Lately, we’ve been reading about the need for organisations to prioritise Customer Experience (CX) as a primary focus of their marketing strategies. Back in November, Microsoft Partner Network published an interesting piece outlining the ‘Power of Positive Customer Experience,’ adding to the zeitgeist. But what does this rise of CX actually mean for Microsoft Partners?
We spoke with Barb Levisay, Contributing Editor for Redmond Channel Partner, and writer for Microsoft Partners, to hear her thoughts on CX and how it will impact marketers working at Microsoft Partner companies.
Last year, Microsoft published a blog on the importance of customer experience. What do you think has led to the drive in CX for partners?
Barb: It’s something that needed to happen: I’ve worked with Microsoft partners for 20 years, and for so many years Microsoft was too focused on their technology. They were technologists and they weren’t good at looking at the end game, or the challenges partners had in making these solutions come to life for customers. And that’s what CX is about.
The blog post was good in highlighting the importance of understanding your customer. If partners can’t stand in the shoes of customers and think about the challenges they have, then they cannot develop effective marketing programmes.
The first thing any partner marketer needs to do, is to have a good definition of the ideal customer and what they want to experience. When I’m working with partners, the first question I’ll ask them is: ‘help put me in your customer’s shoes’, and if they can’t do that, then we need to go back to the start. That’s the first step.
Do you find that marketers are doing this? Or they are still at a hurdle getting into the shoes of the customer?
Barb: My advice, especially for new marketers working for a Partner, is it’s more important to get out and interface with customers. I mean it’s something you can’t read about it. Marketers should go out with the sales people on the sales calls, discovery sessions and consulting engagements. It’s incredibly helpful to hear from the customers (face to face is best) to hear their challenges. At least once a month, marketers should be going out to hear the words of their customers, and the Partner organisations should be supporting those connections.
It helps a marketer to get a better understanding of what the experience is, which in turn helps them to build campaigns and an online presence that is meaningful to the customer. I think organisations need to understand that the marketing team needs to be immersed in CX just as much as any other employees.
How do you see CX impacting marketing for Microsoft Partners through the channels that they’re using?
Barb: I think that the actual measurement is the hardest part. As our footprints expand online, we don’t have the feedback and the Maya tool that your firm has built helps to do that. And it’s very good to see that Microsoft is getting behind it, because partners need the feedback, and the tools out there only go so far. As much as organisations may think that they understand customer experience, can they be sure that the words they are using are reflecting search terms the customers are using? When you go online, you lose the dimensions of facial expression and immediate feedback, so tools like Maya are a step in the right direction.
How can Partners measure their customer experience strategy?
Barb: They need to talk with their customers, keeping that two-way communication going. I think that one of the ways is, they need to use feedback from tools like Maya and work with other teams. By having that ‘loop’, these marketers can and should be leading the charge in customer experience and paying attention to all that feedback that comes in. They should then be distilling and translating that information to their consulting and sales teams. The problem is, consultants get so tied up in the technical parts, that they forget about the real impact, and how easy it is to get that information. That’s why marketers should be out front, helping the rest of the organisation to keep CX at the front of everything.
Have you seen a change of marketing managers doing that?
Barb: To a certain degree yes, but not as much as we should have. Far too many marketers are living in a vacuum, kept separate in the office because of expectations of partners, and owners that don’t want or see the benefit of them being out in the field. Marketers still have the challenge of communicating that marketing isn’t just a cost center, but can bring real value to the organization. This is why marketers have got to keep working at communicating the value of the work they’re doing.“
What does the future look like for marketing for Microsoft Partners in relation to CX?
Barb: This is referring to the [Microsoft Partner CX] blog post: Having Microsoft recognise now that CX is what we need to be talking about is a huge step forward. There was a time when Partner marketers had to make it up themselves. All of the campaigns and content coming out of Microsoft were just technology driven and marketers had to translate that into business benefits. Not only is Microsoft releasing tools like MAYA that are more practical, but the content they are creating is much more benefit driven. That support goes a long way to help Marketers stretch the slim resources that they have. The key thing to remember is that CX is about the marketers getting out of the office and stepping into the customer’s shoes. There’s no replacement for that. Don’t think technology, think about how the solution benefits your customer. That’s how the content that matters is created.
We want to thank Barb for her time discussing the importance of CX and the ways that Microsoft Partner marketers can strengthen their strategy to align with Microsoft. If you’re interested in driving CX with your marketing strategy and getting in the shoes of your customers, why not try Maya, the digital benchmarking tools for Microsoft Partners.
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