The Key to Customer Engagement

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Alain Thys is the founder of Futurelab and author of So You Want to Be Customer Centric. Laurent Bouty is the CMO and partner at Futurelab. They were recent guests on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Josh Bland, explores a variety of business and technology landscapes through conversations with industry leaders.

In this episode we discuss everything from customer centricity, the customer experience map, and the difference between B2B and B2C customers.

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Below are a few highlights from our conversation:

TechnologyAdvice: What’s the idea and the goal behind focusing on the customer and having that as the centre of your strategy?

Alain Thys: If you look at it, in any company, there’s only one real source of money. That is money that comes out of a customer’s wallet or bank account, and goes into the bank account of the company. Which, if you look at it that way, what you want to do to drive profit is to maximize that amount of money coming in.

Now, when you look at the different ways you can maximize that, you can go and say, “I’ll do a lot of advertising,” or “I’ll give discounts,” or “I’ll do X.” If you actually look at all these various ways, what you find is that the highest amount of customer profitability you can generate actually comes from customers which are really, really happy with your company.

We like to work a lot with a concept called Net Promoter. It looks at the degree in which customers would recommend you. So in other words, it’s beyond satisfaction. Yes, I’m satisfied. That means that you did what I paid you to do. But you did it so well that I would tell all my friends, and family, and everybody else that they should come bring their business to you.

The moment that your customers start doing that, what we actually see is that they become a lot more profitable. On the one hand, because they may bring their friends, but more importantly, because their own spending behaviour changes.

Actually, what we found is that when a company focuses on their customers to a degree that these customers really become advocates, become fans, they will buy more. They will buy more often, and it will increase your customer loyalty programs. They’ll negotiate less, they’ll be easier to service, and a whole bunch of things click into place. Which actually means that they become very profitable customers.

Laurent Bouty: The engagement customers have with brands is really fundamental. In the past, brands were developing or coming up with what the company decided or had to offer. Then companies tried to sell that to the customers.

Today, it doesn’t work quite like that. Brands have to really rework or review the engagement process they have with customers and be sure that they start from their point of view and remove everything that could be toxic from a customer perspective. It’s maybe something that’s difficult for a brand to understand — to start from the customer perspective, and this is key for engagement.

TA: Could you guys speak a little bit to the customer experience map and how important you think that is for a company’s marketing today?

Alain Thys: It’s actually a crucial tool for companies these days if they want to really engage their customers. A lot of customers have basically organized themselves along processes and they build nice internal silos and everything to support these processes. The end result is that none of these people actually have the feeling very often that they work for the end customer. That what they’re doing in some department somewhere, especially if they’re not touching the customer themselves, actually has an impact.

By creating a customer journey map — or whatever you want to call it, you basically create a common language for the business, which marketing can lead. It basically says, “This is what reality looks like for the customer. This is what we need to deliver at every step of our interaction with this customer through every medium. And here is what your role is within the business to actually contribute to that so that every time a customer engages with the business, in every stage of the relationship, everything comes together.”

To make it come together, everybody needs to understand what the end picture should look like. And a customer journey map is actually a very good way of making that visible and actually engaging everybody in the business.

This podcast was created and published by TechnologyAdvice. Interview conducted by Josh Bland.