Accenture: Serving nonstop customer Oct 2012


Published on

Serving the
nonstop customer
By Paul F. Nunes, Olivier Schunck and Robert E. Wollan
A customer’s path to purchase used to be linear.
Now the journey is dynamic, accessible and continuous.
Marketing executives need a new model that can help
them become and remain relevant to their customers
in this uncharted environment.

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Accenture: Serving nonstop customer Oct 2012

  1. 1. This article originally appearedin the 2012, No. 3, issue ofThe journal of high-performance businessMarketingServing thenonstop customerBy Paul F. Nunes, Olivier Schunck and Robert E. WollanA customer’s path to purchase used to be linear.Now the journey is dynamic, accessible and continuous.Marketing executives need a new model that can helpthem become and remain relevant to their customersin this uncharted environment.
  2. 2. Even casual observers of the world of areas of the company understanding commerce know by now: The traditional the new model. Companies must then marketing “funnel”—the model that integrate three guiding principles into described a customer’s path to buying their existing marketing, sales and goods and services as linear, beginning service strategies, and even their product with awareness and ending with purchase development and production efforts. and loyalty—has lost its relevance. It’s too slow, too static and too generic to Excelling in today’s marketplace be used as a foundation for companies’ means leaving the funnel far behind. marketing, sales and service strategies, By shifting to this new model and and as a guide to their execution. executing on the basis of the insights it provides, executives can create But in their efforts to create a new model relevant consumer experiences, capture that better reflects today’s realities, new demand, seize opportunities from scholars, analysts and consultants less agile competitors and find new often miss a key shift in consumer avenues to profitable growth. behavior: Buyers no longer enter a channel. Instead, they are continuously What makes the Nonstop-Customer in the channel. Experience Model unique? Among other things, evaluation, not purchase, As long as they are within arm’s is its focal point. Even after a purchase, length of a smartphone, tablet or customers today frequently reevaluate PC, today’s consumers are able to their decisions, and the alternatives. participate in any and all of the What if I can find a better deal by components of traditional channels at checking just one more place? I know the time and place of their choosing, that the product’s in the mail, but online. They can also move seamlessly is there still time to cancel? As new between various channels and information comes to light, it’s easier components, both online and in than ever for customers to change the physical world. Distinct sales their minds. channels are giving way to a single, all-encompassing model. Ultimately, the Nonstop-Customer Experience Model reflects how the This shift affects business-to-business experience of shopping—a journey for as well as business-to-consumer customers across the many activities relationships, and has strategic in any given channel—has fundamentally implications, not just for such changed in three critical, strategically marketing activities as advertising significant ways. and promotion but also for sales, service and every other function of the channel. The customer’s journey is now dynamic Drawing on decades of client experience and research on consumer behavior Enabled by technology, customers carried out by Accenture as well as can now easily control and vary by leading scholars, and informed by their routes within (and across) careful mapping and consideration channels to suit their needs at any of the most recent trends in customer given moment. Although shoppers behavior, Accenture has developed move through the same fundamental a new model—the Nonstop-Customer stages today, they have replaced their Experience Model—that captures what’s traditional beeline route through the really going on. Successfully interacting funnel with a variety of pathways with and serving customers in today’s that can be direct but more often2Outlook 2012 often bewildering array of channel than not are nonlinear, includingNumber 3 options begins with executives in all loops and switchbacks.
