Tips For Mending The Gaps In Consumer Experience

It’s not easy being a consumer-facing brand these days. After years building a company based on one consumer pathway, the mobile, app, email, social, geo-located, connected TV, real-time bargain-hungry consumer is now touching brands in more ways and with more diverse behavior patterns than any company can keep up with. That’s 100 years of organizational design shot to hell.

Most of today’s prominent brands were built from the ground up with departments focused on specific aspects of manufacturing, selling, marketing, merchandising and service. These new consumer journeys require interaction with multiple components of said organization and no doubt, most organizations still don’t even have the most basic cross-discipline integrations set up. Remember when you couldn’t buy something online and return it in store? Wait.  Still? Really?

As companies implement engagement and loyalty strategies and go through the difficult efforts of changing organizations to adapt to the new consumer, there is a single, simple step that should be a precursor to every effort. Think “Mind the Gaps.” A gap is:


1)     Sending out a “We Miss You” email three days after an actual transaction occurs.

2)     Sending a promotional email on a product just purchased, for which no sane person would want two.

3)     Make a post or send an email advertising a deal where a click through takes the consumer to the main brand page, not the deal itself.

4)     Post on Twitter saying, “Hey, mention Facebook in our store and receive 20% off today only!”

5)     Offering new customers a better price than its existing, loyal customers (OK, I won’t go there).

Any of these or several others that we have experienced leaves the consumer scratching their head, and obviously feeling less than loved by the company making these head scratchers. Let’s put this in perspective. Any company has a set of 5-10 touch points by which consumers can interact with the company. Likely points include in-store, email, social, other advertising channels, direct mail, etc. In addition, every touch point has intent. Either the intent is company-driven (I really want this person to open this email and buy something), or the intent is consumer-driven (I really want information about this product or service). These touch-points and intents inevitably cross organization boundaries, which means that systems, data, incentive plans, you name it easily cause these gaps to occur.  Fixing the organization is virtually impossible, because as soon as it is partially fixed for today’s dynamic consumer, we will have tomorrow’s dynamic consumer with a whole new set of technologies and capabilities interacting with us! 

However, we must do something.  Short of becoming a bartender, a simple yet effective process for filling in the biggest gaps is available, and is one that I have seen succeed many times.

Map the Touch Points

Literally draw a picture on a white board where every touch point – that you can think of – is represented. Again, touch points are both outbound (brand-initiated) and inbound (customer initiated). Some may be both. For example, at POS, this is typically customer-initiated, but many have instituted programs that allow for “printing” on the paper or mobile receipt, or a script for your agent to say to the customer to get them to sign up for a loyalty program, for example.

Map the Intent for Each Touch Point

There will be a company-defined intent at each touch point, both in terms of the brand and its consumers. Intents should be simple and well defined. For example “post customer service call email follow up to further engage the customer,” or “return an item.”

Determine the Volumetric(s) at each Touch Point

Find the volume. You know the volume of calls coming in to the call center per time period, just as you know the number of check out transactions at POS. You also know how many emails you send out by type of email, similar with direct mail pieces. You should know the metrics around your brand page (oops, timeline) on Facebook in terms of posts, engagement, etc.

Determine the Value/Opportunity Cost

OK, it gets a bit tricky here as you must determine the value of satisfying an intent (say, a purchase or a return) as well as the opportunity cost of NOT satisfying an intent: not making a sale or losing a customer. Here, averages are fine, e.g. average lifetime value, average order size, average open or click rate, and so on work well.

Find the Biggest Gaps

Finally, do the math to find out a) where the greatest value/opportunity costs are, but also do an analysis to determine how well you are doing at each touch point/intent intersection. This will help clear the air on where the leakage is that is being caused by your organizational structures and policies throughout the dynamic customer journey. You can actually develop quite a good picture of the revenue of a company without knowing it, simply based on customer interactions! It’s a pretty cool way to look at your business.

In this manner, organizations can develop a quick understanding of high priority projects that are causing the greatest dissatisfaction/lost sales today. And some things are easier to fix than others. Figuring out how to move data more quickly is one of the simplest. Figuring out how to hire and train young, seasonal employees with high turnover is decidedly more difficult.

Fix quickly what you can, and move towards fixing longer terms things as you can.  Perhaps by following this, we can all remove 80% of the gaps from key consumer interactions, making the journey both more enjoyable for the consumer and more profitable for the brand.

Bob Fetter is directly responsible for expanding Pluris’ leadership position in media and communications, retail, and other key markets where optimizing marketing spend is becoming critical to consumer marketers. With more than 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, and operations, Bob helps leading marketing organizations implement break through ideas. Most recently, Bob served as Senior Vice President within the database services group of Epsilon. He also served as Chief Marketing Officer at ClientLogic.

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