I believe that the marketing function has a valuable role to play in customer experience and customer-centricity
In the Customer Experience and Customer Centricity communities I have noticed a certain dismissive attitude towards the role and contribution that the marketing (and advertising) folks can and do make. To some extent this is not a surprise as some of the most visible proponents of Customer Experience come from a customer services background. Others who share this dismissive attitude tend to come from an operational improvement background and are deeply embedded in process thinking – the engineering mindset.
Whilst I can see the shortcomings, I can also see the value of the marketing function and the contribution it can, does and needs to make: to the customer centric orientation and to the customer experience in particular. Recently I made my point of view clear on a Linkedin conversation:
“The companies that have marginalized the marketing function are making a big mistake. In my experience, the folks working in the marketing and advertising arena are one of the few tribes that truly get the emotional nature of human beings. The best marketers get the impact of standing for something that resonates with human beings. They get the importance of symbols and how these move human beings. And they get the importance of beauty. They know how to touch upon the emotional, engage and move human beings. Customer Experience requires the harmonious integration between the rational and the emotional.”
There are plenty of people who disagree with my point of view
I was not at all surprised that my comment on Linkedin resulted in the following response – a response that I believe is representative of many working in the CE and customer-centric communities:
“Regarding marketing losing its place at the table in customer-centric companies, had marketing exhibited the skills and behaviors you describe often enough, marketing still would be at the table. However, as an overall profession, marketing is far better at promoting to people than communicating with them. “Understanding” customers isn’t sufficient. In customer-centricity, companies have to see through customer eyes, rather than understand how to look at customers.”
Does this response raise a valid issue? Absolutely. Is it an accurate description of marketing? Let me share an example with you and then you can decide for yourself.
Lets examine the issue through a concrete example: my wife and Tesco
My wife used to shop regularly and almost exclusively at Tesco (the biggest supermarket chain in the UK) and made frequent use of their online shopping and home delivery service.
Over the last three months she has shopped less frequently, bought less and spent less with Tesco. In part this is simply because she is travelling more and finds other supermarket chains (Sainsburys, Morrisons, Asda) more convenient. It is partly because she is being more frugal. And it is partly because she had a disappointing experience at a Tesco store: Why my wife will not be relying on Tesco….
On the 24th March 2011 my wife received the following email (I have extracted some information from this email to shorten its length) from the Tesco.com marketing team:
What impact does this email have on you? Does this piece of marketing produced by the marketing function improve or degrade your experience, your perception, your attitude towards Tesco?
How has my wife experienced this communication from the Tesco marketing team?
My wife is pleasantly surprised that Tesco noticed that she has shopped and spent less with Tesco. How is she left feeling towards Tesco as a result of this marketing communication?
She says “It makes me feel valued as a customer. I matter to them and they want me back. And Tesco is providing value to me as their customer by giving me £7.50 off my next order. I know it is not a huge amount, yet it does matter that they are giving me this discount.”
What other impact has this email from the marketing function made on my wife? She is left thinking that Tesco:
- Is a professional company that is on top of things because they noticed a change in her shopping behaviour;
- Is proactive because Tesco has taken the first step to recover / ignite the previous shopping behaviour; and
- Tesco is simple (as in easy to do business with) and straight with its customers because the email is written in that way – no fluff, no gimmicks, no tricks.
You might say great, but has she actually made any behaviour changes? The answer is yes – she is once again shopping and spending more with Tesco. And all because of a single email from Tesco’s marketing team.
So what is the lesson?
Marketing matters, the marketing function matters because it touches the customer in so many ways. And if your marketing function is not making the kind of impact that the Tesco marketing function is making then it is time to learn from Tesco (and others who practice good marketing).
Disclosure: I am a member of the Institute of Direct Marketing and thus possibly biassed!