Customer Experience: navigating the battleground between agencies, consultancies and systems integrators

Jon Davie is UK CEO at Zone, the digital marketing agency which counts Coca-Cola GB, Tesco, Barratt Homes and Prostate Cancer UK among its clients. Jon writes a monthly content marketing column for The Drum.

The CX battleground

You may have missed the news in a fug of mince pies and warm Sauvignon Blanc, but last week Oxford Dictionaries officially declared the word of 2017 to be youthquake.

Defined as a significant cultural, political or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people, youthquake beat a raft of perhaps better recognised terms used to describe the political era we’re living through, including Antifa, kompromat and newsjack. (But not, inexplicably, covfefe…)

All of which is a roundabout introduction another phrase that came of age this year – Customer Experience, or CX – defined by good-old Wikipedia as “the product of an interaction between an organisation and a customer over the duration of their relationship.”

Two years ago I wrote a piece on the definition of digital – a word that everyone agrees is so broad as to be meaningless, but still perhaps the best descriptor of what we actually do. But in 2017, a consensus seemed to emerge that CX is the term to describe the new battleground between agencies, consultancies and systems integrators.

Because winning in CX requires a new blend of skills. It requires the scale to deliver enterprise technology, but the creativity to bring brands to life. It requires the input from across the client organisation, touching infrastructure and support functions as much as sales or marketing. It demands alignment between the CMO, the CIO and the CTO – and therefore the guiding hand of the CEO.

And winning at CX is how companies will win in a digital world. CX is the primary way that organisations will seek to differentiate themselves from competitors over the next five years, according to a recent Econsultancy/Adobe Digital Intelligence Briefing – scoring higher than service offering, product innovation, customer service or price.

It’s why we at Zone, after 15 years of proud independence, decided to become part of Cognizant – a global technology consultancy with the scale and capability to help us deliver outstanding CX projects for the world’s biggest companies.

It’s why Accenture Interactive boss Anatoly Royman described the company’s strategy as simply “to become the experience agency of record”, justifying an acquisition spree that has swallowed up ad agencies, design consultancies and production design shops, much to the annoyance of the big ad networks, who traditionally hoovered up independent talent.

In March this year, the IPA published a report entitled The Future of Agencies, in which author Neil Perkins describes the two capabilities required to thrive in a world where CX is king – systems and empathy. Systems describe the platforms and infrastructure needed to deliver CX at scale. Empathy describes the insight and user-centricity required to turn a touchpoint into an experience.

If the 2011 classic Arthur Christmas tells us anything, it’s that systems alone are cold and impersonal. It’s only when we combine the efficiency of machines with the empathy of people that we can build Customer Experiences that convince us to keep believing in a brand.

Jon Davie is chief executive at Zone, a digital agency which sold to IT consultancy Cognizant in October 2017. He tweets at @jondavie

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