man writing on a clear glass wall
PHOTO: Tammy Duggan-Herd

Marketing’s goal used to be pretty straightforward: build a pipeline of qualified leads to hand over to the sales team. The model changed a little bit depending on the audience and the vertical, but essentially marketing material and actions, from awareness level to consideration, were used to build a pipeline. 

While lead generation is still very much part of marketing, the goals for the marketing department have evolved significantly. The audience is everywhere and needs to be addressed personally. Every touchpoint — whether a Tweet or a call to a call center — has to be treated as one cohesive customer experience. As a result, marketing has to evolve beyond lead generation and become a champion of a complex customer experience.   

Marketers Keep the Big Picture in Mind

The CMO of a company in the auto sector recently took the lead in redefining the entire buying process that will likely lead to a sea change within the industry. He saw what customers complain about and put up with because there’s really only one way to buy a car, and decided to do something about it. Someone asked him why should marketing take the lead on this? He said marketing has a more holistic view of the entire process and that if anything is going to happen it has to start with them.

As trite as it sounds, it is, in fact, the "age of the customer." Technology has empowered not just customers, but all consumers to be in control of the sales and retention process. If they’re not happy, they likely have a plethora of other places they can take their business to. Even if you have iron-clad contracts in place, or technical complexities that make switching solutions impractical, or your company is part of an oligopoly, you still have to worry about bad reviews keeping future prospects from using you. 

In other words, no company is immune from the wrath of a bad customer experience, no matter where the consumer is along their journey. And marketers are in a prime position to turn those bad experiences around. 

Related Article: Stop Trying to Hire 'Digital Marketers'

Make Contact Centers an Extension of the Marketing Department

Every product and every service will have their occasional flaws. When people call your company to rectify their situation or voice their complaints, there is no better way to connect with these people than a friendly voice and a win-win resolution. It sounds so obvious, yet businesses are losing an estimated $62 billion per year due to bad customer service.

By considering the contact center as another branch of marketing and giving contact center team members direction as if they were part of the marketing department, the training and oversight will pay off with both a better customer experience and a cohesive message. Better engaged, more experienced and properly trained staff solving customer problems with the right data and tools will result in more positive and consistent customer experiences.

An oft-cited barrier to better customer experience are informational silos. Including the contact center in your marketing strategy will dismantle one of the most frustrating silos a company has. From a customer point of view this silo makes no sense at all, since an interaction with a human should allow for the most personal experience due to the wealth of data they’ve shared with marketing over the lifetime of the relationship.

Related Article: How to Make the Most of Your Contact Center Data

Remember the Differences Between Touchpoints and Channels

Although my argument is that marketing should oversee the customer experience, it’s important to remember a customer touchpoint is not a marketing channel (e.g., a call to a contact center agent is a personal touchpoint). The marketing experience at a touchpoint has to be personal, while the marketing experience via a channel has to eventually lead to a personal experience, but is rarely personal from the get-go. For example, the first time someone interacts with your website your site is a channel. As your site collects data on the user it becomes more and more of a touchpoint and less of a channel.

The intricacies of marketing at a touchpoint baffles many marketers. This is where the difference between “creepy” personalization and the subtle approach comes in. This is also why it’s imperative that anyone personally interacting with someone has the tools to make it a positive experience. That positive experience will translate to a longer relationship than any upsell pitch will do, unless that pitch is cohesive to the particular customer’s experience.  

I can’t tell you how many times a particular satellite radio has tried to pitch me a new radio for my car (which clearly has one) as I’m calling to pay the bill.   

Related Article: The Line Between Creepy and Effective Marketing

The New Age of Marketing

Marketing has evolved, and it requires taking a new look at what marketing is and where it sits in the broader customer experience. You may need to change some reporting structures and technological infrastructure to allow employees to understand the customer before a conversation begins. By addressing these points you’ll be laying the foundation for a seamless customer experience that will separate your company from most.

The pipeline is still a vital part of any marketing strategy. It’s something that sales and marketing should collaborate on to ensure the right leads are being followed up with the right materials. But marketing’s job can’t end there anymore. Now there is another department that marketing needs to guide — customer service. Just as we’ve opened the door between sales and marketing, the same should be done with the contact center, to ensure your existing customers continue to be marketed to and are treated as they deserve.