“I love problem solving,” announces M&C Saatchi Australia’s head of CX strategy Melinda Lofts as we discuss the way consumers and brands have shifted during the last 18 months. In fact, Mel adds it’s not just problem solving she’s a fan of, in fact the more complex the problem, the greater joy it brings her to provide clients with a solution.
Before Mel dives deeper into CX and how it’s evolved – and is evolving - she clarifies what the term means to her: “It's not just about developing personas and customer journeys - it's about having a clear north star and delighting the customer with every experience. It's about building long term relationships with brands and not just sales targets.”
Exploring the interplay of data, creative and humanity in CX is what’s kept her in the industry for the past 14 years. She also loves seeing how good customer experiences have been realigned. No better example is there than the way brands and consumers have changed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The importance of actually connecting with customers at that emotional level, and that one-on-one level, became more and more important.” In particular, M&C Saatchi Australia work closely with Lexus, and during the period where things were up in the air, car buying wasn’t high up on consumer priorities. Instead, Lexus shifted their strategy to bring cars and servicing to consumers thus showing that they care about their safety but are still able to carry out as good a job during lockdown.
This may be an example of creating meaningful customer connections, but what does this mean to Mel? “For me it's around bringing the brand platform and the brand expression to life through customer experience to make it really feel authentic and make it feel real and have that emotional connection.”
Mixing this emotional connection with solving problems is a huge part of her role. Mel’s favourite examples of this are big brands in the US, from Netflix to Uber who have, not only, set the benchmark but they’ve created expectations of consumers. Expectations that, to Mel, have become about so much more than the problem, but about the product too. “The customer expects that experience at every level and I think that's the shift where previously comms would solve that business problem but it's now around what's the product solution? What can we do to actually solve it in a way that actually helps the customer?
“I think especially to Gen Z, where they've been brought up with the likes of Uber and Amazon, it's not anything special, it's the expectation of reality.”
With such high expectations, I had to ask Mel if she believes consumers have become spoilt and accustomed to expecting the best? “Definitely because it’s so east to switch now, loyalties are so much harder to get and I think previous generations had this emotional connection to brands.”
While she agrees that consumers are more coddled, it also means that brands have to look at different ways of solving customer problems. “I think it's that combination of yes, customers’ expectations have risen, but also as brands we should actually deliver more against that as well.”
With a wealth of experience in the industry and one of the leaders for how it will be shaped in the future, Mel explains that she thinks CX is heading towards creating a connection ‘beyond just the traditional life and idea’. She hopes that more augmented reality, digital, emotions play into creating meaningful and unique customer experiences. “In truth customer experience is about putting the customer at the heart of all that you do.”