Marketing’s Role in Employee & Customer Experience Journeys


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customer journey alignmentIs your Marketing department aligned with customer experience and employee experience? The necessity and logic of doing this was highlighted in a recent presentation by Hootsuite’s Vice President of Customer, Kirsty Traill. She pointed out that Marketing Communications is unfortunately the typical focus of customer journey maps and customer-centric marketing.

Her observations are in accordance with the first half of this six-part series which also pointed out that MarCom-focus for customer-centric marketing is extremely short-sighted in what’s needed by your company. It short-changes marketing’s impact.

(Note: this article focuses on Marketing’s understanding of customer and employee journeys. Next week’s follow-on article describes how Hootsuite increases Marketing impact by making use of these insights across all of Marketing’s functional areas.)

Hootsuite takes a holistic view of “brand experience” by applying customer-centric research and thinking to each phase of the end-to-end customer experience and employee experience journey maps — for use by all groups within Marketing and beyond. Brand integrity relies upon both employees’ and customers’ perceptions. It also relies on the company’s fulfillment of their needs. Marketing plays a significant role in understanding, communicating and assuring these needs.

“We recognize the importance of employee engagement in driving the customer experience,” said Kirsty. “Marketing touches every part of the employee journey and is a key part of driving a truly customer-centric culture, starting with recruiting and whether the public’s image of our employer brand is likely to attract high-caliber talent.”

The journey team at Hootsuite includes Marketing, Sales and Customer Success representatives. This allows them to look through different lenses. Their work has developed an overarching messaging hierarchy informed by customer journey mapping, and grounded in customer needs. “It’s an overall guide of how customers talk about the category,” explained Kirsty. “It describes how customers and employees think about each phase of their journeys, and how they talk about their needs. It provides vocabulary for consistent messaging to each of four core customer personas and to employees.”

Marketing decisions are guided by a table of customer insights available for each journey stage, showing which voice-of-customer insights inform each stage and who owns it. Julie Garrah, Customer Experience Manager on Kirsty’s team at Hootsuite, explained: “We emphasize closing-the-loop in communicating what action we’re taking. This drives improvement in scores. We send customers a closing-the-loop email on a six-month cadence, sharing what we’re doing.”

The image below describes my interpretation. Green phrasing is my suggestion to foster outside-in thinking.
customer experience journey

Research for Marketing Across the Customer Experience Journey
Hootsuite has defined four core personas and developed a customer journey map for each persona. (I’ve found it best to identify natural customer segments by looking for patterns across qualitative data.) Hootsuite builds a deep understanding of each segment’s journey stages by answering these questions:

  • Need Something: How does a customer become aware of the need for what your category represents, how would they describe the need in their own words, what is it that triggers the activation of that customer need?
  • What are My Choices: Which other companies are in your customers’ consideration set, where are they finding information to make a decision in the category, what is their evaluation criteria?
  • Decide & Buy: What information are they looking for to make their decision, what is it that locks them in to your product versus your competition’s, do they talk to anyone, what does your purchase process look like, how long does it take, how easy was it for customers relative to their expectations?
  • Receive Order: What do they need to get started, where do they find information during this stage?
  • Install / Use: How do customers use your product/service, how do they define the value, how do you deliver upon that value, how do you reinforce that they’ve made the right decision?
  • Questions / Moments of Truth: Which touch-points triggered repeat purchase, upgrade or expansion; where did you fail to deliver on their expectations; what caused customers to cancel, suspend, return, leave, what were the triggers; what information do they need and in what format?
  • Integrations: Which touch-points turn fans into loyal fans and advocates, what is the customers’ context for usage of your product, what are their interactions with your people, what is their connection with your brand?

*Questions / Moments of Truth: Researching the “moments of truth” stage can be a difficult process to go through, but Kirsty explained: “This information is rich and can be used in very productive ways for improving customer experience as well as your marketing mix and marketing touch-points.”

*Integrations: I’ve found that integrations might be the most significant part of the journey as it answers “what is the customer trying to get done . . . with or by whom, under what circumstances, in combination with what processes or hardware/software?” This context can be a game-changer for up-leveling your marketing, product development, and operations.

Research & Actions for Marketing Across the Employee Experience Journey
Hootsuite applies customer experience insights to all stages of the employee experience journey:

  • Need a Job Opportunity / What are My Choices: Does your Careers web page paint the image of a customer-centric company, how employees are portraying you on LinkedIn and GlassDoor, is your employer brand aligned with your corporate brand and customer-focus?
  • Decide & Sign / Start Job: Educate every new employee on buyer personas and user personas in every team and department, show videos from customers explaining what they use and like, provide pocket guide with customer needs and value proposition, explain company standards to new hires so they understand how important customer-focus is and how their specific role affects customer experience.
  • Daily Work: Empower everyone in the company to address customer issues since it’s impossible for your Customer Success team to manage every touch-point customers have with your company, role-based training, create a central repository of customer information and unified customer profile across the journey, design your tech stack to integrate the fewest systems necessary to house customer data for a comprehensive story of individual customers.
  • Higher Purpose: Make “customer love” visible through stories shared with employees, display your Customer Support vision, encourage employees to participate in shadowing, ride-alongs, and capturing customer quotes.
  • Championing: Encourage brand spirit through corporate apparel and swag, empower employees to “share love” through social media, arrange for people from development to shadow Customer Support and Sales Enablement to sit in on sales calls, invite Product Marketing and Vertical Marketing teams to attend customer events to see how customers are interacting and engaging with content.

Hootsuite studies a flow of qualitative data from marketing touch-points about what customers want and need. By gaining a deeper understanding of how customers are thinking and feeling about information at each stage in their journey, the company has also gained appreciation for how the touch-points interact with one another.

