Marketing Mag: Aligning marketing and IT to achieve optimal customer experience

Marketing Mag: Aligning marketing and IT to achieve optimal customer experience

I was offered an opportunity to speak with Michelle Herbison from about the disconnect between Marketing and IT.   This article originally appeared here:

Never before has it been more important for marketers to understand how to meaningfully use the latest technology, and never before have marketing and IT teams needed to be so aligned. Dave Anderson, senior marketing director Asia-Pacific at application monitoring firm Dynatrace, believes marketers still have a long way to go at collaborating with IT to achieve optimal experiences for their customers. Here he talks to Marketing about his thoughts and advice, including an interesting new paradigm for customer service that the company is already trialling overseas (you have to read to the end to hear about that bit).

Marketing: With technology becoming a more and more important part of marketing, what changes need to be made to the way that marketers work with IT?

Dave Anderson: Technology has changed everything, right? You don’t need to be a genius to figure out that. There’s a proliferation of devices, we don’t necessarily go to the bank anymore, we consume TV whenever we want it via Netflix – so it’s really changed the way how we consume services and also our expectations of how they should be delivered.

Traditionally IT and marketing have been really siloed; you have developers and operations sitting in very separate teams, and I think the realisation now as an organisation is that if you’re going to embrace this digital experience and digital customer service, you’ve all got to work together. It’s everything from developing new code and new features and new websites and applications, and at the same time it’s delivering a superior customer service to the end user and the end user has ridiculous expectations around the performance of that app. We have some statistics: 86% of customers who have a bad first experience on a retail app will never return to that app to give it a second chance. So you’ve got that one impression. We’re all racing at a million miles an hour to get the latest features, the latest functions out – and those first impressions are just so critical.

If you think about these sort of things you understand actually there’s a bit of a challenge trying to align the two teams. IT’s worried about trying to keep the lights on: managing devices and they look at stats like how quickly can they respond to service levels and issues, and are the websites up and available, and they’ve also got the other initiatives around cost reduction and consolidation in cloud. Then on the other hand you’ve got marketing people who are focused on the leads and the conversions and customer retention and customer experience and new platforms and new media. They’re very different.

I think it plays into marketers now having to understand what constitutes what IT’s having to do, and the fact that we can’t necessarily release what we want to release because there are priorities and limited resources. You’ve also got to understand the complexities of even some of the simple things that we take for granted, like being able to check your bank account balance on your mobile. The complex IT chain means it might hit 10 different servers as it makes its way to a mainframe and it works across different networks, and it only takes one little bug in that delivery chain for things to break, and then the customer gets a bad experience. Then as per that previous stat, they may not give it another go.

So it’s having a common understanding of how they work together and give the customer amazing experiences, ensuring we don’t have as many crashes and bugs. We’re starting to see proper collaboration of teams because you need to respond quickly as you see issues and roll out new features. The big movement from the banks to bring their mobile app development in-house instead of having it outsourced. By having them in-house makes it easier to have a common culture, a common goal and understand what the end-customer values are.

M: So that all goes back to having marketing being overarching on top of all this, and getting those tech people on-board with the vision and the mission of marketing? 

DA: Yeah, it’s kind of elevating everyone out of thinking about their own analytics and going back to what the common customer analytics are, and ensuring they have a great user experience.

A simple example is if the app crashes, does marketing see the app crash? Or say a website crashes, do they see whether or not there was an issue? They might only see that we’ve got a reduction in conversions. And they then think, “Maybe I should change the colour of the button on the page from green to blue”, and start going down this whole UX/design path, and maybe spend wasted time when the result could have been something as simple as the website didn’t load as fast as it needed to. A one second reduction in load time improves conversions by 7%. So IT uses Google Analytics, and marketing uses Google Analytics, and you see the big increase or reduction in conversions, we see a big increase in bounces, you need to be able to have that visibility to make the data decision to say, “What was the impact? Why did that happen?”. 

M: Looking into the technical issues side of things, when it comes to website load times, errors in apps, and that kind of stuff, how much are those kind of issues still problematic to a lot of companies?

DA: You probably know from your own experience when you open applications, or even when we go to download applications we look at reviews in app stores, and the bigger, more mature companies who have had more time doing the development have probably better reviews. But it’s not uncommon to go in there and see a lot of bad reviews, and you probably also know from your own experience, jumping onto a website, noticing that it’s loading too slowly, and that time taken you leave the site and so its still definitely prevalent and its still going to happen, because delivery chain is so complex and we’re trying to deliver so much.

I think it’s a problem that is never going to go away, it’s more about how quickly can we respond and how do we minimise it so it doesn’t continue to happen. Because an app crash or bad reviews in app stores or websites going down is a massive brand problem. As marketers, we’ve got to understand what the impact of that is and how we resolve it. The expectations of people are that they expect a website to load within three seconds. Well Australian websites, on average, load in six seconds. So immediately we’re three seconds slower than everyone else. All that’s going to take is for a new Amazon and the likes to open up in Australia and suddenly the bar changes and the expectations are that it’s going to load a lot quicker.

M: It’s a real threat, the fact that overseas competitors are often ahead of Australia in tech. What level of threat do you think Australian local businesses potentially face from overseas companies coming in with their superior technology and taking over the market?