  3. 3. The Accenture Nonstop-Customer Experience ModelIn the traditional marketing funnel, customers follow a linear path to purchase and loyalty, and companies exert a relativelyhigh level of control over the process. The new model shows how technology has changed the way customers interact witha company and its channels. The customer journey is now dynamic, accessible and continuous, with evaluation at the centerand channels that are always on and always at hand.The traditional funnel The Accenture Nonstop-Customer Experience Model Discover Discover Purchase Consider Evaluate Evaluate Purchase Consider Use Use Open content/channels Brand-controlled content/channelsSource: Accenture analysis The customer’s journey store was open late, to purchase it. is now accessible Today, technology—digital, mobile, social—means that such gaps have More content than ever is being put in evaporated. Being exposed to a flux front of customers, much of it beyond of touchpoints that are “always on” any given company’s control. And that means that customers are almost always third-party influence is increasingly moving around the channel. insistent and influential. This content also appears from all sides. It’s anytime There’s a downside to this perpetual and anywhere, and it can come from shopping, however: It’s easy for or through anyone. customers to become trapped in a state of endless evaluation, and At the same time, in this more open unable to make the final decision environment, customers are demanding to buy. Faced with that frustration, greater transparency about how their they may make a knee-jerk purchase own data is being used. Companies will driven by emotion, buy some-thing need to comply with these requests, based on the last piece of information even as they capture customer data and they processed or simply walk away. use it to enhance their own operations. While the journey will change for all customers, different customer The customer’s journey is segments will react with different now continuous behaviors to the dynamic, accessible and continuous environment (see In the not-so-distant past, customers chart, page 6). might have considered a product on a3Outlook 2012 Saturday and then had to wait until How should marketing, sales andNumber 3 the following Thursday, when the service leaders respond? A good
  4. 4. place to begin is by considering Model for insights into what matters where their companies’ current funnel- most, strategically. What high-level based, go-to-market strategies may show characteristics of that new behavior signs of weakness. should become part of a critical foundation in any discussion aboutMany marketing, For example, most traditional marketing developing or refreshing strategy? approaches lack the agility and abilitysales and service to respond quickly to a customer who Begin with evaluation. Evaluationfunctions are broken is on a highly dynamic journey. Sales is all about learning, and so it becomes and service strategies, focusing on increasingly important to understandeven before the such indicators as aggregated customer how customers’ learning experiencescustomer journey churn metrics rather than on individual customer defection risk, may overlook (including what they’re learning, from whom and how actively) affectbegins, married as signs that customers are eager to switch their subsequent impressions and brands. They may also be using a one- actions. (Harvard Business Schoolthey are to a company’s size-fits-most approach, failing to use professor emeritus Chris Argyrisinternal structure the insights they have about individual co-developed the seminal concepts customers to make interactions with those of single- and double-loop learning,and organization customers more relevant and tailored. which are relevant here.)rather than to the Similarly, companies struggle to deal Second, as the model’s design suggests,customer’s uninter- with customers who are accessible companies ought to recognize, on their journey. Many have tweaked explicitly, the two distinct loops inrupted experience. their activities in light of third-party the customer’s experience. These and word-of-mouth influence. But loops meet at the center—evaluation— few are prepared to shine in this and they are ultimately interdependent. environment. They may be missing But companies need to recognize each big opportunities for would-be loyal as a separate branch of the same tree, customers to get engaged or stay and manage each one purposefully. engaged—for example, by enabling them From the customer’s point of view, to participate in shaping idea-generation these two loops connect expectation sites or by “elevating” selected customers and reality. For a company, they to expert-among-peers status as should link promise and delivery. they share their knowledge on forums and blogs. Ultimately, the Nonstop-Customer Experience Model suggests that The continuous journey presents other companies must transform their obstacles. Traditional approaches business activities to serve customers don’t give companies any leverage in newly critical and valuable ways. when it comes to influencing customers Along either loop (expectations or who are predisposed to reevaluate delivery) and on any path, consumers their options again and again, and will increasingly value a company learn from experience. that can improve the quality of the journey in the following three ways. In fact, many marketing, sales and service functions are broken even before the customer journey begins, Follow and guide married as they are to a company’s internal structure and organization When companies are able to follow rather than to the customer’s uninter- customers as they shop, purchase rupted experience. and consume, they’re better able to understand the underlying intentions With these weaknesses exposed, and in each choice the customer makes,4Outlook 2012 understood, a good next step is looking and anticipate (and facilitate) his orNumber 3 to the Nonstop-Customer Experience her next steps.
