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Cx Warning: Putting Operations First Can Sink YourCustomer-Driven Objectives

Cx Warning: Putting Operations First Can Sink Your Customer-Driven Objectives 

Organizations often become so focused on perfecting their operational capabilities that they lose sight of the broader Cx strategy. This imbalance can lead to a disconnection between what the company is capable of delivering from an operational standpoint and what customers actually want or need in terms of their overall experience with the brand.

Technology has been a crucial tool elevating digital marketing, opening up unprecedented opportunities for engagement and measurement. Social media platforms enable brands to directly interact with customers in real-time, while advanced analytics provides insights into consumer behavior at a granular level. Marketing automation systems have enabled personalized communication at scale. These advancements have not only expanded the marketer's toolkit, but also raised customer expectations for seamless, personalized experiences across all channels.  With the growth of marketing automation and digital marketing comes an increased focus and reliance on Marketing Operations. And rightfully so. Excellence in Marketing Operations is required to leverage marketing automation and digital marketing to build customer relationships, driving larger and larger teams responsible for managing complex martech stacks, ensuring data quality and integration, optimizing workflows, and measuring campaign performance. Tools like Adobe Experience Manager have become central to these operations, allowing for content management across multiple channels and providing a single source of truth for digital assets. This operational excellence has enabled marketers to execute campaigns more efficiently and effectively than ever before.


Cx is a holistic enterprise function

Yet despite these impressive advancements, measurable improvements, and evolution, Operations is not an enterprise strategic area; it’s a critical enabler. Customer Experience (Cx), at least the Cx that most effects customers’ loyalty, is a holistic enterprise function and not limited to the scope a Marketing Operations group manages or a martech solution covers.  Customers decide what is important to them in terms of the experiences they receive, and more often than not, they span or intersect with areas, touchpoints, and channels that fall outside of turnkey capabilities. Cx extends into areas like inventory management, product delivery, and customer support.  Creating a holistic experience that truly resonates with customers is a strategic, enterprise challenge that must be quarterbacked by Cx leadership. An enterprise  Cx leadership team is best suited to tackling Cx challenges like siloed data, disconnected systems, and a lack of a unified customer view across the organization. Cx leadership can see beyond the boundaries, scope and limitations of Operations and Technology, no matter how evolved those capabilities are.  Even with powerful platforms like Adobe Experience Platform, which aims to create a comprehensive customer profile, companies still struggle to translate this data into meaningful, personalized experiences that span the entire customer journey.


Capabilities are important, but avoid the “Tail Wagging the Dog”

Given the tremendous impact of Marketing Operations advancements,  it’s easy to understand why there is confusion over the balance and prioritization of Marketing Operations Excellence and Cx Strategy. Organizations often become so focused on perfecting their operational capabilities that they lose sight of the broader Cx strategy. This imbalance can lead to a disconnection between what the company is capable of delivering from an operational standpoint and what customers actually want or need in terms of their overall experience with the brand.


With significant investments and institutional evolution in Marketing Operations and Marketing Technology, organizations begin to see the operational and executional scope of their capabilities as dictating the horizon or limit of their strategy. This mindset can be limiting, as it focuses on what can be done with existing tools and processes rather than what should be done to meet customer needs and expectations. A retail client used Adobe Campaign and achieved a 20% increase in email open rates. But when we shifted the focus to a more holistic view, one could see how that campaign resulted in downstream negative impacts in certain groups of customers due to over marketing.  By looking broader, we find Cx faults and can address them to improve Cx and increase revenue.  Looking broader demands a view beyond operations tools and capabilities.


Sure, Operations-centric approaches are understandable—it is more comfortable to go with what you can control, and Marketing Tech/Operations provides a finite set of capabilities that lead directly to clear approaches and measurable outcomes. Marketers can easily measure the success of email campaigns, website conversions, or social media engagement. These metrics provide a sense of control and measurable progress, which can be reassuring in the complex world of Cx management.


It is one thing to finely tune Marketing Operations, but organizations must watch out for  "the tail wagging the dog" – seeing Cx as identical/synonymous with Marketing Technologies and Marketing Operations. At the point these tools and channels dictate the limits of a company's customer experience strategy, the organization will not be equipped to harness the power of Cx, will not be able to measure Cx Quality, will miss key growth opportunities, and will fail to address critical customer needs.


