““Customer experience is the new marketing.” - Steve Cannon, CEO, Mercedes-Benz”
Over the last 15 years, organizations have adjusted to the reality that customers are increasingly in control. Information about products, services, pricing, and more are readily available on our websites — or other websites — with the expectation that customers can get to them at any time from anywhere without any obligation. Marketing exploded in this new reality, with multiple channels and ways to reach customers in the physical and digital world. Messaging was everything.
An equally profound shift has happened in the last five years, and I see many organizations still struggling to come to grips with it.
Customers now control our information and our messaging.
Our customers now get to say who we are and how good we are. Frustrating? It can be. Unfair? Sometimes. Ignore it and you’re toast.
The Truth is Out There
I recently sat with a healthcare organization that serves hundreds of satisfied patients a day. Their Yelp page contained a few dozen mostly negative reviews. Those reviews represented a few dozen lost customers and likely hundreds of failed new customer acquisitions. Those failed acquisitions were patients who had identified their need for a provider, selected this organization as a potential provider, researched before scheduling an appointment, and then selected a different provider because of those negative peer reviews. Customer experience had punched a big hole right in the bottom of the marketing funnel.
Control the Experience, Not the Message
In these situations, old habits die hard. We try to control the message: post replies on Yelp and launch a campaign to invite happy customers to post positive reviews.
This is treating the symptom.
The necessary shift is to accept that we no longer control our own messaging, and that customer experience now demands the kind of intentionality and investment we have learned to give to marketing. If we offer a poor or average customer experience, we’re going to lose a lot of new customers right at the point of conversion. Yet, if we offer a delightful customer experience, customer-controlled messaging can massively increase our reach and new customer acquisition for almost no incremental investment.
Many organizations still think about marketing as the key investment in new customer acquisition, while customer experience lives with operations as an investment in customer retention. But when the customer controls the message, customer experience is a critical investment in new customer acquisition!
Now that the customer controls the message, customer experience is the new marketing.
The steps aren’t complex: Understand your customer’s journey. Fix what is broken. Experiment to build delightful experiences. Then go for the moon: unique, brand-able experiences that set your organization apart.