At this year’s Forrester Research Marketing Forum held April 6-7 in New York City, discussion was focused on customer experience (CX). CX has taken front row center, rightly so, in how marketers must think about business. Relationships are shaped through information architecture and content, arguably working to establish and maintain a loyal (and profitable) customer relationship. And each year the complexity of that relationship ecosystem increases.
The session that captured my attention most and really drove home the three takeaways was “The New Operating Model for Brands & Agencies,” a panel moderated by Brigitte Majewski of Forrester. The panel’s primary topic was the shift to focusing on customer strategy, experience delivery, and marketing performance in working with agencies, with a core tenet that ran throughout the presentation being the need to establish and maintain trust between clients and their roster of agencies. The three topics presented were:
1. Deliver on Experience
2. Address Fragmentation
3. Foster Trust
Delivering a contextualized user experience is counter-intuitively harder in today’s fragmented world. We have more data to shift through to establish context, and customer expectations are exceedingly high. It’s tempting to make assumptions based on data and skip basics like end-user research. Terri Dost, SVP of Product Development at Wyndham Resorts, recounted valuable optimizations to a Virtual Reality experience that developers were able to incorporate after spending time “in the field” making observations. If we are to truly deliver personalized experiences, we cannot let data tempt us to cut corners and not conduct adequate research. A small investment in time and effort upfront can pay huge dividends. Don’t skip the legwork.
Conducting research and leveraging customer journeys to uncover opportunities for optimizing experiences uncovers the complexity marketers face. With that complexity comes the specialization of agencies on the roster, as well as the internal silos and overall experience fragmentation. It’s imperative that the lead agency – a lead agency – conducts and orchestrates the customer experience across channels and devices. That requires a lot of cross-discipline skill, and trust in the entire team. At the helm on either the client or agency side, you need experienced marketers that are “generalists” who know a little about a lot. Have a conductor.
Interesting data was presented on why clients choose to change agencies, with the top reason cited being mistrust – mistrust specifically tied to deceptive pricing, ad fraud, and general underperformance. While today’s landscape complexity contributes to the trust equation, the challenge itself is not new. It was acknowledged that marketers are asking their agency partner to do more with less, and often in compressed timelines. There is no easy fix, other than open, frequent, transparent communication. Don’t skip the tough discussions.
To deliver on the advice provided at the Forum, and optimize the Brand – Agency operating model:
1. Deliver on Experience – Don’t skip the legwork.
2. Address Fragmentation – Have a conductor.
3. Foster Trust – Don’t skip the tough discussions.
“The best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them.”
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