5 Challenging Questions to Help Close the Customer Experience Gap


There’s often a difference between what value marketers think they’re creating for consumers and what consumers are actually experiencing. How can you close that gap?

Surely, all marketers have good intentions. We don’t commonly do things (at least not for long) that our customers hate. However, there is often a considerable gap between the value marketers think they are creating and the actual experience of customers.

A new report from Econsultancy and IBM defines customer experience (CX) as every interaction between brands and individuals. Where the CX is positive, consumers are loyal, and may even pay a premium for some experiences. Where the CX is negative, there is a risk of social complaints and lower spending.

This gap is wide, and must be having a material effect on bottom line. When asked, 81 percent of consumer brands say they have a working holistic view of their customers, and most marketers were pretty positive about the experience they provide – see the chart below from the study.


Image source.

However, at the same time, only one in three consumers believe that their favorite companies “understand them.” Sadly, consumers don’t feel understood by brands – only 37 percent say their favorite retailer understands them and just 35 percent of consumers say that branded communications are usually relevant. The study found that of those consumers who switched consumer services in the last year, most did so for reasons companies should be able to predict and prevent.

As in many things in life and marketing, acknowledging that there is a problem is half the battle. Despite all the marketing technology and data management tools at our disposal, and the great persona and real-time data-driven marketing we are doing, how can we be sure that our efforts are paying off in valued CX for customers?

Consider these challenging questions:

1. Is Your Marketing About Products, or Outcomes?

Most people engage with brands for some purpose – which is what value the product creates for them, not the product features. Consumers have an enormous amount of control, choice, power, and influence in ensuring every brand interaction helps them achieve their outcomes.

2. Are Your Customers Co-Creating the Experience With You?

Since people have such control, choice, power, and influence today, they use it…and brands have an incredible opportunity to embrace that willing activity and allow co-creation. It doesn’t have to be literally creation of product – although Coke Freestyle and Nike have both done that. It can be as simple as product reviews and loyalty levels.

3. Are Your Software and Apps Keeping Up With Industry Excellence?

No longer does this simply apply to early adopters or the tech-savvy. Amazon and Goggle have set really high bars for customer experience – and that same quality and seamlessness are expected of every brand. Just as the power of content marketing has forced every brand to be a publisher, the ubiquity and portability of mobile applications and digital automation may be forcing every brand to become a software company. Of course, that is not practical for most, so partnership-level relationships with marketing automation, data service platforms, mobile app developers, and CRM vendors are essential today.

4. Can You Always Offer the NBO (Next Best Offer) to Each Customer – in Real Time?

Usability and usefulness are table stakes for every brand. That means our marketing applications must help us understand each customer and not just predict, but communicate in a service-oriented way the next action. Consumers are most engaged when they feel their individual needs and value are understood, so marketers must adopt a discipline for using insights derived from context, behavior, and demographic data to proactively suggest the next step.

5. Can All of Your Teams Effectively Participate in Great CX?

Organization charts mean little to consumers. All too often, the CMO, CRO, and CFO are looking at different data sets to define success against business objectives. These definitions must be aligned, and the large number of hand-offs between departments – sales, service, marketing, product, support – must be managed with the CX in mind. It’s helpful if everyone in every department can answer these questions in a consistent and clear way:

  • Who is our ideal and highest-value customer?
  • How do they like to be treated along their experience journey with us?
  • How can we align all our teams and provide incentives to share in the success of creating that best CX?

How confident are you that your marketing is providing a CX that is actually valued by customers? What other challenging questions do you suggest for all of us to close this wide gap in experience value? Please comment below or start a social conversation with your network.