Agile in the Physical World

Most business interact with customers in both the digital environment (website, social media, digital advertising) and in the physical world (in retail stores, over the telephone, through distribution reps, through outside sales reps).  If you have retail stores, you have to print signage and train retail sales people. If you have a toll free number, whether for service or sales, you have to create scripts and train CSRs and telemarketing staff. If you sell physical products, you need logistics to source and deliver those products in the physical world.

And that’s just looking at the customer interaction challenge from one direction – in addition to delivering customer experiences across both the digital environment and the physical world, you also have to listen and gather feedback and data across both.

This is where Agile gets tough, but it is also reality for many organizations that aspire to Agile.

CMO Council Study

A new study by the CMO Council called “The Responsiveness Requirement: How Agile Marketers Act on Consumer Feedback to Drive Growth” looks at this requirement to implement Agile in the physical world as well as in the digital environment.  Here are some of the key findings:

    • Consumers still want to get physical – although consumers use digital resources like a company’s web site and social media to research products and services, physical world resources like in-store sales representatives, in-store promotions and product packaging are still an important part of the consumer journey.  Here’s the key quote and the supporting data: “physical touchpoints like product packaging and in-store displays are seen as just as important, if not slightly more important, to the success of the overall experience as channels like email, direct mail and mobile apps…three digital channels that actually fail to crack the “Top 10 List” of critical channels”.

CMO Council study

  • Overemphasis on digital and organizational silos are a problem – Marketers find it easier to create, deploy and measure digital marketing, so in many organizations, digital has received the bulk of the attention and most of the recent growth of the budget. But customers don’t distinguish between digital and physical world channels. Customers want consistent experiences and responsiveness across both digital and the physical world.  53 percent of respondents to the CMO Council study admit that alignment across physical and digital touchpoints is an important focus of the customer experience. Organizations also don’t prioritize creating seamless customer experiences across the digital environment and the physical world: 51 percent of respondents feel they lack the budget to implement the systems and tools needed to manage this complexity.  And lastly, most organizations have separate digital and physical teams, making cross-functional collaboration difficult if not impossible. 46 percent say that functional silos across the marketing landscape have separated teams into physical or digital groups, enabling specialization and functional focus but making alignment and cohesion across these channels even more difficult.
  • Customers value responsiveness and marketers aren’t equipped to deliver responsiveness, particularly in the physical world –  52 percent of end consumers in the CMO Council survey said the most important attribute of a brand experience is fast response times to issues, needs, requests and suggestions. Despite the importance that customers place on responsiveness, most marketing organizations admit to being ill-equipped to deliver on that expectation, particularly if responsiveness requires changes in the physical world.

CMO Council Survey 2

 

How to Improve Your Ability to Respond in an Omni-Channel World

What can you do to improve your ability to respond in both the digital and physical worlds? The experts at Danaher Corporation, who sponsored this study, have three recommendations:

  • Corral all the content makers – The consumer sees your organization as one brand, and receiving different messages from different parts of the organization is confusing at best and a show-stopper for sales at worst. To support consistent messaging across digital and physical channels, some companies are gathering all of the content makers into one central customer experience team, with channel experts responsible for distributing the consistent message across digital and physical channels.
  • Connect technologies for real-time transparency – to make responsiveness a reality, you have to be able to gather data from both digital and physical channels and integrate them, present them to decision makers in an integrated and consistent way, and build the capacity to respond across all channels. This is a huge technical and organizational challenge.
  • Simplify the entire value chain – the number of steps and the attention to detail required to deliver a new customer experience is mind boggling.  Every step and every tiny detail is an opportunity for something to go wrong.  Simplify and automate where possible. Use checklists to ensure consistency and quality control. If possible, use fewer tools and tools that integrate well together.  Apply Lean and Total Quality Management (TQM) techniques to marketing and the creation of the customer experience.

I’d add two further recommendations:

  • Identify your most important customer value streams and build permanent, cross-functional teams to improve these customer value streams – For almost any business, customers realize value through a small set of critical customer experiences. For example, one of my clients provides wireless cellular services. The experience of switching wireless carriers (from Verizon to T-Mobile, for example) can either be a nightmare or easy-peasy or somewhere in between. Getting the switching experience right is incredibly important to the business success of a wireless carrier.  That’s why they have permanent, dedicated, cross-functional teams to improve this critical customer value stream. Identify those value streams within your business and build permanent, cross-functional teams to own these customer experiences and constantly improve them.
  • Develop a core competency in real-time responsiveness across digital and physical channels – Last year, Volkswagen struggled to respond across their digital and dealer channels to the revelation that they were cheating on emission tests using a defeat device.  More recently, United showed that they were totally tone deaf in responding to a video showing agents dragging a passenger off of a flight. You don’t have to wait for these kinds of brand damaging events to develop a competency in responding to customer complaints and opportunities across both digital and physical channels.  Make it a priority to develop a core competency in real-time responsiveness.

The CMO Council study can be found here.  I’d recommend reading it and deciding how your organization implements Agile in the physical world.

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