Delivering a great customer experience is not really a technology challenge any more – Interview with Mark Smith

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Today’s interview is with Mark Smith, President of Kitewheel, which is the world’s only cloud-based Customer Journey Hub designed for innovative agencies and brands looking to move in step with the modern digital consumer. Mark joins me today to talk about the state of the customer journey, the rising amount of attention being placed on retention and what we can learn from a recent piece of research they have released.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – You don’t want to design a customer experience that is akin to getting in the cockpit of an F16 – Interview with Eric Hansen – and is number 236 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Highlights from my conversation with Mark:

  • Kitewheel’s business is centred on helping marketers doing a better job and are in the job of ‘running’ and automating customer journeys for a large number of travel and automotive companies, healthcare providers and retailers so that their customer journeys are more connected.
  • The key here is that many brands have many of the systems and processes already in place and Kitewheel provides the ability to connect all of them with the logic and the automation so that they can achieve a better and more connected customer journey.
  • Kitewheel recently published their The State of the Customer Journey 2017 Report.
  • This is Kitewheel’s fourth annual State of the Customer Journey Report and offers an insight into how global brands and agencies are reaching consumers across a wide variety of digital and physical channels, as well as a number of key industry verticals.
  • Here’s some highlights from the report:
    • Total journey interactions more than tripled between 2015 and 2016, and have more than quadrupled since 2014.
    • Marketers are moving “down the funnel” and prioritizing customer loyalty over topline growth with journey interactions associated with customer growth use cases now making up over 75% of all interactions and this is growing rapidly year on year.
    • Email interactions grew more than 10 times as the channel remains a go-to for personalized (relevant and timely) messages.
    • Social media now makes up only 5% of all customer interactions, down from about 90% in 2014 as marketers invest less in social listening and other customer acquisition tactics but include social media as part of a richer and connected set of customer journeys.
    • The IoT now accounts for about 30% of all journey interactions on the Kitewheel platform.
  • One of the main reasons that the customer’s experience breaks down is when you hear different things from different people in different channels.
  • Despite the shift in attention to loyalty and retention, Mark is not sure that budgets have followed suit yet.
  • Delivering a great customer experience is not really a technology challenge any more but is blocked more by budget and organisational hurdles.
  • Another emerging shift is also happening where a few of the leading brands are now taking their customer journey management in-house as they see it as more than a marketing initiative. Mark expects this trend to increase over time as the main market catch up.
  • Mark provided a couple of examples of brands that are leading the pack:
    • The first was from Gerber, part of the Nestlé group of brands, which focuses on baby food and baby care products. Their challenge was that they wanted to become a trusted advisor to expectant and new mothers in order to expand the brand’s relationship with them from months to years. To do that they built a 2 year, personalized cross-channel journey and that enabled them to increase sales by almost 30%. More details here.
    • The second example comes from Ford in Europe whose challenge was that with consumers spending 75% of their car research time online, they wanted to improve their digital engagement to build and strengthen relationships with their customers. By developing and taking a more joined up approach and linking together their sales messages and activities across channels (display, paid media, email and web), Ford were able to improve their channel performance across the board by getting them to work better together. For example, paid media performance increased 10x, email response rates increased 4x and time spent (engagement) on their website increased 6x. More details here.
  • The big lessons from the research and how to get started are encapsulated in their blog article: How to Get Started with Customer Journeys Without Being Overwhelmed.
  • Overall, Mark recommends that brands start slowly with one or two channels, establish a journey that incorporates these channels, choose which real-time tactics you can employ (i.e. shifting from existing batch email efforts to real time emails), pilot to prove your case and then expand your touchpoints and real-time interactions to grow your capability and further engage your customers.
  • Wow service/experience for Mark is all about giving the customer what they want but, of course, you have to know what they want and be ready for it and that is where data, customer journeys and analytics have a large role to play.
  • Check out Kitewheel here and grab a copy of The State of the Customer Journey 2017 Report here.

About Mark (taken from his Kitewheel bio)

Mark SmithFounded in Boston’s Innovation District in 2013, Kitewheel is the world’s only cloud-based Customer Journey Hub designed for innovative agencies and brands looking to move in step with the modern digital consumer. Our goal is to provide technology that stops shouting at consumers and orchestrates intelligent customer journeys through all stages of their lifecycle.

With over 20 years of global experience in Marketing Applications and Analytical CRM, Mark Smith is a leader in building, growing and managing successful companies. Currently in “innovation mode” as the President of Kitewheel, Mark is focused on helping marketing agencies deliver better consumer engagement through solutions that unify the “logic” layer of today’s customer-facing technology for their large brand clients.

Mark’s journey into customer behavior and experience started early in his career. Shortly after achieving his Ph.D. in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Edinburgh, Mark founded Quadstone – the first data mining company to focus explicitly on the analytics of customer behavior. In the years that followed, Mark moved to Boston to build the US business and oversaw revolutionary analytic progress at clients including T-Mobile, Dell, Merrill Lynch and Fidelity. His leadership role expanded to global sales, marketing and product teams that lead to a series of 3 successful M&A transactions over the last 10 years.

Mark is a regular at industry conferences and events and shares his insights on customer journeys, omni-channel marketing, solutions sales leadership and high-tech marketing.

Finally, Mark is definitely a category 1 soccer dad, he is also an avid skier, walker and football fan. Mark is known for his great sense of humor and making a mean martini.

Find out more about Kitewheel here, grab a copy of The State of the Customer Journey 2017 Report here, say Hi to the folks at Kitewheel and Mark on Twitter @Kitewheel and @MapSmith13 and connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.

 

Thanks to Pixabay for the image.

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