DA: You’ve just got to look at what some of the companies like Netflix have done with the television industry. They’ve supplied a superior service that’s wrapped in technology, that delivers what customers want which is a magnitude of TV shows that we can watch anytime we want and we can see them on any device we want. It’s about understanding that end-customer.

Uber’s another example – they’re disrupting the taxi industry because they provide the convenience for us to open an application in our phones, know when the next service is available, we don’t even have to pull out our credit card to pay for it, it’s fully automated, we see the reviews and the person. They are disrupting industry in ways we probably never thought possible, and that will go across every industry.

Retail is another perfect example. The evidence that we see from some of our monitoring is that the performance of a number of the Australian retailers is not where it should be. The overseas competitors have an opportunity to come in and potentially through improved technology in the same way Uber and Netflix have done to really build larger market share and potentially put other businesses out of business through their offering.

A lot of it comes down to, what are the main things that people want in terms of an online retail site? It’s fast load-time. If it’s a slow load time then people will bounce off the site.

New technologies coming in just reset the expectation of the user, whereas before we might’ve thought it’s fine for the site to load in six seconds. But then Amazon comes along and it loads in two, and all of a sudden you start to think all of these sites are slow. You dont have time to wait four seconds.


M: So I guess the advice is you need to benchmark against the highest level, looking overseas, not just looking within your own industry in your regional market?

DA: That’s right, and that’s a common thing for marketers to do, to use competitive intelligence to understand how they measure up against the competitors. You would do it in your advertising campaigns, you do it in market share reports, I mean it’s a similar example for performance metrics. You need to understand what the digital experience is like and how your experience compares to your competitors’ experience, because if a competitor has a better experience than yours, then people are going to move, and it’s very easy for them to move now, because the services are transparent across an application. With a bank, you don’t deal with people anymore; I can’t remember the last time I went in and spoke to anyone at the bank. Everything is done on a mobile app, and if the mobile apps are all the same, my ability to change from one to the other, whether a retailer, or any of these service industries, it just makes it really easy to change.


M: What’s your advice to marketers and large companies and small companies? How do we tackle all of these issues?

DA: I think some of this comes back to having the data. so the recent report from Adobe that found 78% of marketers in Asia Pacific will see user experience as the most critical differentiator this year. So having that common goal across marketing and IT, to say if it’s about the digital experience, and that’s the single most important thing, because that’s how we interact with our customer, then we have to work out a way to measure that. In some regards, marketing doesn’t understand that it’s possible, and maybe IT doesn’t understand the importance of it. If you have that agreeance then you can work on those common goals. Then you can set your path for prioritising projects to make the experience better, and to minimise the number of issues. Spark is a good example, which is the Telstra of New Zealand. Telcos are a great example, because they’re at the forefront of technology, they’re always having to keep up. You look at Telstra and Optus’ number one core values, and both of them are about customer experience. It’s the single competitive advantage, and you have to understand that from a digital perspective and you have to be able to measure that and that’ll be your key differentiator.

M: Did you have any other points you wanted to mention?

DA: I’ve got another example of how customer service and our expectations are changing. It’s about if you can visually see that someone’s having a bad customer experience, there’s the opportunity to reach out to someone and have a proactive conversation with them instead of reactive. There’s some stats that the telcos in Australia on average will respond to a customer service complaint within three minutes, and other industries are a bit slower. But through our technology, by seeing a digital experience, you can see that if someone has a bad experience, you can identify why, and the potential is there to be able to proactively go to that customer and say to them, “Did you have trouble checking out? Can I help you finish that transaction?” or, “Did your boarding pass just fail to load? Can I re-send that to you on an email?” I think thats the sort of game-changing customer experience that we are yet to come to expect, and marketers probably don’t understand that that’s possible, but it is possible, and there are a couple of customers who are doing those sort of things. Obviously it takes breaking down those silos that we spoke about, and having a single interface where we can all see the analytics, and ensure that you have that strategy, but to me I feel like that’s the single biggest opportunity in marketing and customer service this year and that’s something that we’re quite passionate about.


M: Have you got any examples of brands that are doing that at the moment? who are some of the pioneers?

DA: There’s a bank in India that we work with, and they do that with high-value customers. Those with a certain elite status within that bank, if they have a failed transaction or a failed experience, the customer care team will contact that customer proactively to help resolve that issue. They’ve started on the smaller scale obviously as a pilot test in that elite status but the end goal is to roll that out to more of the organisation.


M: Is anyone in Australia doing it?

DA: No one in Australia yet. There’s a number of customers that have the technology embedded to allow this to happen, but it’s for marketers and the customer care team to understand the strategic advantage of being able to use that sort of information to their benefit. It’s again about, does marketing understand that this is possible? No, not yet. Once they understand that this is possible, they might then see the opportunity.

When I’m trying to book a flight, and the application crashes on me, I’d be ecstatic if my service provider rang me and said, “Were you trying to book this flight? Can I complete the transaction for you?” and even identify that you had the problem and go, “I noticed you came in on a sony Z3 on a certain connection, it looks like the problem, I’ll send it onto the IT team and ensure that that doesn’t happen again but can I fix that transaction” – that kind of brand experience for me would make me very loyal to that particular organisation.


M: Yes, definitely. It’s a very interesting prospect. Maybe more people will start to get on board with these ideas. Awesome, thank you so much.

DA: No problem, thanks for taking the time.