on a laptop and on a phone
Customers can switch channels at a drop of a hat — can you support their journeys? PHOTO: Garry Knight

Cross-channel customer experience (CX) is a non-linear animal. 

A customer’s need-based path more closely resembles Indiana Jones’ tenuous navigation through the Temple of Doom rather than a nicely manicured path in the woods.

Adding to the ambiguity are the many definitions of customer experience offered by vendors and verticals. For the purposes of this article, we’ll use Wikipedia's:

    “Customer Experience is the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship. This interaction includes a customer's attraction, awareness, discovery, cultivation, advocacy and purchase and use of a service.”

Each company's definition of CX will change and become more specific to the company as its ability to manage marketing channels in unison with its functional areas matures.

Increased Channels Result in Increased Complexity

Marketers are famous for creating pristine, beautiful touchpoints for each customer interaction, but unfortunately, a customer's needs rarely align with the marketer's vision. 

Customers visit companies on their own sporadic timelines, whether digitally or otherwise. 

The increasing complexity of marketing channels in recent years have made this possible. Today’s world allows customers to interact with a business or brand via face to face discussions, phone, word-of-mouth, call centers, events, websites, email, social, chat, mobile devices, bots, drones and robotics. 

The combinations and permutations of these channels, along with a corporation’s functional areas, messaging and customer lifecycle stages, can create complexity for any level of marketer.

Technology is most powerful when it performs tasks and creates efficiencies otherwise impossible with us mere humans. So how can technology support CX? 

Once the breadth of CX possibilities across channels, functional areas, messaging and lifecycle are understood from a strategic and tactical point of view, it becomes possible to apply technology systematically based upon the maturity of a marketing group and within the constraints of a budget.

Challenges to a Cohesive Cross-Channel CX

Planning what areas your CX program should cover is an important step when solving the CX puzzle. 

As you work toward building a functional cross-channel CX, you may find yourself up against some obstacles:

  • Informing each channel of what happened in other channels
  • Consistency of communication with the customer across channels
  • Synchronizing human and non-human customer interactions
  • Providing proper context to all participants
  • Preserving simplicity 
  • Quickly identifying and addressing the customer need 
  • Transitioning to appropriate upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

The Natural Progression of Your MarTech Stack

A well-structured Marketing Technology stack enables a CX program — and it takes rigorous planning.

Your goal with a MarTech stack may not be to “buy it all now” and make it fit together, but rather plan a natural progression of solutions or puzzle pieces based upon the maturity of a business and its forecasted growth. 

Planning goes a long way when it comes to marketing when time permits, but don't limit opportunities as a result of technology constraints nor limit growth as a result of perceived budget availability.

Key areas to consider when formulating and updating a marketing technology infrastructure are:

  • Marketing Fuel
  • Foundational Technology
  • Operational Feasibility
  • Customer Facing Elements
  • Feedback and Resolution
  • Tracking, Analytics and Reporting

Standard marketing technologies that facilitate cross-channel CX include: Customer Relationship Management, Content Management Systems, Digital Asset Management, Marketing Automation, Call Center Management, E-Commerce, Customer Collaboration Platforms, Customer Experience Monitoring, Analytics Platforms and many other channel-specific solutions. 

Create a Dynamic Infrastructure

It might be a little optimistic to think you can orchestrate a group of technologies that work together in magical symbiosis. However, creating a flexible infrastructure capable of delivering against the dynamic nature of marketing implementations, while staying aligned with the maturity of a business and its budget is possible. 

Tackling all of this simultaneously is essentially a transformation of both traditional and digital commerce.

This article is by no means comprehensive, but rather focused on the CX controlled within marketing. Just as customers cross channels with impunity, customer experience permeates all areas of an organization, encompassing sales, service, operations and finance, as well as marketing.