Why marketing must be a strong advocate for customer experience

How Amazon lost Remington a customer and why it’s Remington’s fault

This is the story of my customer experience with Remington. I thought long and hard about naming names because I’m not looking to shame anyone. However, because the brand name and its promise are central to the story I decided could not leave it out. In fact you’ll see that I absolutely do not hold Remington’s customer experience team responsible. Nor Amazon’s. 

I’m telling this tale simply because I think that it contains a great lesson for brand and product managers. 

It’s a tale of gaps and the important things that can fall into them.

One man’s journey to the glabrous side 

The first gap in my tale is the one that is growing on my head. With great experience comes, if you are unfortunate, a monk-like gap in a man’s head hair that eventually forces a decision – to look like Ed Harris or copy Stanley Tucci. Vanity is not one of my many flaws, so I wasn’t too bothered about my transition from a Norwood 2 to a Norwood 5, until someone told me that the hairs on my head had become “countable”.  I knew then that the time had come to invoke my inner Statham. 

So, I walked among the shaven-headed and sought their opinions and counsels about a shampoo-free life. I spoke with colleagues. I interrogated friends. I searched the web for “best head shaver 2023” and credulously absorbed the rigorously ‘independent’ reviews. I gathered recommendations. I watched YouTube videos on how to shave your head and noted the razors being used.

After time and soul-searching I committed to being glabrous. The only decision left, I convinced myself was: “what shaver?” I read reviews on Amazon, compared the features of competing models and chose a Remington RX7. 

The significance of a brand promise 

brand promise and customer

This is important to the story. My decision to buy a Remington came down to a number of things – all to do with the brand promise which is, as we’ll see, central to a customer experience. And as you’ll see, like almost all purchase decisions, my purchasing journey was one of eliminations in favour of an already established preference.

  • Remington had a place in my memory.  I remember Victor Kiam loving his Remington so much that he bought the company and promised your money back if you weren’t happy. He sounded like a man that stood behind a brand that stood behind its products. Brand promises matter. 
  • There are many, many brands of head shavers. Most are no-name badge-engineered cheapies. The other two seemingly mainstream options were brands that I’d never heard of before and they had a fair few negative customer experience reviews on Amazon. Brand reputation matters.
  • The design of the two alternative products looked tacky and flimsy with silver and gold trims that only The Donald could love. The Remington, while not entirely Dieter Rams “weniger, aber besser”, looked well designed and much better made. Presentation matters.
  • Remington was mid-priced. There were loads of cheaper options and a few that were more expensive. It didn’t have fancy features or accessories that I was never going to use. It looked like functional value for money. Positioning matters.

The shaves as it turned out were good. Not as close as a wet shave (I’d forgotten that Victor used to promise that too) but close enough. For 4-months the razor performed well. It was as fast as promised. It was close enough to hid my greyness. It was sharp and gave a nick-free shave. It held its charge well and it recharged fast. But that’s where things fell apart and my customer experience began to deteriorate.

On its third recharge, the Remington wouldn’t. It sat there juiceless. I switched sockets, I switched cables (it’s USB), I switched adaptors. I tried combinations. The Remington was stuffed. A quick Google: the batteries are prone to dying; here’s how to replace them. If you can find out which to buy. And where to buy them from.  “Sod that for a game of soldiers”, I thought, “I’ve got better things to do. I’ll send it back for a replacement”. Note: a replacement. I was happy with the shaver. I was ready to accept that it was a one-off dud, a made-on-Friday razor. A replacement would do me fine.

When you don’t deliver the brand promise

Man in a charcoal coloured shirt against a green background is crying on the phone as a result of a poor customer experience

Now, Amazon is a wealthy company for many reasons but to my mind a big reason is that they make it fiendishly hard to work out how to get a refund. Nothing on the home page, on customer support pages, or on My Account pages said anything other than “you are outside our 30-day return period, contact the manufacturer”. 

So I did. I sent an email to Remington UK customer experience team (also not an easy address to find) asking how I could get a replacement. Their reply was a boilerplate email that said in brief: talk to Amazon. They also gave me chapter and verse on why Amazon were liable for resolving the issue and not them. Statute law and all.

