For any business to be successful it must pivot itself around the empowered consumer, which means you have to manage the customer's perception of your business, service or product throughout their entire journey, according to Ian Truscott, vice president of product marketing for SDL Content Management Technologies, who here examines the key factors involved in delivering spectacular customer experiences. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

The whole customer journey begins from their initial awareness of your product or brand, through to a purchase or engagement, through to them hopefully raving about you to their friends, family, strangers on the bus, and all over Twitter and Facebook. In time-honoured fashion, the key to achieving this lies with Customer Experience Management (aka. CEM or CXM), which involves addressing the "Three C's": Customer, Content, and Control.

  1. Customer
    You have to manage every touch point a customer has - from the initial brand awareness, through to purchase and then post sale, service and support. The business strategy, of combining all facets of the business that touch the customer, is a broad task.

    CXM must also address customer retention. The purpose of the retain phase of the customer journey is not just related to future cross and up-sell purchases, it should create advocacy - which is essential in this socially connected world. This means integrating the pre-sales marketing activities, with those of customer care - to create a symbiotic relationship. The level of customer service you offer can significantly influence the next customer's purchasing decision.

    Implementing CXM often requires significant organisational change, involving defining new business functions and units to be the hub of managing the customer experience. To lead these new business units and initiatives, organisations are now creating new senior roles to represent the customer and be an advocate of their needs - throughout their overall journey.

    So, how do you measure the impact of this new function? Understanding the hits on a web page is easy and free, but measuring data is not the same as gaining insights. A more difficult measurement metric is gauging the effectiveness of this holistic CXM strategy - across multiple business disciplines and systems.

    One very effective approach to understanding this broader sentiment about your organisation, product, service or brand is to use social media. Using social media monitoring tools, with some analysis of the revealed data, allows you to develop metrics for such things as:

    • Brand affinity - the emotional commitment customers feel to your brand;
    • Customer engagement - customer response to your offerings, marketing and customer experience;
    • Product commitment - how likely a customer is to recommend your product or service or adopt a new product that you are about to launch.

    These metrics not only give an indication of past success, but can also predict how your audience will react. Managing their experience is a cross business function and you need to find new ways to measure their effectiveness. Retaining and delighting customers is a business imperative as recommendations and advocacy play such an influential role in attracting future customers.

  2. Content
    Content management systems systems have traditionally been underutilised. However, the recent evolution of digital marketing from "brochureware" content into this holistic, multi-channel, multi-language, multi-device, socially wired and personalised experience is exactly what these systems are built for.

    You will need to manage multiple variants of the same content, whether it's different languages or content targeted at a specific group within your audience - they want your story told differently.

    During your customers' engagement with you they want to read social commentary about your products and services. They also want to hear from the people with influence and knowledge in your business.

    Content also needs to be adapted and optimized for customers' chosen device or channel. The language you use with your community on Facebook maybe very different from what you say in a financial PR announcement. However, content still has to be consistent, if your loan rate is 12% on a Facebook campaign, it had better say that in the email promotion, on your website and from your call centre staff too.

    Content should also reflect your brand identity on each of these touch points and push customers toward your engagement objectives. You must understand all of your content that tells your story to deliver a relevant content experience. If you can't find the content, or it's not tagged as being about a product, demographic or community - you've clearly missed an engagement opportunity.

  3. Control
    The last stage is bringing customer and content together and orchestrating that customer experience. How you orchestrate and control a compelling customer experience is a more complex proposition. The nub of managing the customer experience, sits across multiple business practices, software tools and moving parts within an enterprise. So how do you build a better customer experience?

    In a world where people are not beating a linear path to your product, service or brand, means that the quality of the post-sale experience matters hugely to those in the organisation that have the responsibility for maintaining the marketing funnel.

    The technology that enables a customer centric philosophy needs to reflect this business strategy. When we think about good practice about understanding our customers, we talk about getting a single view of the customer - but what about the customer getting a single view of you?

    Achieving control enables you to build that relevant experience. It brings together the right content to that audience, consistently, as the visitor flits between your email marketing, your desktop website, browsing your support pages, to their iPad and onto Facebook.

    This omni-channel or "One Web" strategy changes the tools you choose and the approach in implementing them. You need to shift from discrete, tactical mobile projects, or siloed content and experience initiatives that might tempt the marketer - to a consistent single voice.

In other words, marketers must now begin to orientate their operations entirely around the customer and ensure they employ the best tools to manage and control their content effectively, across all channels. Take your customers seriously, and provide them with the best experiences possible, and they in turn will look after your brand.