Blame the Messenger

Customer Service
Customer Service

Consistency across channels is crucial to a positive customer experience, but unfortunately most companies aren’t even close to getting it right. A new study of 25 leading brands from the CMO Council found that inconsistent messaging across the call center, Web, and in-store was a common attribute at companies like Comcast, Doritos, and Toys R Us.

The report, Variance in Customer Experience, ranked Home Depot as the best overall brand. Its “You Can Do It, We Can Help” mantra reaches across all its touchpoints – call center, Web, events, and in the store. Faring the worst were Comcast and DirecTV, which varied wildly in their Web and call center experiences.

Liz Miller, vice president of the CMO Council, attributes these inconsistencies to a lack of internal integration. “The biggest challenge is that marketers continue to have functional silos at the center of the process and of each engagement, rather than focusing that center point on the customer,” Miller says. “What’s shocking to us is that there are so many tools and solutions to help you manage that process, but marketers seem to be missing that opportunity to deeply engage with the customer.”

The most drastic difference is between the call center and the website. Call centers are crucial touchpoints for building—or destroying—customer loyalty and satisfaction. Yet many companies in the report did not provide a consistent experience. For example, the investigator researching Comcast went to a local branch and picked up a flyer promoting a “platinum” cable television package. When the auditor called into the contact center inquiring about the package, the agent had no information about it. “There was no level of consistency,” Miller says.

“The mandate really now is that if your goal is to deeply engage with the customer, making sure those channels have the correct information, the accurate versions, a consistency of language or consistency of identity across all those channels is absolutely a key imperative.” She points to Southwest Airlines as an example of a company with a good call center strategy. The pricing was the same as online, and the agent was knowledgeable, helpful, and empowered to solve the customer’s issues. Particularly of interest is the fact that Southwest agents regularly drive callers to go online to get online specials or cheaper fares.

Also of note in the report is how important a customer’s more recent interaction with a company is to long-term loyalty. The Doritos brand researcher was a self-expressed fan of Doritos. But he found the Doritos website overloaded with interactive features that were slow to load and hard to navigate. In addition, the auditor could not find a new flavor being strongly promoted online in any stores. This frustration led the auditor to purchase Cheetos the next time he went to the store.

“This shows that companies run the risk of losing even a loyal customer through a single bad experience,” Miller says. And this only gets exacerbated as more consumers become influencers -- going online, joining communities, and sharing opinions via word of mouth.

Break down the walls
The CMO Council recommends that marketers implement tools and policies to address content accessibility, consistency, and accuracy. Attention must be paid to content and digital asset management solutions as well as to the integrated training of customer care, call center, and in-store employees. The start point is contact, Miller says. Understand where your messaging is interacting with and engaging the customer, and how it affects the experience.

This change must come from the top. Channels must unify under a single direction and the directives of one senior executive. That person must assess individual functional tasks [like call center operations, Web, events, and in-store], and hold the managers of each accountable for making sure that the customer experience is at the center.

“The role of the CMO, if you really want to define it, is that of a chief customer experience officer,” Miller says. “That person needs to be the one that monitors, manages, tracks, and puts ROI metrics against the customer experience. That includes sales support, customer service, call center, channels, in-store, advertising, branding – all of those things. It’s not just individual buckets of opportunity.” And, she adds, there is a need for partnership between the CMO and other executives, like the COO, CIO, and CFO. “It’s an everyone-type problem. It’s not just a marketing problem.”