How Marketers Can Rethink Customer Experience During and After Coronavirus

Opinion and Insight 358 Add to collection
Nick Brunker, director of experience strategy, VMLY&R explores a few principles and takeaways marketers should take into account in the coming months
How Marketers Can Rethink Customer Experience During and After Coronavirus

VMLY&R director of experience strategy Nick Brunker explains ways in which marketers can look at customer experiences during and after the coronavirus pandemic. 

In the course of just a few months, Covid-19 has forced consumers to rethink how, what and from whom they purchase. It has also, in many cases, sharpened their perceptions of which brands are worth interacting with – and which ones they could do without.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, we’ve been witnessing a fundamental shift with how brands are architecting a winning business strategy and driving growth…a shift towards the consumer. Relative parity amongst products, prices and availability across nearly every industry has made consumer loyalty tenuous, at best, and put pressure on leaders to find new ways to create authentic brand connections.

Many marketers continue to throw money at this challenge. US digital ad spending reached $129 billion in 2019, up 19% from the year before, yet, 92% of digital ads go unnoticed. Perhaps this is because the average human attention span is now eight seconds – shockingly less than that of a goldfish.

Ultimately, memorable experiences have become the new baseline for true differentiation, especially in a time of crisis. According to Gartner Research, 89% of companies compete primary on the basis of customer experience; and the reasons are far from surprising:

  • The upside is astronomical: In many industries, a one-point improvement on Forrester’s CX Index is equal to hundreds of millions in annual revenue increases.

  • The downside could be disastrous: 1 in 3 consumers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience, while 9 in 10 would completely abandon after just two bad interactions.


But, herein lies the opportunity: Just 8% of consumers say that they get a good customer experience today.


Fundamentally, creating a connected brand in The Experience Era, requires a new approach based on three core principles:

  • Shared Values – Start from the Same Foundation

Whether you’re creating a new product or optimising an existing experience, driving success requires shared clarity and buy-in across all teams that impact the customer journey – including IT, sales, marketing and customer service (among others). As importantly, it requires support from executive leadership.

The Challenge:

Commonly today, internal fragmentation results in channel-specific solutions with siloed KPIs that don’t ladder up to a holistic human-centred vision. Worse still, this hurdle also prevents a winning culture of customer obsession from permeating the entire organisation.

Overcoming the Challenge:

Leaders and their teams must have 100% shared clarity on a 'North Star' for their CX vision (and how it fits in the larger company vision). This 'North Star' must also guide decision making throughout the organisation, inspire action and align everyone on common measures of success.


Empathy – Seeing from Another Perspective

Forrester references Effectiveness, Ease and Emotion as drivers of customer experience. Of those three, 'Emotion' contributed most to customer loyalty in all 19 industries they’ve studied. In fact, 90% of customers who feel valued will stay with, buy more from and advocate for the brand. 

The Challenge:

Shockingly, less than 40% of marketers use consumer research to guide decision making. Even for those that do conduct research, many misunderstand customer understanding because it’s not rooted in the right questions, methods and mindset.

Overcoming the Challenge: 

Think back to the early 1900’s when Henry Ford famously said: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” Ford understood he should focus less on the horse and, instead, focus more on the progress his customers were trying to make in a particular circumstance – in his case, helping them get from 'A to B' more quickly and efficiently.

This approach to innovation, referred to as 'Jobs to be Done,' changes the way you think about business, who your competition is and how you can differentiate. By knowing what 'jobs' to satisfy and what role experiences should play in their lives, companies will challenge traditional industry lines and create more levels of shared value – along with deeper empathy for consumers.

And while getting literal 'face-to-face' conversations with consumers is currently not an option for most, CX-led organisations find innovative ways to elicit ongoing feedback. Companies should systematically support always-on research programs that involve talking with real customers about their lives – not just validating the effectiveness of business products. 


Co-Creation – Everyone Can Be an Inventor

Building a connected experience is a discipline that should permeate an entire organisation from the top down. As such, the best ideas are often an output of deliberate co-creation – with both internal teams AND the end-consumers.

The Challenge:

Building a culture of CX take time, shared understanding and a willingness to democratise idea generation – something that many companies struggle with, but CX-leading brands embrace. 

USAA, who ranks atop of Forrester’s 2019 CX Index in multiple categories, has made co-creation a foundational part of their DNA. 

In 2015, DeWalt established an 'Insight Community,' where owners are encouraged to suggest improvements, test concepts and more – saving the company almost $6 million in research costs. As importantly, DeWalt authentically involves its consumers in creating meaningful experiences.

Overcoming the Challenge:

To win, companies must embrace the 'power of the crowd' to break away from traditional innovation methods and instead, expand the aperture of how and where new solutions are generated. As Roger Martin puts it: “If you can define the problem differently than everybody else in the industry, you can generate alternatives that others aren’t thinking about.”

While it just scratches the surface, leveraging these principles will position leaders to architect and deliver memorable experiences that are useful, usable and enjoyable. It will also go a long way in driving positive perception, loyalty and growth that endures well beyond the passing of coronavirus.

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VMLY&R - North America, 3 months ago