What does customer experience look like in 2018?

At the first Marketing Association Brainy Breakfast of 2018, speakers from Colenso BBDO, TRA, Mercury and the New Zealand AA tackled the big issue facing marketers: customer experience. What does it look like in 2018, and what should we be focusing on to stay competitive in the future?


Being Human 

For Wayne Pick, Executive Creative Director and Head of CX at Colenso BBDO, brands need to have humanity. We need to empathise and we need to focus on creating an emotional connection with our customers. Emotionally connected customers are twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers.

Colleen Ryan, Head of Strategy at TRA agrees saying that ‘we’re emotionally driven creatures, not rationally driven.’

So how does a brand become more human? Technology will certainly help. Voice is increasingly becoming a manner in which customers interact with brands – think voice search or technology like Google’s Alexa – and having a presence beyond visual will become imperative if you don’t want to lose out to a default brand.

And humanity isn’t about perfection. ‘It’s allowing those imperfections and treating customer like humans.’ This may take the form of allowing post-purchase flexibility like contract negotiations, or a flexible return policy.


Treating customers as individual

Colleen tells us that ‘People are not slices – they are whole human beings, living whole lives, unique with their own set of requirements.’ And this is something that needs to be understood internally, as well as externally.

Successful businesses recognise this. Elke van der Meijden, Head of Customer Insights and Strategy at Mercury explained that when they rebranded it wasn’t just about creating a new image externally, but much more about combining two businesses and creating an internal culture. They developed a new strategy that has the customer right at the heart, which is embodied throughout the whole company and brought to life by their brand promises: Easy. Reward. Inspire.

Something else that was discovered is that when it comes to customer loyalty, and loyalty programmes, what you as a business may consider to be of value, may not actually be of value to your customers. For Mercury the focus continues to be on knowing what resonates for their customers, and what will work for them – rather than what would work for the company.


Provide value beyond your offer

Sometimes customer experience may have to go beyond what your company alone can offer your customers. For the New Zealand AA new technology means the demand for their traditional road service and map offering is in decline. They needed a new strategy. Now their focus is on creating a new customer experience through partnerships which delivers value beyond the cost of a subscription, and builds relationships with New Zealanders based on assistance, service and benefits.

By building these partnerships they’ve managed to enhance their own brand exposure alongside their partners’, reach motorists who are not AA members, and increased the number of members taking advantage of particular offers – like free driving lessons. But most importantly according to Dougal Swift, GM of Membership and Brand, the partnerships all drive value back to the members, resulting in strong membership retention.

Find out how other organisations are excelling with the customer experience in our write up of the CX Conference

Qrious Brainy Breakfast Poll

For our poll we wanted to know which aspect of customer experience attendees thought would be their organisation’s main focus for 2018. Over half (51%) said that the online experience would be their main focus. With increased competition from international giants whose presence is predominantly online, it’s not surprising that this is where they feel they need to focus their attentions to stay competitive. 

Brainy Breakfast Poll results

Perhaps more insightful was the response to the follow up question. We wanted to know which New Zealand organisation attendees felt was providing an exceptional customer experience – and Air NZ once again came out on top.

It was the ‘why’ though that really stood out. The reason people continue to praise Air NZ is due to their ‘fully integrated cross channel customer experience.’ It’s consistent, it’s streamlined, and it’s human. 

Ultimately then, it appears, there is more to a good customer experience than engaging with a customer at a single touchpoint – like online or in-store. We should now focus more on delivering an all-encompassing end-to-end human experience across all touch points, even those we may not have thought of yet.

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