better in this present moment?” Make service a part of the overall marketing equation. If you can spend your time and energy eliminating that pain point now, you're more likely to have a customer for life — and who knows, they might even add HBO.

There's More Than One Route to KPIs

When considering your next marketing plan, think about it this way: as a consumer, what would I want this experience to be? Consider how you can affect that moment for the better. Even if it’s not in your job description, it may help you accomplish your KPIs. More importantly, it may make that consumer a customer for life. 

Our businesses may not be our customers’ No. 1 priority, but we need to make sure their customer experience is ours.