  5. 5. For example, a company may be a plane ticket, a travel site gets out able to identify the point at which a in front and acts as a guide by customer “drops” the path to purchasing anticipating his or her next move. a specific branded item or service, If a customer is booking a flight, and analyze his or her actions to he or she may also need a hotel and figure out what went wrong, and a car. The site guides the customer, make adjustments accordingly. What providing a full set of options for barrier caused the drop? How might both. This may sound simple, but to the company remove that barrier? be successful, the guidance must be With this purchase under way, what sophisticated, which today means it else might the customer be considering often is dependent on sophisticated but hasn’t yet articulated? customer analytics.An enhanced Following a customer’s choice journey may reveal the answers to those Filter and curateknowledge of how questions and help position the companyquickly or slowly to complete a sale, or move the customer Companies can’t control open content, toward an additional purchase. that tidal wave of information andcustomers shop opinion that continuously breaksfor any given item By following customers closely—and then analyzing their behavior using over the Internet. But they can listen, and they can learn when they canor service will predictive analytics—companies can effectively influence behavior in their also gain a better understanding of the favor. Which external content ishelp companies nuances of pace, and be better able to just “noise”? Which truly attracts aanticipate and position and deliver a brand message customer’s interest? Which content at the point when (and where) it will influences a customer’s behavior?influence customers’ have the greatest influence. When is the customer impatient? What factors By figuring out when open contentnext moves. cause that impatience? What triggers makes a difference, companies can help the desire to reevaluate before purchase? customers filter out the information After purchase? that doesn’t matter as much to them, thus helping them on their journey. An enhanced knowledge of how Again, advanced analytics, such quickly or slowly customers shop for as “sentiment monitoring” or social any given item or service will help media listening, can help companies companies anticipate and influence with this task. customers’ next moves. Home Depot provides a good example Motorcycle Superstore provides an of filtering done well. The company, example of how a company can follow which often teaches customers a customer to its advantage (and the how to use its products, uses “quick customer’s satisfaction). The Medford, response,” or QR, codes to encourage Oregon-based company pays attention customers to access its content-rich to the way customers search for a mobile site. When scanned, the particular product, and adjusts the codes bring up detailed product language on its website to match the information, instructional videos, terminology, including colloquialisms, consumer reviews, product ratings they discover in customer searches. and the ability to purchase the That way, customers find what they are product online. looking for (and what the company is hoping they’ll find) more easily. If filtering narrows the field and improves a customer’s focus, then Online travel-booking companies curating brings other, select products5Outlook 2012 provide a good example of guiding.Number 3 When a customer goes to purchase (Continued on page 7)
  6. 6. Different segments, different behaviorsAll consumers are affected by the increasingly dynamic, accessible and continuous nature of their customer journeys. How theirbehaviors in this new channel environment will change will vary, however, by customer segment. In prior research, Accentureidentified four customer segments that highlight the multiple faces of loyalty. An individual may, over time and across productcategories, fit into any segment or combination of segments. They may, for example, go for the best possible deal with some productsand unthinkingly stick with the tried-and-true with others. They may maintain staunch loyalty with yet other “trusted” products andso on. For executives mapping segments against the Accenture Nonstop-Customer Experience Model, the key is to understand howa customer might behave in the dual loops and how this behavior is likely to create new opportunities as well as challenges to buildand strengthen customer relationships.Select implications of the Accenture Nonstop-Customer Experience Model on customer segments More dynamic More accessible Increasingly continuous Segment Attributes Upside Downside Upside Downside Upside Downside Emotional Strong emotional More Increased time Opportunity Easier Constant Increased loyals bond to primary opportunities spent evaluating for new levels competitor access to contact can brand to reinforce expectations of advocacy/ access to companies increase chances cross- and upsell and whether word-of-mouth traditionally becomes an of a disappointing Do not shop for messages they are being brand building hard-to-reach integral part experience deals satisfied through loyals, and of the brand or wear out Trust and product/ ”evangelist” increased experience enthusiasm service quality are customers awareness of critical drivers non-favorable opinions Inertia-based Stay with brand Customers are More easily Volume of Easier access Can more Become loyals out of habit, driven glad to be guided pulled into noise in the to trusted easily serve more likely by inertia and accelerated the awareness channel can recommendations and maintain to reconsider through