Rhoan Morgan on "5 Ways To Create a Wow! Customer Experience"

Rhoan Morgan, CEO of DemandLab

Be vulnerable. Brands often shy away from admitting weakness as they want to be viewed by their customers as invincible, unshakable, and unable to be brought down. However, in light of the depth and breadth of what we are facing in the world today, it is time for brands to be honest and transparent in that they, too, are facing new challenges every day and doing their best to rise to them as things continue to evolve with COVID-19.

As part of Authority Magazine's series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, Rhoan Morgan, CEO of DemandLab, was invited to interview with Kristin Marquet. This interview originally appeared on Authority Magazine.

Kristin Marquet: Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Rhoan Morgan: People are often surprised when I tell them my backstory. I’m originally from Portland, Oregon but I’ve lived on three continents and worked in a variety of industries. I actually started off my career in graphic design. Then, transitioning into marketing, I worked with film studios in the ’90s promoting new releases for Disney, MGM, and others. Later in my career, I headed up marketing at a non-profit theatre in Ithaca, New York where I could really contribute to the community (while living in a beautiful and richly creative town). That experience led to an incredible opportunity to lead the marketing and sales teams for an internet service provider in Cameroon that was competing with Orange (out of France) and MTC Group (out of South Africa). I lived and worked in Africa for two years before settling down in Philadelphia and working with a software company before I founded DemandLab.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

At the theatre in Ithaca, my team was responsible for everything from supporting fundraising to advertising the shows and getting ‘butts in seats’. Before the world went digital, we did things like printing and hanging up posters around town. One of the posters we designed advertised a “Public Performance” in large, bold letters. Unfortunately, no one noticed that a key letter “L” was missing from the phrase. Thank goodness this incident happened in a city like Ithaca, where people can chuckle and overlook an innocent faux pas! I am confident that everyone on the marketing team that year learned a hard and fast lesson about the importance of (and some great strategies for!) proofreading — I know I certainly did.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

That’s tough…. It takes a village to raise a company! There are so many people that I’m grateful for that it would be hard to name everyone. Someone who stands out in my mind as an early supporter is Maria Pergolino (who is now CMO at ActiveCampaign). Maria was instrumental in kickstarting the company by referring my first client to me. She was moving into a permanent role at Marketo at the time and had a client that needed to be taken care of, so I’m forever grateful that she had the confidence and trust in me to take over the account. She was major support as we got started and has been a great friend and colleague to work with ever since.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

As a CEO and a marketer, three things come to mind when I think about the business impact of customer experience (CX):

  • Differentiation in a crowded market place = easier sales
  • Retention = increased customer lifetime value
  • Loyalty = customer champions and evangelists

Over the next few years, I see customer experience emerging as a primary differentiator within an overly crowded marketplace. There are a lot of studies out there that say, and I definitely agree, that it’s likely to overtake product and price in many cases as the audience (prospects and customers) become more sophisticated, attuned to what’s possible in customer experience, and have their expectations set by those brands that are creating really exciting and compelling experiences for their audiences. This differentiation will result in greater brand awareness and, in turn, easier conversions, sales conversations, and customer acquisition.

When we at DemandLab think about why we exist for our clients–it’s all about engagement and experience driven by best-in-class technology. But we also recognize that it’s the creativity in the design and deployment of different, thoughtful, and customer-aligned experiences that will create the affinity we’re striving for within our client’s customer base.

As we look at the full customer lifecycle, it doesn’t end at “opportunity won.” Those companies that can deliver a consistent and positive experience for their audiences at each stage will engage them better, convert more, win more, and KEEP more customers.

Retention is a massive focus area that companies need to consider. Do the math: if you can retain 5%, 10%, or even 20% MORE clients this year, what would that translate into in terms of revenues? Also, if a company can do right by their customers once acquired and keep them long term, they are also better serving the entire global marketplace because this means that the costs and efforts are dramatically reduced for companies that have to cover the significant costs of switching providers–sometimes mainly because of emotional decision making. So, delivering a satisfying customer experience can potentially contribute to the health and growth of your customer’s business as well. There’s a positive feedback loop in this.