These insights re-orient employees’ outlooks. They break down traditional silo mentality. The goal is to become a more customer-centric organization by driving behavior in doing what’s best for the customer as the way to drive business growth.

Check back next week for continuation of this article: “Customer Journey Insights Increase Marketing Impact”.

Note: Kirsty Traill is a member of the ClearAction Value Exchange‘s Executive Leadership Board. She presented this case study in one of the Exchange’s Webcast ConversationsTM, a guided opportunity for Exchange members to rapidly personalize new perspectives to their work situations for same-day actionability.

This article is fourth of a six-part series as an exclusive CustomerThink Advisors column: How Customer-Centered Marketing Steps Up Your Performance & Influence.

1. Customer-Centric Marketing: Step-Up Performance

2. Customer-Centric Marketing: Align for Growth

3. Is Your Customer Engagement Really Customer-Centric?

4. Marketing’s Role in Employee & Customer Experience Journeys

Image licensed to ClearAction Continuum by Shutterstock.


  1. Hi Lynn:

    “Should’s don’t count,” my first boss used to tell me after I would show him a model, framework, or theory. I hated this knee-jerk response, but I later came to appreciate it. Thanks to my newly-minted business degree, my head was awash in tidy linear models of business decision making. They represented “happy path” idealizations of corporate activity on the way to The Solution, which inevitably occurs, because . . . . doesn’t it always? My boss’s pragmatism and experience allowed me none of that. To this day, I thank him for his strict adherence to “should’s don’t count.” I can still see his grin, because he knew that I knew that he would say it.

    In project management, it’s important to establish happy paths because it helps planners to understand how things might work if (big if!) things go as planned, and risks don’t come home to roost. From there, we can begin to develop insight into how and where things will skew off the path, or go wrong. Where human decision making is involved, giving deference to “standards” or uni-directional, branch-less process flowcharts leaves a company highly vulnerable to conditions with significant consequences.

    In the thousands of B2B buying engagements where I’ve been involved, I have yet to see any two that are identical – even within the same division of a company. Adapting the Buyer Journey Stages above to one or two I’ve been involved in, and the flow goes more like this:

    Discussion about needing something
    Tabling the idea
    More discussion
    Permanent back-burnering
    Parallel solution research by passive-aggressive colleague
    Problem redefinition
    Internal selling on need to revise project priorities
    Cataclysmic business event
    Buy from vendor with shortest delivery leadtime
    Service harangues with vendor
    Contract review
    Resignation that although solution has warts, it performs to spec

    Of course, few accept the challenge of mapping this messiness into a flowchart. I think employee journeys present similar challenges: They can be idealized, but in practice, they rarely work out exactly as depicted in the diagram.

    Back to the annoying admonishment that was beaten into my head, “should’s don’t count.” Is accepting idealizations of process flow a planning liability? If so, how can companies mitigate the risks of activities that stray off the happy path? Because they do – and they will.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Andy. I always like to see what readers are thinking and engage in dialogue through the comment section on articles.

    Your post Sales Lesson #1: Don’t “Get” Your Customers to Do Anything is what my articles advocate to Marketing and Customer Experience leaders: keep it real and human-to-human, engender insatiable curiosity about customers, build relationships and trust — this will earn customers’ respect and behaviors that keep on giving as you give to them.

    It’s true that chaos reigns in all businesses, but thankfully less so in many businesses. This chaos is unavoidable under certain circumstances. And it’s probably par for the course in very dynamic roles such as Sales and Service.

    For Marketing and Customer Experience management roles, typically a step removed from direct interaction with customers, they need to guide their teams and the rest of the company in truly serving customers. This would truly be a gift to the Sales organization.

    To do that, it’s essential to study what customers need at each phase of their relationship with the company, well before a sales rep comes into the picture, and well beyond the sales role in terms of the company’s policies, processes, products, services, business models, affinities, affiliations, attitudes, intra-company interactions and collaboration, culture and strategy.

    Unfortunately many “customer journey maps” aren’t really about the customer’s world. They’re about the company’s world, and how to get customers to do stuff. That’s the type of misguided thinking and effort that you and I are both trying to get business leaders to rise above, Andy.

  3. Hi Lynn: thanks for your response. I agree: vendors can benefit by seeing beyond their idealized models of buying steps, and recognizing that project management and procurement can be messy and political. For many initiatives, the buyer’s journey defies mapping. One large supply chain project I worked on many years ago meandered aimlessly for over two years until e coli was found in the US meat supply. There was a major panic and a big media splash about the problems that caused it. I got a call the following day and was given one of my largest hardware orders. You can’t script this stuff.

    “Have you asked them what their buying process is?” sales managers like to ask. Early in my career, that was a frequent question during account reviews. What I eventually learned was that my customers themselves often didn’t know how to answer the question. Others gave me a formulaic answer that never matched what happened. They knew I wanted an answer, and by providing one, they felt more empowered. It’s a weird dynamic.

    That buying journeys are often funky gives an advantage to marketers and salespeople who are adept at discovering how individual organizations and social networks operate internally. Vendors that try to bend their expectations to idealized buying journeys and/or hierarchies depicted in customer-provided org charts put themselves at a tactical disadvantage.

  4. Hi Andy: yes, that’s right for Sales. The exact process and duration of phases is hard to guess for many customers.

    When it comes to employees at headquarters who don’t interact with customers, the challenge is about aligning those employees’ thinking with customers’ thinking. The main way to help these non-customer-facing roles comprehend the customers’ world and keep it in mind as they create processes, policies and services is to provide summaries about customer segments and examples from specific customers.

    You’re right that idealized buying journeys and hierarchies are not practical for managing customer interactions. What I’m talking about is not interactions, but headquarters people wrapping their heads around customer language, customers’ expectations overall.


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