the and consideration reduce interest may raise loyalty during brand Brand-loyal, but decision cycle of competitive in looking for interest in impulsive buying satisfaction in can reevaluate offers due to an alternate changing brand/ repurchasing on rare occasions lower barriers solution providers Not very tech-savvy Conditional Aligned with brand More rapid Easier for Easier to sell More likely Likely to seek Harder to loyals “under conditions”; movement to customers solutions to to be affected guidance and close a sale, open to reevalu- buy and use to blend their a portion of by negative curation to as evaluation ation can accelerate purchases this segment’s comments, manage time never feels truly purchasing across a range buying resulting in in channel complete Extend rather of best-in-class their seeking than replace providers alternate brands providers/brands (partial switch) Value for money and trust are critical drivers True deal Most likely More chances More pressure Increased More Can more Harder to chasers to leave; to gain back to lower differentiation competitors and easily enter close a sale, not connected past customers costs; more due to more more “noise” the contest for as there is to brands chances to visible and from impulsive the customer, always the lose at the last transparent customer even late in chance of a Very willing minute after competitor comments the sale better offer to shop around investment in offerings likely in each somewhere and trade off the sale transaction for low prices Attracted by engaging messagingSource: Accenture analysis6Outlook 2012Number 3
  7. 7. (Continued from page 5) for those customers. For example, Cinematch once found that people and services into the customer’s already who like the movie The Patriot and narrowed view. (predictably) Pearl Harbor also like the movies Pay It Forward and I, Robot.Drawing on analytics- True curating takes guiding to the Caution, however. There is a fine line next level. Where guiding simplifies between following and stalking, andbased insights, and speeds the pathways of the between curating and intruding.providers will stay on customer experience, curating helps companies approach trusted advisor JewelMint, a partnership betweentop of the customer’s status. Curating makes the shopping actress Kate Bosworth and stylistevaluation experiences, experience easier for the customer by finding that perfect product or service Cher Coulter, provides another example of effective curating, albeit one thatso they can intervene or by drastically reducing the number markets a single brand. JewelMint works of choices to the few that are most by asking customers a few questions toas needed to counteract likely to serve that customer best. ascertain their style preferences, anda potentially emotional This reduces the time he or she needs then every month presenting each with to travel around in the channel. a tailored selection of jewelry of theor unpredictable company’s own design. Interior designers are curators byreaction to external default, as are the carefully trained Bosworth and Coulter communicatecontent. salespeople found at high-end with potential customers through email department stores. The challenge is messages that blend their personal taking a skill—the ability to assess a opinions with product information. The customer’s needs quickly and to guide two send customer updates regularly that person to the products that are and, when a new “showroom” is ready, right for him or her—that’s often present they send additional information on in isolated, individual sales and service fashion trends or on how each piece associates, and ensuring that it becomes of jewelry might be paired with an a natural part of the way the outfit. To round out their presentation, company interacts with customers. they also send customers special That’s true whether the company is offers and coupons. marketing a single brand or serving as a conduit for many different brands and suppliers. Synchronize and optimize To get curating just right, a company Synchronizing is all about making often needs systematic input from the sure that the customer experience is customer. Netflix’s Queue is a good consistent across marketing, sales and example. By encouraging customers service—that the promise gets delivered, to evaluate their rentals (and making every step of the way. Optimizing it easy to do so), the company follows means making sure that the actual unobtrusively. Then it steps into a customer experience consistently exceeds curator role, considering the customer’s expectations. While technology is reviews as it tailors recommendations, of course a key enabler, the second and encouraging customers to broaden key is data, which links the activities their scope. that make synchronizing and optimizing possible. The Netflix Cinematch feature goes even further. Using advanced The company that successfully analytics, Cinematch builds on what adheres to this guiding principle Netflix learns about its customers’ will act as a single and seamless choices by making sophisticated point of contact, from the moment7Outlook 2012 connections and suggesting new movies a potential customer becomes awareNumber 3 that would not be intuitive choices of a brand through whatever channel