Finally, loyalty gives companies a powerful and self-propelling means of capturing a bigger share of the market. This is where your advocates are created — those customers that are partnering and evangelizing for you. They become reference customers and referrers and endorse your company and products across online channels.

In addition to retention–what if you could get 5, 10, or 20% of your clients to recommend you to one of their peers? That will only happen when they are having exceptional experiences and feel confident that their recommendation will make them look great too.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

Many surveys and reports show that while the customer experience is high on the list of business priorities, it’s still elusive for many because it’s just not that easy to implement. I look at every high-level business imperative on three main dimensions — people, processes, and systems. These all have to align for truly excellent customer experience. Does the business have the right people with the right skills to deliver a good customer experience? Do they have processes in place to ensure consistency across channels and lines of business? And lastly, does the technology enable the people (and all your customer touchpoints) to deliver great experiences to customers?

We know that the reality of business is much more complex. There are competing needs within a business and we as marketers need to empathize with this. However, the companies that are not yet prioritizing and realizing the business impact of customer experience don’t yet appreciate what we at DemandLab call a marketing-led customer experience and how this can support and drive their business growth.

I am speaking to many CMOs today about the benefits of implementing a marketing-led customer experience throughout their organization. Marketing already has (or should have) access to 360-degree views of customers and that data is invaluable when intelligently integrated into sales, support, and other systems touching the CX.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

As I mentioned earlier, customer experience will likely overtake products and prices. And I believe that competition is a big driver in companies prioritizing customer experience and success. It’s easier than ever to replicate a product or compete on price, but it’s the experience with the product, or with the business behind the product, which makes the difference in a non-commodity marketplace.

Other external factors include things like data privacy regulations and compliance, which require companies to safeguard customer data and empower them to choose where, when, and how to engage with content. We’re no longer operating in an era were opting into communications is the default and marketers get to fill up customer inboxes. Consumer rights and data rights are sculpting our world today in a way that empowers customers more than it did in the past. It’s part of digital marketing growing up.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

One story that stands out in my mind involves a marketing director whose fintech company had been acquired twice in the span of a couple of years. It was a hugely challenging time, but we worked closely with her to manage the evolving brand, changing customer demands (both internal and external), and ensure that the marketing stack was ready to pivot and scale up swiftly.

We were also laser-focused on reporting so that she had the tools to prove the impact marketing had made, including metrics on brand engagement, lead generation, and revenue impact. The content team also helped to prepare decks that showcased the intensive rebranding that marketing coordinated across digital and offline channels. We featured her team in a case study and even helped them win a prestigious industry award.

By going the extra mile, we helped her to earn a seat at the executive table, win recognition for her team, and further her career. She became one of our biggest fans, and someone we work with to this day.

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

After seeing the difference it made when we put a little extra effort into generating some recognition for our client, we started making it an integral part of the service we deliver. We create quarterly or annual presentations that highlight key successes and can be shared with executives and the wider organization. We’re always asking ourselves: how can we make our clients the hero of this story? How can we help them promote the great work they do?

It’s great for our clients, but it’s also great for DemandLab, because this work is in our team’s DNA and it’s why we’re here. We love to see the results, and once you build this kind of relationship with a client, they will be your biggest champion internally as they know you can support growth in so many ways.

Delivering that single “Wow!” experience has opened doors to at least three other companies for us as people have moved on to other opportunities and insisted on bringing DemandLab with them as their agency of choice.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

Be empathetic. This may be the single most important thing marketers can do right now, and the good news is that we’ve been doing it all along. What’s changed is our customer’s state of mind. We may be marketing to the same buyer, but that buyer’s reality today is very different from the reality they inhabited just a few months ago.

Now is the time to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Visualize their world and ensure that every communication that reaches them is calibrated to their new reality. If your customer personas aren’t in apple-pie order, pull them out, revise them, and remind yourself of what’s important to the customer. Project that persona into the current marketplace and circumstances to understand some of the extraordinary pressures your customer may be facing right now.

