There's a consensus that if you want to be successful on line, you’re going to have to deliver an exceptional customer experience, something that leaves others trailing. Of course, there are many opinions on how to do that.

E-Spirit, for example, has a very particular notion of what customer experience involves. Many other vendors start by talking about technologies or silos. But for Oliver Jaeger, e-Spirit's vice president for global marketing and communications, it means the entire customer cycle from first contact to last sign-off.

While many companies just don’t get it that the whole process needs to be managed, e-Spirit is actively pursuing ways to provide that ultimate experience.

Tahzoo and e-Spirit

Early this month, the Lexington, Mass.-based company entered into a new partnership with Tahzoo, a company that specializes in designing customer journey maps.

In a blog post about the partnership, e-Spirit Chief Operating Office Robert Bredlau said that the partnership is about plotting the customer journey once that customer shows up on the enterprise radar:

The importance of customer experience is magnified when you put it in the context of the customer journey. As customers move from prospect to satisfied reference, they come in contact with your company at different times with different needs. One misstep and the journey may come to a halt as they start looking elsewhere,” Bredlau said.

Understanding the customer journey in its entirety requires the ability to walk a mile your customers’ shoes. This is the starting point for improving the customer experience from end to end."

Customer First

In practical terms this means that Tahzoo provides enterprises with services and solutions to help them build a customer-centric enterprise marketing platform.

Those platforms pull together elements form all kinds of different places, which sits very nicely with e-Spirit’s strategy of providing a best-of-breed web content management systems through its FirstSpirit CMS integrated with a wide range of enterprise and third-party software.

Through research and customer insight data, Tahzoo helps companies discover what their customers' journeys should really look like. Not an idealistic picture, but a data-driven perspective that enables clients to zero in on what's working and what isn't.

From there, Tahzoo’s experience design team works to create a customer-centric holistic brand experience across all touch points using real data. A core component of this is helping companies to produce relevant, targeted content coupled with well-aligned omni-channel campaigns.

At the time the partnership was inked, John Kottcamp, chief marketing technologist for Tahzoo, said its interest in working with e-Spirit was based on its experience integrating people processes and technology.

We are excited to join forces with e-Spirit because we see how well FirstSpirit integrates with top enterprise marketing platform components from providers like SAP, Hybris and IBM, making it easier for companies to implement successful CX programs,” he said in a statement.

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Content Strategy

The Tahzoo partnership, though, fits into a much broader view of customer experience and one which has pushed e-Spirit in many different directions over the past year, including a unique partnership with Demandware, a cloud-based e-commerce platform that is highly scalable and already powers nearly 200 retail brands across close to 750 sites globally.

According to Jaeger, e-Spirit adopted a best of breed approach to developing the technology behind customer experience because it enabled them use the best IT available on the market at a given time.

We did this because we believe there are companies out there that can provide solutions for specific problems like e-commerce and online shopping, better and quicker and ultimately with better innovations and better results than companies that are trying to do it all for themselves,” he said.

E-Spirit provides the technology through its AppCenter which supports the straightforward interface integration of virtually all (web) applications whether from Cloud and SaaS environments, or from the desktop directly into FirstSpirit.

The AppCenter is based on web browser integration in the JavaClient. Building on this foundation, the AppCenter API is suitable for the straightforward integration into the editing interface of any existing applications, new developments, customer-specific programs and third-party software.

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Beyond Technology

According to Jaeger this also provides a whole new experience for online editors, because applications that were previously used separately are now available in FirstSpirit with the accustomed interface and functionality and can be used directly in the CMS.

However, the technology is only one aspect of this strategy. According to Jaeger, what e-Spirit offers is a complete customer experience engine. "The customer experience engine that we are talking about, is not a product, it’s not a feature, and it’s not a module, but an operating concept,” he said.

If the FirstSprit Web CMS is the technology at the heart of the customer experience engine, then content is the heartbeat. Content, he said, is driving everything. Without appropriate content, placed at the appropriate touch points, the entire experience will be futile.

Content is really driving communication today and driving the potential interaction with customers. After all, the objective is to win customers, to retain customers and in end to make them brand advocates. You can only do this by providing excellent, relevant content where it is needed.

In this respect, he points out that 70 percent of the content today is generated not by organizations, but by the customers. The ideal situation is to develop them as advocates for your brand, for your product, for your company.

Irreproachable Content

This will only happen if the content is irreproachable. In the past, the strategy of direct marketing by shoving content down customers’ throats meant that to get your product voice through all the competing marketing noise. You had to shout louder and louder until eventually your potential customers just tuned it out.

That has changed, though, and enterprises are taking a new approach. It involves using content marketing rather than a bullhorn to shout out the enterprise message. This necessarily require a best-of-breed approach to technology:

For an effective customer experience engine you can only do it when you are doing best of breed. The customer journey is now a cycle that follows the lines you customers do: researching a product, receiving, information, buying a product, maintaining it and if it’s a good product recommending it other people,” Jaeger said.

The technology is not enough, though. Everyone can get their hands on the technology. But the information is different. If I look [at a website] I expect it to give me information [about a product], not talk about something else, not give me information about something I’ve no interest in.

As an analogy he gives the example of a bricks-and-mortar store. If you get the information you need, the right information about a product and the right customer experience you will go back to that store. An online store is no different.

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If a best-of-breed approach to customer experience appears complicated, it’s not really. As Jaeger points out, now, with the change of marketing focus from direct marketing to content, or inbound marketing, no matter how many touch points you have, the common point across all of them is content, and the most significant piece of technology in this respect is your content management system.

“Every touch point is different as is every point along the customer journey. However, like every other point along the way the one thing that everyone needs, that every company needs, that every worker needs, is content. The content management system should reach all these touch points and if you have a best-of-breed CMS it should be able to do that, “he said.

If placing content at the heart of customer experiences looks like a smart strategy for any company looking to optimize their customer base, it is also working for e-Spirit as a business strategy. Jaeger said they have expanded dramatically in the US over the past year and the company will be in a position to announce some major customer wins before the end of year.

It is also a strategy that will carry e-Spirit into the New Year and beyond as well as deepening its footprint in the US market and into new customer experiences.

 Photos: e-Spirit