How Do You Really Get To Know Your Customers?

How do you really get to understand what your customers want and need? That’s a problem faced by many executives today and it is made even more complex by the fact that customer expectations keep on changing, but what is the answer?

From a corporate perspective it might be that you need to do some customer journey mapping – exploring how customers learn about your brand and engage with it. But how often do you really step into the shoes of your customer and interact with your own brand? Not often enough according to Diana O’Brien, the global Chief Marketing Officer of Deloitte.

O’Brien has to manage the brand image and customer experience of a company that employs over 260,000 people. That’s quite a challenge. She defines customer experience like this: “Customer experience encompasses every touch point that causes me to think or feel anything about your brand. We used to say that brand was everything. Now, we say everything is brand, meaning from the person who answers the phone when I call, or I log on, and I see something on your website, and I have a chance to interact with you, or I have an opportunity to do something. If I have a negative experience, someone speaks rudely to me, I get a bill or anything that I wasn’t expecting or didn’t follow the flow of it being easy, simple, and engaging for me, it can affect the client experience.”

That’s an interesting view and one that I agree with. The idea of marketing being separate from customer service or sales no longer works, yet so many organisations still have entirely separate teams representing the brand in different ways. O’Brien adds: “The client experience is everything, end-to-end, from the point that you first establish interest and awareness and are sharing initial thoughts, to the long-term, sustained relationship where you are coming back and back because you want more and more services from the person offering it.”

This is a great interview and well worth a read. O’Brien talks about the customer experience in a very holistic way that is rare in large organisations. I found several key takeaways in the article:

  • Customers don’t care about your internal structures – to them your company is the same brand whether they are talking to a service or salesperson.
  • Marketing needs to expand to coordinate and manage all customer-facing functions.
  • If you don’t measure customer activity then did it really happen? The data is essential.
  • Design everything from the perspective of the customer – be customer-centric.
  • Don’t let technology distract you. Use new systems and technology only if they make it easier for your customers.

Ultimately, if you want to get to know your customer better you need to get out there and meet them. Be the customer yourself if you want to know how it really feels to engage with your own organisation. 

Photo by Dylan licensed under Creative Commons.