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Customer experience is not a department

In preparation for writing this post I poked around on Google, checked out a blog or two, and read something about the disappointing results of attempts at marketing on Second Life. In fact the amount of discussion on this topic was a little overwhelming.

I'm the first to admit that customer experience is vital to the success of any business, and know for sure that frustrating interactions with a brand can ruin my impressions of what might otherwise be a great product or service. But I've got to be honest, I find the increasingly scientific methods large corporations use to create customer experience not exactly distasteful, but perhaps futile.

I suppose what I mean is that there's a huge difference between making the most of what you've got, and pretending you're something you're not. When I see a UPS commercial asking what Brown can do for me (worst theme for an ad campaign ever, by the way), and then I'm verbally abused by staff at their call centre for the heinous crime of trying to track a package, it's an understatement to say that something doesn't sit right. Saying you do something well isn't the same as actually doing it well, just as manufacturing a customer experience sitting around a boardroom table isn't the same as actually believing and doing it.

The problem, I think, is mostly because the marketing department is usually so far down the hallway, so to speak, from the bits of the company with which customers actually interact. There's been lots of talk in the past couple of years about marketing performance measurement (better aligning marketing with real results, whether that means sales targets or more subjective measures such as brand awareness), and consequently lots of marketers have jumped on the bandwagon of getting better data about their campaigns and related activities, and getting it faster.

Mostly I think striving to measure marketing to the nth degree is an utter waste of time and money, or at least when it's a substitute for getting marketers to understand their product and interact with the customers who buy it. At heart I'm a simple kind of guy and I believe that it's all about having genuine conversations: "here's my product, I'd like you to buy it because it's good in ways a, b and c; once you've bought it I'll be here to answer any of your questions directly." Honestly, I think a lot of the demand for "optimization" of marketing campaigns is a function of getting the product and the articulation of its value wrong in the first place; and polished pitches about customer experience are usually just empty promises.

Building a great customer experience really sounds like a great idea, but unless you have the influence and persistence to make it happen, please don't put it in your ads or the stuffers that come with my bill. I promise we won't put it on Gaboogie's website unless it's true.


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