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Marketers are responsible for abominations such as the popup, spam email, clickbait, poorly targeted mass display ad campaigns and deceptive native advertising.

Now we're paying the price.

Remember the customer?

There are a lot of buzzwords flying around in the marketing world these days and I can almost guarantee that every single marketer in the world has busted out a few choice examples at some point in their career – myself included.

While they do serve a purpose to some degree, the usual outcome is the confusion of non-marketers.

One recent ‘buzz phrase’ has stood out though - “customer experience”. 

In my eyes, other buzzwords either fit inside customer experience or, frankly, are not relevant. Ultimately, the only thing that really matters at a strategic level in marketing, and indeed the majority of the business world is customer experience - something we seem to have forgotten over the past decade or so.

Customer experience or ‘CX’ is the sum of all interactions between you and your customers over the lifetime of your relationship. This spans from awareness of your product or service, through research and consideration and past purchase into aftercare or use.

Dilbert.com Buzzword Bingo

How do we win back our audiences?

As marketers we’re responsible for abominations such as the popup, thin content to try and ‘beat’ search engines, spam email, clickbait, poorly targeted mass display ad campaigns and deceptive native advertising.  We’re now paying the price for it.

  • Globally, use of ad blocking software that removes display, video and text ads from sites has grown 41% year on year with over 181m users of ad blocking software in January 2015. This equates to an estimated $21.8bn in blocked ad revenue to publishers.
  • Google has taken massive action against web spammers and purveyors of thin and generally ‘bad’ web content with penalties being dished out to offenders, including having your entire site removed from Google index.

The only real way for us marketers to redeem ourselves and win back the attention of our audiences is through delivering amazing customer experience. A good customer experience strategy should consider everything from off-site content strategy and social media through to product delivery and aftercare.

Are our adverts relevant and well targeted?  Are our websites easy to use and mobile friendly? Is the content we’re publishing providing value beyond having ‘something’ out there?

Does our social strategy tie in with our wider marketing efforts? Are our email communications timely, relevant and valuable?

Uber and CX

One company that is putting customer experience at the forefront of everything they do at the moment is Uber.

Although relatively new, Uber has had a huge impact and is shaking up an industry whose last major change was moving from horses to cars. 

Prior to Uber, taxis were a pain, you either had to book and wait for a private hire via telephone which in my experience often turned up late, or on occasion didn’t bother turning up at all. The alternative being a Hackney carriage – mainly cash only and liable to take you the worst way possible.

With Uber, you are now able to order a taxi with the push of a button, track where it is and how long it’ll be until it arrives – by far exceeding any customer experience expectations from taxi companies.

Uber – A customer experience to take note of?

Let’s start at the beginning of a potential Uber user experience and talk about customer acquisition for a moment. Uber's new customer acquisition strategy is extremely understated yet highly targeted – lacking any major TV or traditional media slots, Uber focuses its marketing largely on word of mouth referrals.

Max J Crowley, Business Development at Uber:

We've found that our growth is driven substantially by word of mouth. When someone sees the ease of use, the fact that they press a button on their phone and in under 5 minutes a car appears, they inevitably become a brand advocate.

This word of mouth referral scheme is amplified by Uber's on-boarding tactic of offering a free ride for completely new signups or alternatively, a free ride for you and the person you refer. This significantly improves the likelihood of signup and usage from just a recommendation, helping to build a dedicated user base without need of expensive and obtrusive ‘above the line’ communications methods.

Uber also has also created a winning user experience for their drivers. At its peak in 2014 Uber was recruiting 20,000 new drivers a day.

In addition to solving the problem of unreliable and unpleasant journeys for customers, taxi drivers are now able to work without the need to spend hours of their potentially billable time waiting for passengers in a taxi rank queue, dealing with nuisance riders (thanks to the star-rating system) and risking trouble by carrying around large sums of cash.

All this seems like a fairly obvious step and an infinite improvement to existing customer experience given what’s possible with smartphones in hindsight, but like travel agents, retailers, and video rental shops, the taxi industry has failed to keep up and is suffering thanks to Uber's superior customer experience.

Not bad for a taxi company that doesn’t actually own any taxis…

CX is all

If one thing is going to define ‘digital’ in the near future it’s going to be customer experience.  

Content for the sake of content doesn’t help your website rank anymore, blanket single message banner advertising only serves to annoy, formulaic scheduled tweeting from an un-manned social media account will go unnoticed, and a poor website experience is unacceptable.

The brands that take the time to build truly exceptional customer experiences across multiple touchpoints over the duration of their relationships with their customers are going to come out on top.

Alasdair Graham

Published 17 March, 2016 by Alasdair Graham

Alasdair Graham is head of online marketing at Shout Digital. You can connect with him via LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)

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Matt Lovell, Head of Group Analytics & Digital Insight at Thomas Cook Group AirlinesEnterprise

Great article Alasdair.

I think one of the difficulties that still lurks in the back of a lot of marketers minds is that people show examples of Uber or Spotify or Apple and they simply think - I can't compete with that, instead of realising that for existing brands, it's just about taking a look at the, often small, things they can change to improve a customers experience.

Tackle those and all of a sudden their CX is no longer the torture it once was and at least they're heading in the right direction...

6 months ago

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