Customer Experience Isn't Marketing

by Jeannie Walters

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Marketers, those experts at telling us what we really want, are now saying customer experience is the new marketing. I’m here to tell you it’s not.

One of the challenges with customer experience, when done well, is how absolutely all-encompassing it is.

So, yes, the marketing your company does is part of the customer experience, but it’s not the only part. And, yes, the better your customer experience is in reality, the easier it will be to market your brand. Your customers will evangelize for you, thanks to a superior customer experience.

customer experience isn't marketingBut marketing is still marketing.

Marketing is taking the idea of what you provide and making it appealing to those who might be in the market to purchase. Customer experience is about the entire journey a customer goes on with your brand.

Customer experience includes points in the journey often overlooked – or ignored – by marketing:

  • Invoices and billing: Your customers might only have this one touchpoint with you regularly. Is it up to snuff?
  • Complaints and customer service: Your customers will have issues. If the process to tell you about them and then resolve them is painful, no amount of marketing can help.
  • After the marketing stops, your customers are onboarded. Is their first experience a good one?
  • Does the mobile experience and online experience serve the customer where they are or is it disjointed?
  • What about the exit? Do you leave them feeling jilted or likely to return?

So, please, for all of our sakes,

please stop saying customer experience is the new marketing.

It’s not. It will help your marketing, but let’s keep the discussion about experience where it belongs – on your customers. Consider the experience as a differentiator, a critical part of your mission, a game changer or even a recruitment tool. But don’t call it marketing.

When confusion sets in and we start believing this type of marketing hocus pocus, we make mistakes like American Airlines did. They called their new logos and paint jobs on their planes a “new customer experience.” Passengers who were routinely disappointed in the actual customer experience flocked to social media to call foul. Then you read quotes like this, from an article in Forbes:

A spokesperson for American said, “The new look, including our new fleet, is a strategic investment that is needed to improve our customers’ overall experience. . .”

No, it’s not. J.D. Power & Associates 2013 released its North America Airline Satisfaction Study and American Airlines was ranked second to last in the traditional airlines category. The last? None other than U.S. Airways, which is expected to finalize a merger with American Airlines later this year. If I were the CEO, I’d start worrying about the experience my customers are having, and quickly. Shiny exteriors and modern logos don’t go very far when you are mistreated or dissatisfied by the time you step foot on the aircraft.

The fact American Airlines fell for their own PR – that marketing and the stuff that goes with it is enough to call the customer experience – shows just how deep this mythology runs in some organizations. Don’t fall for it. Communicate with your market, by all means. But don’t forget to actually deliver on the experience.

This article was written for and a version was first posted on Sensei Blogs.

Image credit: Plymouth Devon via CreativeCommons


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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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