Avoiding Cx Confirmation Bias

When companies put Operations first, they often fall prey to Cx Confirmation Bias—seeing initiatives as "successful" but failing to meet customer expectations. This disconnect can occur when organizations rely too heavily on internal metrics and KPIs that don't necessarily align with actual  customer satisfaction or loyalty. Two Examples:


  • A financial services company used Adobe Analytics to track customer interactions on their website and mobile app, observing marked increases in usage of their online loan application feature. The marketing team may see this as evidence of the Cx being successful, but further analysis showed that large numbers of customers still preferred to discuss complex financial products in person or over the phone, revealing a gap in the overall customer experience that was curated by Marketing.  Adjustments to Cx with this knowledge resulted in improved performance.


  • A telecommunications company using Adobe Target for A/B testing and personalization of their website saw a 15% increase in click-through rates on their "Upgrade Now" buttons and considered this a major success. However, looking at post-upgrade customer satisfaction and churn rates revealed that many customers were upgrading but then experiencing issues with new services, leading to increased dissatisfaction, churn and longer-term revenue loss.


Move to Customer-First

The key to avoiding Cx Confirmation Bias and Tail Wagging the Dog faults is moving from an “Execution-First” view of Cx, to a “Customer-First” view that is more holistic, and more akin to what a customer sees. Solving for this requires several key initiatives that pivot the organization from an operations-first to a customer-first mindset. First, strategy must lead capability. This means developing a comprehensive Cx Strategy based on deep customer insights, and then determining how to leverage or expand technological capabilities to support that strategy. Marketing Tech and Operations should always be viewed as key enablers, but not drivers of the Cx strategy.


To truly pivot the culture from Operations-First to Customer-First, organizations need to realign incentives, metrics, and processes around customer outcomes rather than operational efficiencies. This can involve establishing a cross-functional team/task-force that brings together marketing, sales, customer service, and product development to ensure a holistic enterprise approach to Cx. For instance, instead of solely rewarding the Marketing team for increased email engagement rates, companies should also consider metrics that reflect the quality of the overall customer journey, such as Net Promoter Score or Customer Lifetime Value and reward the departments responsible for keeping customers engaged, purchasing, and loyal.


Measure and Manage to Cx Quality

Developing Cx Quality Measures that drive continual improvement is crucial. This involves defining measures of Cx Quality Faults and Cx Behavioral Events that are seen throughout the enterprise and not limited to views inside Martech and Operations. For example, tracking customer effort scores across all touchpoints, measuring first-contact resolution rates, or monitoring social sentiment can provide a more comprehensive view of the customer experience. While Adobe Analytics may provide valuable data on website behavior, companies should complement this with voice-of-customer data, in-store feedback, and other qualitative insights to get a full picture of the customer experience.


Attributing Cx Quality Faults to Cx Behavioral Events is essential to identify cause and effect, which can then be used to define triggers and response scenarios for Cx issues. This might involve using advanced analytics to correlate customer complaints with specific journey stages or touchpoints, allowing for proactive intervention and experience optimization. For example, a Cx team at a retail company that uses Adobe Experience Platform integrated data from their e-commerce site, mobile app, and in-store POS systems analyzed this holistic data set and found that customers who experience shipping delays are more likely to return items and less likely to buy again, leading the Cx team to take proactive measures to implement communication and promotional strategies for customers with delayed orders to shore up the relationship and get that next purchase.


Consequently, companies need to develop a Cx Quality Scorecard to drive continual Cx improvements and additional sales by providing a holistic view of Cx performance across the organization. This scorecard should incorporate both quantitative metrics and qualitative insights, and be regularly reviewed by leadership to guide strategic decisions and resource allocation. While tools like Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target can provide valuable data points for this scorecard, it's crucial to include metrics that go beyond digital touchpoints and reflect the overall Cx with the brand. This initiative is best headed by a Cx leadership team and aided by experts with the knowledge and experience to develop such critical metrics quickly and reliably.


By implementing these initiatives, organizations can break free from the limitations of an operations-first mindset and truly deliver customer-driven experiences that meet and exceed expectations, fostering loyalty and driving business growth. The key is to see capabilities as enablers, freeing the underpinnings of the organization’s Cx Strategy to more closely match what a customer sees and experiences.

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