Obstacles to marketing for customer experience

With empathy for customers as our North Star, we look at the path toward improved CX and note significant obstacles stand in the way. What are the challenges to bettering customer experience?

There is no single customer.

It’s easy to understand the importance of putting the customer first, but it’s not always easy to do.

Consider that a business can have thousands if not millions of customers. Andrew Capland points out that “Different customers want different things. In fact, they need different things, and they have communication preferences. Our biggest challenge is suggesting the right thing, to the right customers, at the right time, in whatever channel they prefer.

Customer experience is so personal because, just as with all types of communication, the messages sent are interpreted through the lens of the recipient. Is this an impossible problem to solve?

MailChimp knows much about these challenges. MailChimp’s millions of customers sent a quarter of a trillion emails in 2016. Email continues to be one of the most important means to communicate to specific audiences in a place where the right messaging is critical. Mark DiCristina shares about the challenges of serving a diverse set of customers and how they try to overcome those challenges to understand customers where they are:

If you don’t have a research department and can’t deploy researchers to visit customers in their native surroundings, proactively identifying and reaching out to customers can go a long way to understanding the diversity of customer needs.

Obstacles to a complete understanding of customer experience are likely always going to exist. Awareness that customers vary in their objectives and showing appreciation for their diverse, nuanced communication preferences can go a long way toward ensuring that marketing efforts are tailored to intended audiences.

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CX is a company-wide initiative that requires cross-company collaboration.

As engineers get knee-deep in coding product features, designers create the “tactile” user experience, and support keeps at-risk customers afloat, each role (As well as others not mentioned) all impact customer experience.

Meanwhile, it’s the job of marketers to spread the word about the product—marketers are the mouthpiece for brands. Getting the message right for marketers requires keeping a finger on the pulse of every CX-impacting team and ensuring internal teams are aligned with external messaging. It’s no simple task.

Mark DiCristina at MailChimp sees coordinating marketing efforts with what’s happening in other parts of the company as his team’s “biggest challenge.” DiCristina says his team must “create room for cross-team collaboration, focus on clear communication, and constantly refine our internal processes so we’re all working toward the same goals.”

As a company-wide initiative, improving CX requires cross-company collaboration, open lines of communication. But that’s easier said than done. As organizations grow, so do policies, hierarchies and structures—dreaded bureaucracy happens even to the most well-intentioned companies.

Cutting through organizational layers and policies is hard and can keep marketers from executing on CX-improving initiatives. A big challenge Joe Stych thinks about is how to make sure Zapier provides a great customer experience “without creating an approval log-jam where every marketing decision needs to run through a manager.”

Avoid log-jams and create alignment around marketing goals through maintaining a cadence of communication across the organization—one that clearly articulates CX initiatives. At InVision, Danny Greer shares that he sends regular feedback to InVision’s Head of Product, “There is a very open dialogue there.” Also at InVision, Joseph Todaro shares how spending time with coworkers on other teams can have really positive downstream effects:

Another strategy that helps keep CX top-of-mind for marketers is to engage in “All-hands support.” Joe at Zapier shares how everyone at Zapier does customer support once a week—this is in addition to Zapier’s full-time support team. Joe shares that, “All-hands support helps us build empathy for our customers, and a better picture of why they use Zapier in the first place. It's a critical part of our success because people from all around the company can experience edges of the product.“

Amy Ellis at FullStory shares how the company has structured workflows that require cross-team collaboration:

Holding customer experience up as a company-wide initiative creates a culture that empowers individual employees to gut-check their team objectives through appealing to the broader goal. If a strategy fails to meet standards of great customer experience, teams need to go back to the drawing board.