Be vulnerable. Brands often shy away from admitting weakness as they want to be viewed by their customers as invincible, unshakable, and unable to be brought down. However, in light of the depth and breadth of what we are facing in the world today, it is time for brands to be honest and transparent in that they, too, are facing new challenges every day and doing their best to rise to them as things continue to evolve with COVID-19.

Be authentic. Communication is always a critical aspect of the customer experience but now, more than ever, businesses need to be proactive and transparent. For B2B brands, COVID-19 has already had significant impacts on CX as thousands of in-person events and meetings have been canceled. Brands that previously relied on these interactions as key aspects of their CX are now shifting to virtual events and video conferences. There is no reason for customer satisfaction to be negatively impacted IF brands are transparent and communicate openly and frequently as decisions are made.

Build a high-performing team — and keep them as long as you can. You have to get the right people in place and trust them to do the work. It’s your team that will make your products, services, and company shine, so appreciate their work, grow their skills and experiences, and celebrate your people often.

Invest in marketing research and development. You have to experiment to expand and grow. A few ways to do this include:

1) building out a foundation, including well-defined personas and ideal client profiles which can be translated into data that drives the CRM and other marketing technology as well as sales and service processes;

2) ensuring you have best-practice data and data-management processes in place and are up to date on new regulations and how to use technology to remain compliant;

3) staying on top of new ways to use marketing technology to align and integrate sales and service; and 4) implementing testing in all your programs to enable insight-driven decision making.

Be the visionary. The most successful companies are those with leaders who have a compelling, long-term vision. And in uncertain times, organizations need hope and an optimistic outlook for a return to growth in the near future. Have a communication strategy in place to ensure that every member of the team understands that vision and their role in supporting it. Of course, near-term goals need to be met but everyone in the organization should be driven by the same longer-term goals and excited about how their work contributes to achieving them.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

When creating a really exceptional experience for your customers, give them an easy way to share their delight. Offer them an opportunity to strengthen their personal brand by positioning them as the hero of a marketing success story — perhaps a case study where they are quoted alongside the impressive business results they achieved or a speaking opportunity at a live or virtual event. When you have the customer front and center in all that you do, and you are genuinely focused on their happiness, it will come back to you and your business tenfold with long-term relationships and customers proud to share their experiences with their peers.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I don’t think we need another movement per se. There are already a lot of important, life-changing movements and initiatives to get involved in.

In the end, these movements are rooted in and galvanized by, the people that are powering them. I believe these are the people that can see the world with very open eyes and hearts. As we get older that becomes harder and it takes more courage to sustain. So, we need to figure out how we can foster this from childhood and maintain this as we grow older. In other words, how do we maintain the innate nature of hope, trust, unconditional love, acceptance, and joy that kids have?

I have a daughter who is 10 and am around lots of kids that are still really good at their core. They aren’t judging, they don’t see, or care about, differences among their peers. I wonder what our world would be like if we were teaching and living with more empathy, self reflection, purpose, and a greater value for all of humankind as well as the earth we live on. Would we now live in a healthier, more egalitarian world?

I have to reference a great article I read some time ago from the Huffpost about how people can do the smallest things to change the world. I think it starts with changing ourselves and taking the small steps that lead to big impact. With that, I suppose the movement is asking our neighbors, friends, family, and colleagues to do their part to make this a community, a world, they can be proud to be a part of.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can find and follow me on Twitter at @rhoanmorgan, or connect with me on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/rhoanmorgan/. You can also connect with me on DemandLab at @DemandLab on Twitter and on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/demandlab/.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

About the Author

Rhoan Morgan

Rhoan is DemandLab's CEO and Co-Founder. She is an award-winning digital marketing professional with more than 15 years of expertise and a strong track record of generating results for B2B and B2C marketing and sales teams through advanced integrated marketing automation campaigns. She is also the host of the Revenue Rebels podcast on SLMA Radio and the author of Change Agents: The Radical Role of Tomorrow's CMO.

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