What’s holding marketers back from delivering the best possible brand experience to their customers? Legacy systems, said Avinash “Avi” Rao, global head at Wipro Digital, the business unit of Wipro that works with clients on their digital transformations.
Rao, who is based in London, spent the past decade helping to build Wipro’s business in the banking industry. (Note: Wipro has a partnership with Adobe, CMO.com’s parent.) Coming from such a service-oriented vertical, Rao understands firsthand why the customer experience is paramount to any successful business transformation.
CMO.com recently had the opportunity to tap into Rao’s insight about a handful of high-level marketing topics, including the importance of “customer journey engineering,” how to drive operational efficiency, and the one fellow C-suiter CMOs should partner with.
CMO.com: What are the three biggest challenges CMOs face today?
Rao: The modern corporation came of age when “slow and steady” worked, from brand development all the way through to technology implementation. Today, organizations live with a “fast and uncertain” reality in which customers expect consistent and relevant experiences at every step of their customer journey.
Meeting customers in this journey is no easy task and requires CMOs to:
• Assemble multidisciplinary teams with expertise in strategy, design, and technology, who are encouraged to test, learn, and fail fast, while unleashing rich and meaningful interactions for their customers.
• Use massive amounts of data to develop insights that shape each and every interaction a customer has with a brand.
• Develop new and agile ways of working not only within the marketing function, but also together with the CIO function and perhaps with outside partners. While the CMO owns the brand experience, he isn’t alone when it comes to delivering that experience. We have seen that it’s often in the final execution and implementation that determines whether it’s a customer for life or causes the customer to switch brands.
CMO.com: Are there any challenges for CMOs specific to the APAC region?
Rao: It really depends where in APAC you’re looking. For example, challenges for CMOs in China are quite different than those in Australia, or for that matter in my home country of India. No matter where you look, though, the challenge for a CMO of a global brand is how to localize the brand and experience for customers while retaining operational efficiencies. Approaches like digital decoupling, digitizing operations, or even end-to-end multiyear digital transformation are required to provide speed and scale for global brands to be relevant locally.
CMO.com: Why is it so difficult for CMOs to drive efficiency in their operations, and also why is this a huge priority right now?
Rao: Legacy systems are handcuffing organizations because they are inflexible, siloed, and designed around analog processes and customer behaviors. When customers expect to move seamlessly across channels–say, from the call center to the Web to their mobile device and maybe even to in-store–the only way to enable that is to have agile, customer-centered processes and platforms and to digitize their operations. Digitizing operations builds efficiency, agility, flexibility, and processes, all designed around today’s customer.
CMO.com: Can you talk about the intersection of the customer journey and operational efficiency? How/why do the two intersect, and what does it mean for the marketing discipline?
Rao: If you think about any journey, in its simplest form it’s a series of steps. In the consumer’s reality, each step can consist of a number of actions, and we know a journey can take the form of many steps. So when an organization peels apart the full journey a customer takes, say, to open a bank account, you uncover a plethora of people, processes, and platforms that make the journey possible. That insight depends on operational efficiency and agile ways of working to deliver a seamless handoff between people, processes, and platforms in each step of the journey. Customers have little patience when the handoff is less than seamless. Getting this right is what we call “customer journey engineering.”
CMO.com: Can you define what it means to deliver a connected consumer experience, and explain why it should be important for marketers?
Rao: There is nothing worse for a customer than a disjointed experience with a brand. If the offers received in an email campaign are not recognized when a customer calls the toll-free number listed in the email, or an in-store clerk can’t match a sale price offered online, or a hotel receptionist doesn’t offer you the loyalty rewards you are promised upon check-in, you risk losing a customer. These are examples of disconnected customer experiences. When you can tie your back-end systems together and connect them to the customer-facing parts of the business, you deliver connected experiences, close the sale, and secure the customer with your brand.
CMO.com: Based on this line of questioning, what is your advice for CMOs?
Rao: First, get away from silos–any form of them, but, in particular, bring together people with an understanding of strategy, design, and technology. Let this multidiscipline group tackle a challenge you have in a channel, product, or market. I bet they’ll come up with a new, innovative, and very successful solution that you can then scale across the business.
Second, partner with your CIO. Hopefully your CIO understands what’s required of him in this age of digital transformation. If not, you’ll need to coach him on the need for analytics, rapid and agile development, leveraging cloud based services, experimenting with open-source apps, and more. He’ll likely want to talk about privacy and data security first, which, of course, is critical. You’ll both be right. Customers want their data secure, but they also want seamless and relevant experiences at every turn.