Like many businesses, professional service providers are under pressure to improve the customer experience, particularly as expectations rise and new competitors arrive on the scene. As a result, these businesses are following the example set by consumer peers and starting to think more carefully about how they treat their customers.
“Customer engagement is at the core of this,” says Tom Seal, Senior Program Director for IDCs European Services Group. “Professional services companies will have to consider the way customers promote their businesses and the feedback they give to potential customers.”
Seal joined ITWC President Fawn Annan for an installment of CMO Talks, a podcast series presented by ITWC and IDC to address pressing marketing challenges. A career analyst, consultant, and technology procurement manager for companies such as Guinness, he highlighted why service providers and marketing specialists should be paying attention to their Net Promoter Score (NPS), an index that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services.
According to Seal, digital transformation revolves around creating completely new business models and serving customers in completely new ways, so it’s really important that transformation initiatives consider what matters most to the customer. “Get that feedback flowing before undertaking any sort of digital transformation,” he cautioned. “You’re putting yourself at risk if you have poor communication with your customer, and then, on completion of a project or delivery of a product or service, you suddenly ask if the customer would recommend you.”
It’s also very important that marketers drive their businesses towards end-to-end transformation, rather than being tempted to give what Seal described as a digital facelift. Digitizing the front end without attention to downstream processes risks raising the expectations of customers and then letting them down, which would negatively impact the NPS.
Seal’s advice for increasing efficiency for CMOs began with the suggestion that they put themselves in the shoes of the customer. “In many businesses, the chief marketing officer is the ultimate owner of the customer experience,” said Seal, “so they need to protect that and drive investment in that area.”
In response to a question from Annan about how to ensure a customer-centric approach, Seal spoke to the challenge of establishing ownership of the customer experience. “This creates an opportunity for the chief marketing officer to take the lead in driving the business towards improvements in their customer experience,” he said.
Although it’s early days, the NPS is starting to be seen in rankings, benchmarks, and annual reports. Like any metric, it needs to be measured accurately, so some businesses are looking to third parties to help manage that process.
As one of his key takeaways, Seal left podcast listeners with the importance of regular check-ins with customers and the reassurance that receiving feedback is like jumping into a cold lake. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “When you ask for feedback, some of that feedback will be negative, but once you get past the initial shock, it gets much easier.”