Call the holistic practice of engaging customers via the internet WCM, WEM, CEM or CXM – there is essential business change required to really provide a consistently great, cross channel, global customer experience.

I was pondering this today, as a couple of articles popped into my RSS reader on the changing role of the CMO and I thought about how marketers are really reacting to the digital shift – and I thought of this analogy… it’s like the decisions we make about dinner.. or specifically, the decisions I made last month.

In February I have two opportunities to entertain my wife, her birthday and Valentines day – to offer her an engaging experience of Brand Husband.

This year my wife’s birthday fell exactly on Chinese New Year and on a weekend, but early in the day it was clear that a snow storm had made our Chinese restaurant reservations in the city out of the question.

So as it was the weekend, I resolved to make a number of dishes of Chinese food from scratch for the very first time. At best I’m an enthusiastic amateur in the kitchen and this was a significant undertaking; getting the ingredients was a multi-store mission and just prepping one plate (dim sum) took as long as it would take me to cook most meals.

Valentines day however fell on a week day, a typical week day of kids going to school, early morning calls to Europe, email and work deadlines. Valentines is something we celebrate without the kids and normally it’s a baby sitter and a nice evening restaurant.

However, this year circumstances dictated that for me to provide that compelling Brand Husband experience, it was a going to have to be a nice restaurant lunch, wedged between the kids and commitments of the day.

Reflecting on the social data (my wife’s Facebook updates) from these two very different Brand Husband experiences – the needle on the Wife eXperience Index remained firmly at married and prepared to publicly advocate that state.

Splendid.

The decisions I made are the same as how marketers are really reacting to the digital shift…

For the birthday experience I kept all the work in-house; I had a high degree of control over the quality of that experience, the position of the table, the wine and the quality of the food.

I was able to scale the experience to include my children or surprise guests relatively easily within a reasonable budget, it was hugely personalized (the lady wanted Chinese and I overcame the storm), it was differentiated as I’d never cooked Chinese before and something I (theoretically) could consistently replicate.

However, while one segment of my audience was showing very positive in all the ratings, I was unavailable for most of the day, if you tried the “Ian Truscott” services of father, son, colleague, twitter follower or employee during that time, all you would have got was the “fail whale”.

For Valentines, I outsourced the experience; I had to trust and hope we’d get a nice table, that the chef and their supplier was not having an off day, my wife would like something on the menu and that they’d have a decent bottle of red.

If a group of friends turned up, scaling the experience would have put me beyond a ‘meal for two’ budget and I risked that this experience was not really that differentiated.

Plus, looking at my social data (my wife’s Facebook update) was it more about the restaurant or Brand Husband?

Yet, a restaurant chef is a consistently way better cook then me, a decent restaurant is at the very least a pleasant change from our dining table and I was able to converse with my wife while someone else prepared the food.

In fact having a lunch date was far more relaxed as we were out of the normal Valentine fixed menu and crowds and on the same day; work got worked, the children got schooled, tweets got tweeted and the usual Ian Truscott service was maintained.

Along the way I made choices…

I could have maintained a better general service on my wife’s birthday (bought pre-made Chinese food or components of the dishes) at the cost of the value of the experience.

Or I could have gone beyond; really controlled the birthday experience and hunted for the food, made my own fire and beaten a wok out of the basic earth elements.

Or made a Valentines day lunch more differentiated by hiring the whole restaurant at the cost of err.. the cost.

Or I could have been a better employee, ordered a pizza on Valentines day and worked uninterrupted at my laptop – at the expense of, well, lets just say Brand Husband.

Marketers face the challenge of meeting the needs of the customer journey in the same way, having to choose where and how to invest in the experience, we are “building a plane while it’s flying”.

Can you stop the world, forge your own wok, building your own CMS or do you order pizza and have the agency create your landing pages?

It maybe that you can’t knock up a Chinese meal or discern brand sentiment from social data and need external skills.

Choices.

When providing your customer experience, do you hunt and make fire or order pizza?

 

Image of pizza delivery by JoF reproduced under create commons license.