How many times have you said this?
“This product is great! But I wish I’d known about it before I bought the other one.”
“The product looks great! But it was impossible to buy. I gave up.”
“Their marketing is great. Buying the product was easy. But I can’t figure out how to use it, and no one can help.”
Those “great, buts” are symptoms of a dumb customer experience, where siloing of the teams that handle the three brand touchpoints—sales, marketing, and customer care—treat one customer as three people.
TL;DR: Brands need to fix this. The brands that figure out how to provide an intelligent customer experience, where all three teams work together and treat each customer as one person, are going to stand out. They’ll sell more stuff, have more loyal customers, and reduce support costs.
The Three Silos and Why They’re Killing Us
Your customer’s relationship with you moves between three touchpoints:
Find: The customer is looking for a solution.
Buy: The customer has found your product/service and is ready to purchase.
Use: The customer has bought your product and has support or troubleshooting questions.
Traditionally, brands assign different teams to each touchpoint:
Find = Marketing
Buy = Sales
Use = Customer Care
In most companies, each of those teams are firmly embedded in their own political and physical territory. They rarely talk. They don’t share. They blame each other for problems: Sales says marketing sent them lousy customers. Marketing says sales dropped the ball. Marketing and sales both say customer care provides lousy service. Customer care says marketing and sales gave customers crazy expectations.
Silos form. Data is hoarded. Customers are flung from one team to the next like a squirmy, venomous insect.
The three silos treat each customer as three different people. Sales knows nothing about the customer’s “find” experience. Care doesn’t know about the customer’s “buy” or “find” experience. Marketing and sales never hear about the customer’s “use” experience.
The bigger the brand, the more extensive the silos, the more enthusiastic the customer-flinging. Bewildered customers go from brand advocates to amplifiers of “great, but” moments.
That’s a dumb customer experience, and brands have to fix it. The brands that do will grow. The brands that don’t will lose ground.
Practice Intelligent CX
To create a smarter customer experience, practice Intelligent CX: Treat your customer as one person and treat find/buy/ask as a journey, not a set of silos.
Intelligent CX combines data to reduce “great, but” moments.
Marketing + Sales. Somewhere, someone knows how people find your product (if they don’t, fire them). Someone also knows what they do once they find it (again with the firing thing). Put the two together. A client of mine realized the potential of marketing + sales when they connected sales outcomes to marketing data and learned the value and preferences of customers by channel. The sales team directly connected customers to products based on this data. That reduced “great marketing, but lousy buying experience” moments.
Customer Care + Marketing + Sales. Collect customer care requests. Analyze them. Then organize marketing content and the buying process to address requests before customers have to pick up the phone. A brand reduced customer support calls 40%. Customers had fewer “great product, but lousy support” moments.
Sales + Marketing + Customer Care. Look at product reviews. Review customer commentary. Organize product content to answer questions before the customer even buys. If you can answer my #1 question on your homepage or on the product packaging, I am far more likely to buy. Even if I don’t buy, I’ll make a good buying decision, which avoids the “great sales, but lousy product” moment.
Teach Your People
It’s easy to throw up your hands and say “Oh, silos are a fact of life.”
Own it. I had one client force teams to switch jobs for a week. It was amazing how quickly the marketing person called the customer care specialist when they had a baffled user on the line. It worked.
Unless your teams and customers have a great sense of humor, I don’t recommend this approach. It worked for the client, but it felt like a miraculous exercise in threading the needle.
You don’t have to take such extreme measures. Find ways to consistently put everyone in one room. “Consistently” means “often, and in the course of regular work,” not “at a quarterly brand summit.”
I love hors d’oeuvres, but they rarely lead to real business outcomes.
Intelligent CX is Incremental: Own it
I’ve done a marvelous job explaining Intelligent CX. Your fingers are flying over your keyboard, writing an email to your team exclaiming “GET ME IAN! WE ARE STARTING AN INTELLIGENT CX INITIATIVE RIGHT NOW.”
Sounds great! But the first thing I’ll do is try to talk myself out of a job. Very few organizations can (or should) shred day-to-day processes and start over. Instead, treat Intelligent CX as an incremental strategy. Isolate problems and fix them one at a time.
- Can’t integrate sales and marketing data? Use Excel and VLOOKUP. Check the data once a week.
- Have too much data for Excel? Use a smaller sample. Or splurge and buy Microsoft Power BI. (or Tableau, or Google Data Studio – I have no allegiance)
- Can’t transcribe customer calls? Give customer care agents a form with checkboxes to categorize customer requests.
- Can’t create an electronic form? Give them a piece of paper.
- Can’t adapt customer care content? Write a blog post.
Make big problems into smaller ones. Then fix each one. Even the tiniest change can help.
Get rid of the “great, buts.” Hold yourself and your teams accountable for implementing Intelligent CX. If you don’t, your customers will.