  8. 8. For further reading route the customer chooses, then and their social connections. For through and past the point of purchase, example, through the AmEx “Link, Like,“Shoppers without borders,” no matter whether the journey takes Love” program on Facebook, cardholdersOutlook, No. 3 place online, in a physical store or can connect to a personalized dashboard across both mediums. through which AmEx delivers those“How to make your company think tailored offers. Cardholders chooselike a customer,” Outlook 2012, No. 1: Drawing on analytics-based insights, the deals they would like, and then these providers will stay on top of use their cards normally. Americanoutlook/Pages/outlook-journal- the customer’s evaluation experiences Express then sends statement credits2012-make-company-think-like- so that they can intervene as needed to their cards.customer.aspx to counteract a potentially emotional or unpredictable reaction to external By engaging with customers inFor more related content, content. They will recognize that the this way, American Express subtlyplease visit experience starts long before someone encourages more use of its card, all becomes a customer and continues while building an increasingly massive even after he or she has completed wealth of customer information that a purchase. could lead to even more sophisticated customer outreach and tailored And they will continually (and brutally) offers in the future. scrutinize their own processes, asking questions like these: When do our Zipcar, the car-sharing company customers want to come to a physical that positions itself as an alternative store and when are they better off to traditional car ownership and online? What kind of follow-up is renting, offers another example. The optimal in either scenario? What company synchronizes and optimizes connections between the physical and its customers’ experiences from the virtual shopping experiences would moment they become members at the a customer value? And where are the Zipcar website, which then offers clear, gaps or misfires in our marketing, sales soup-to-nuts directions designed and service activities that are resulting to guide each customer through an or can result in a less-than-excellent optimal journey. experience for customers? Thereafter, members can interact American Express synchronizes and with the company through its website, optimizes its customers’ experiences on Facebook and through a variety through social networking plaforms, of other apps (as well as a traditional including Facebook, Foursquare toll-free number and local offices). and Twitter. One example of how Zipcar synchronizes For example, the company offers and optimizes the customer experience: cardholders automatic discounts on text messages sent to customers a host of items and services based reminding them that the rental deadline on their activities on social media sites. is approaching (and giving them the All the customer has to do is synch his option to extend their reservation, if or her social accounts to AmEx. What’s the car has not already been reserved), more, since offers are extended and thus allowing the customer to avoid redeemed by AmEx, customers need a late fee. not present coupons or deal with rebates; in fact, sales personnel at the store These companies make synchronization where the transactions occur may not look easy, even in customer service even be aware of them. and customer complaint response methods. But there are many more The offers are contained in their card, examples of businesses that stumble8Outlook 2012 managed by AmEx, and tailored badly when it comes to helpingNumber 3 according to the interests of cardholders customers navigate among products,
  9. 9. move back and forth between online About the authors and physical venues, or even complete what ought to be a single transaction. Paul F. Nunes is the executive director of Research at the Accenture Institute for High Performance. He is based in Boston. Funnel-based strategies worked very well in their time. They even continued to work well enough for many companies Olivier Schunck is the Offering for several years after the funnel Development lead for Accenture’s itself had begun to disintegrate. The Marketing Transformation group. He then-strong economy masked cracks is based in Brussels. in the strategies, as did isolated pockets of excellence in marketing, sales and service. Robert E. Wollan is the managing director of Accenture Sales Customer Services. But companies that continue to cling He is based in Minneapolis. to a funnel-based approach today are like people driving cars long after the gas warning light has come on. Their success (if they aren’t already struggling) isn’t sustainable, and in all likelihood, they’ll stall out sooner rather than later. It’s not difficult to recognize the realities of today’s customer experience, as demonstrated in the Nonstop-Outlook is published by Accenture. Customer Experience Model. The challenge is designing a strategyThe views and opinions in this article based on the model, because forshould not be viewed as professionaladvice with respect to your business. most companies, the organizational changes needed to implement such a strategy will more likely be trans-The use herein of trademarks that may formative than incremental. Makingbe owned by others is not an assertionof ownership of such trademarks by the shift will probably require bold,Accenture nor intended to imply an even sweeping, changes. Companiesassociation between Accenture and the will need to hone their analyticallawful owners of such trademarks. abilities; they’ll need f luency in cutting-edge interactive technologies;For more information about Accenture, and, in many cases, they’ll need toplease visit overhaul their operations. But the long-term results, in the form of a company attuned to today’s nonstop customer and with a growing base of loyal buyers, will be worth the effort.Copyright © 2012 AccentureAll rights reserved.Accenture, its logo andHigh Performance Deliveredare trademarks of Accenture.