ROI and the multichannel consumer: measuring customer experience


Earlier this week I wrote a piece referring to Econsultancy's "Multichannel Customer Experience Report". In that post I talked about the challenges and the importance of a consistent cross-channel customer experience in a time where people use various different channels for communication, acquiring information etc. In marketing jargon we use the term multi- or omnichannel customer. And acquiring a 'single view' on this customer is key. In this post I would like to focus on another important theme that is tackled in the report: how do you measure customer experience?

The question regarding the measurement of customer experience is important because the consistent experience is at the very basis and even a centrifugal force of amongst others conversion, loyalty, lead management, brand reputation, trust and so much more. It is the core of cross-channel marketing.

Since the customer experience is multidimensional and interwoven with various marketing objectives and even channels, there is a wide range of possibilities to measure it. Everything depends on the point of view that you take.

The channel-based approach of identifying poor customer experiences

Take e-mail marketing for example: if the customer experience of your e-mail interactions  is not pertinent, this translates in a negative influence on direct parameters like open rates and click rates and on indirect parameters such as unsubscribes and even complaints. Another example is the consistency of the user experience throughout your website and the various funnels you have defined. If the site is not relevant, simple and easy to navigate, this can be seen immediately in your web analytics system: bounces, failing conversion paths, a small percentage of returning visitors, bottlenecks, abandoned shopping carts, etc.
Apart from such traditional online measurement systems you can also use research and surveys to gather immediate feedback regarding the customer experience from the customers in a more direct and insightful way.

Note that, up until now I have discussed examples of specific channels or online presences. However, this post is about the cross-channel customer experience and therefore the global and holistic viewpoint, encompassing all touch points and channels, including social networks, offline and all interactions between companies and their customers, in the broadest sense of the word.

The cross- and multi-channel perspective: the bottom-line and Marketing ROI

From this perspective it seems logical to also measure the customer experience in a cross-channel and holistic way. The question is then obviously what is the ultimate measurement approach to achieve this: the bottom-line (turnover, lead generation, changes in the client base on the level of acquisition, retention and loyalty), Marketing ROI as a way to predict and measure the ROI of your overall activities, starting from every measurable micro-activity?

In practice, CRM, business intelligence etc. are often still not central in a cross-channel course of action. And, especially in business intelligence, we often see a resistance among quite some practitioners to include data from for instance what is often called "new media". CRM specialists fortunately seem to be integrating the social and cross-channel dimension more.

In a way, the fact that CRM does not play a central role in cross-channel marketing is somewhat comprehensible as, like I wrote earlier; many companies are still not successful in offering a holistic customer experience to begin with. Marketing ROI (also called Return On Marketing Investment or ROMI) is not yet used that often either.

Everyone talks about the ROI of social media, e-mail etc. but mostly they do so using the classic definition of ROI and looking at only one medium. Marketing ROI has little to do with this and is a cross-channel and cross-divisional way of being able to predict and measure the ROI (that is not equal to the ROI as we know it from capital investments) of channels, campaigns and marketing programs. A marketing ROI program can even be used for brand related activities but to implement it, many barriers must be overcome and cultural changes implemented. Without cross-divisional cooperation, uniform parameters and a pure customer-centric vision the implementation of ROMI in a company-wide way itself has no chance of succeeding.

Connecting, integrating and finding a common language is inevitable

Yet companies that will want to function in a multi- and cross-channel way (and do we really have a choice?) will have to go through these transformations. Even if they don't embrace ROMI, lifecycle-driven or bottom-line based ways of looking at the global customer experience and thus satisfaction (and thus revenue), connecting all measurement systems and finding a uniform language in doing so, is simply inevitable.

Econsultancy's "Multichannel Customer Experience Report" indicates that companies today use various techniques to measure customer experience. In sequence of importance they are web analytics, feedback of employees that come into contact with the client, online surveys and feedback tools, call centre metrics, focus groups, online buzz monitoring, 'mystery shopping' and more.

It is important to do all of these. But if one looks closely one can see the fragmentation and the "different languages" that each of these techniques use.
A single view on the customer also requires a single view on the customer experience and the bottom-line, additional to all these more fragmented and often channel-focussed tactics (that need to get interconnected as well, think e-mail, CRM and web analytics for instance!).

In the end it all boils down to what I have written thousands of times: it's not about the channels and the media, it's about the customer. And he is everywhere!

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