Customer experience is rapidly becoming a crucial topic in modern business. As evidence of this growing importance, my CxOTalk conversations with the world's top business leaders are increasingly focused on customer experience as a means to drive loyalty and trust among buyers.
To explore this topic, I sat down with the chief marketing officer for Oracle CX, Des Cahill, at Oracle's recent OpenWorld conference. Des lives and breathes customer experience, making it a perfect time to look inside CX.
For me, the big takeaway is the way Des weaves customer experience together with the concept of a brand promise. Great customer experience happens when your brand fulfills its commitment to buyers at every stage of the customer journey. This includes positive interactions with your brand prior to purchase, a delightful experience while using the product, and then excellent post-sales support. In other words, every interaction that a customer has with your brand sums up into a relationship with those buyers.
- Bridging the gap between brand promise and customer experience
- Brand promise, customer experience, and CMO lessons for the CIO
Common sense tells us that positive or negative customer experiences will translate into varying degrees of customer loyalty. Since loyal, happy buyers spend more money (and unhappy buyers go to competitors), the need to understand customer perceptions and feelings is obvious.
Despite good intentions all around, consistently making customers happy through the entire buyer lifecycle is hard. Think about the many times that brands have let you down -- perhaps you had a terrible technical support experience or an airline that did not warn you about a four-hour delay -- and it quickly becomes clear few brands do an excellent job at customer experience.
Creating great customer experiences requires people across an organization to work together, sharing information and running processes across internal organizational boundaries and silos. Delivering a great customer experience may also demand changes to supply chains in the quest for better collaboration with suppliers.
The complexities that interfere with customer experience can involve challenges with IT systems, product design processes, customer feedback loops, cultures that militate against information sharing, and a host of other issues. So, yes, it's a hard problem (but essential) problem to solve.
With that introduction, here is an edited transcript of my conversation with Des. Study his words and watch the video of our conversation that is embedded above.
What is customer experience?
Des Cahill: Customer experience is a company delivering on its brand promise. It's the totality of all the experiences that a customer has from the moment they start getting advertising from your company to when they buy your product, when they use your product, they get service in your product.
Companies today need to create lifetime customers, customers that keep coming back, that become brand advocates. So, all the experiences from marketing to sales to service to commerce, all those experiences must be integrated and knitted together and personalized, to deliver on the promise of the brand.
Why is customer experience so difficult to deliver?
Des Cahill: No one wakes up in the morning and says, "Hey, I wanna deliver bad experiences today." You're exactly right. But we lose our better selves and our aspirations when we go into our individual silos of work. Well, I'm in charge of marketing and service isn't my problem. I'm in charge of sales and I don't get compensated on eCommerce sales.
Why don't companies do a better job creating personalized experiences for customers?
Des Cahill: That silos problem manifests itself when data about the customer becomes trapped within these functions. So, marketing might have a lot of information about you, but they may not have passed that on to the service team.
Des Cahill: Again, the data has gotten trapped in these silos. From a technology perspective, we've been in this era of the cloud for the last 20 years and each organization has been buying its own cloud software. I'm sales: I'm buying this cloud software. I'm service: I'm buying this software. I am e-commerce: I'm buying this or that software. And those systems don't talk to each other.
More importantly, it's only recently that CEOs, CEOs, CMOs, chief digital officers, chief experience officers, and the board level have started recognizing that customer experience is not just a nice thing to have.
We're at OpenWorld, so give us the Oracle CX pitch?
Des Cahill: We made an exciting set of announcements around our customer intelligence platform. One of the key pillars of that is our CX unity platform. We're moving our customers toward real-time or autonomous marketing where you can detect your customers' buying signals or service signals very quickly. And personalize the experience because you've got a unified profile for that customer. And then you can have an integrated AdTech/MarTech stack or service stack to deliver the right message at the right time on any device and understand that customer.
Disclosure: Oracle paid most of my travel expenses to this event.