In the latest of a series of predictions on the year ahead, Pete Markey, chief marketing officer at the Post Office, offers up his thoughts on what 2016 will bring and outlines his new year's resolution for the brand.
For me next year more than ever will see the rise of the discerning customer. The rise of a customer committed to finding those brands that make their interactions feel effortless. Customer patience will wear thin.
A key theme for 2016 will be customers looking for experiences to be re-humanised as they seek out brands offering greater personalisation once again. Programmes in many companies of cost costing and improving operating efficiency have been at the expense of human interactions. Customers expect not only friendly and polite service but for interactions that show them you genuinely care. Emotional engagement will become a core value that customers are looking for in choosing brands to interact with.
More and more customers will be seeking ‘human’ experiences to be replicated better and better through the digital environment too, with online journeys that make things easier for customers, use human language and allow them to access human interaction when needed via web chat or video. The challenge for businesses will be how to emotionally engage online and integrate their digital channel into a whole customer experience with the brand. The leaders in customer experience will actively manage customer experiences, ensuring that what their brand stands for is relentlessly delivered consistently across every touch point.
Customers are getting smarter. ‘Knowing your customer’ through data management and insight is going to be even more key in 2016 to delivering customer experiences that meet customer needs, by anticipating those needs. Leading brands will use smart data and analytics to create a personal and emotional connection with their customers. Using customer insight and data to understand how to harness customer experience to drive commercial performance will be a key pillar of success for those companies who want to win commercially next year.
The casualties of poor customer experience linked to weakening commercial performance are evident for all to see (just look at the retail grocery sector). I see this intensifying in the year ahead with customers actively voting with their feet and gravitating to brands on their terms, moving to brands who truly offer frictionless experiences.
Overall, customers will measure brands not on what they ‘say’ they do but on what they actually deliver. This will force more brands to recognise the commercial benefit of being truly customer centric and increasingly brands will compete on customer experience rather than product and price.
I will strive in the year ahead to keep customer front and centre in Post Office as we do more to further enhance and improve our customer experience. I will put customer centre stage with the rest of our brand strategy to ensure we keep focused on the needs of our customers today and tomorrow. Customer service really is the new branding.