Clearly not a problem Remington was going to deal with, but obviously one that they’d seen many times before. OK, that felt like a shoddy customer experience, but back to Google (alway the best way to navigate a large multi-national’s website) and after more searching I finally found out how to “chat” with Amazon customer experience team. Who proceeded to tell me that it I was out of time, that it was Remington’s problem, that I should use the guarantee. After persuading the customer experience rep that it was truly Amazon’s issue, they grudgingly offered a refund. Not a replacement. Had Amazon offered a replacement I’d have taken it. It wasn’t an option.

So did I use the refund to buy another Remington? Or another head shaver? From another seller?No. I had a bad taste in my mouth and a feeling of disappointment. Actually, I was feeling pissed-off and let down. I’d already eliminated the alternatives, so to my mind there were none. There was clearly no reason to trust Remington’s brand promises. I decided to stick with wet shaving which as it turned out is closer, almost as fast and easier and less messy than I’d thought.

You can’t abdicate the customer experience

Hands being washed in soap to indicate that marketing and brand managers cannot wash their hands of customer experience

The whole problem, it seems to me, is that Remington abdicated control over my customer experience to Amazon. You can’t treat Amazon as a retailer. They do not represent your brand in the way that a retailer does. They are a checkout, a point-of-sale, a warehouse, a distribution centre, a logistics provider, a fulfilment operator. 

What Amazon wants is to build their relationship with their customers. They really don’t care about your relationship with their customers. In Amazon’s world, customer experience is satisfying the customer quickly – in this case with a quick delivery, simple return logistics and a lightning-fast refund.

Which has left Remington with a dud shaver, a hacked-off customer and lost profit. 

But it’s also lost far more significant than that.

Had Remington taken ownership, or had they managed my customer experience of their brand via Amazon and ensured I was offered a replacement, they would not have lost their presence on the most important place in the world. 

The shelf between my sink and my mirror 

Bald man standing in front of. mirror contemplating shaving his beard. Its being used as a metaphor for the importance of physical presence in the customer journey.

Their logo would have been in front of me everyday, even when I wasn’t using it. I’d have seen it every time I looked in my shaving mirror. I’d have seen it every time I brushed my teeth. It would have been in my hands every two days, being used and reminding me what a great and clever shopper I was. I’d be thinking Remington is a great company that gives a great customer experience. I’d be remembering old Victor, I’d even be smiling at the fact that it doesn’t shave as close as a wet razor. They’d have had physical presence and ever increasing mental availability. 

Instead I’m congratulating Amazon customer experience on a rapid return and refund.

Now it could be argued – and I’m sure some will – that I could have insisted on a replacement, that Remington and Amazon have negotiated an agreement about how these things are handled, that they have SOPs, processes, targets etc., etc. I’m sure they have and I’m sure they do.

But frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. I’m the customer. I don’t care about their internal issues and agreements.

Losing my religion and a creneau

I’m sure that according to their playbooks, both sets of customer services did the right thing. Except it was totally the wrong thing to do for Remington. My perception now is that Remington has broken their brand promise, they don’t seem to stand behind their product. I now have an empty space instead of what Trout and Reiss called the creneau that Remington had built for themselves. Worse, I have a lack of faith.

I’m sure that Remington’s Amazon relationship team did what they were tasked with and negotiated a great deal. I’m sure that customer experience came up with an efficient way of banging the complaint over to Amazon. I’m certain that logistics manage their part of the cycle really well, and I’m also sure that no-one from PR or brand or product management was asked to take a look. Whoever negotiated the deal with Amazon, wrote the customer experience playbooks and agreed the returns policies and processes clearly did it all in isolation of brand considerations.

I may, one day, be asked what I think of head shavers – this customer experience will be retold. I may one day need to buy a razor as a present. I may one day decide to grow a beard and need a beard trimmer. There are now a few brain cells free in the shaving part of my Amygdala ready to be occupied by Braun or Philips or Whal or Panasonic. 

And the consequences go beyond Remington’s shaver division. My niece may ask for a hair dryer or curling tongs for Christmas. There’s a huge number of options out there and my process of elimination probably will include Remington.

If we build a customer experience made up of gaps, our thinking hasn’t joined up 

Bearded older craftsman standing in front of some silos as a metaphor for not going up thinking about customer experience

In marketing we talk a lot about the customer journey and the funnel but we often forget that large parts of the customer experience are hidden from our eyes. We focus on awareness and forget that the ZMOT / FMOT can be a negative review. We focus on consideration, interest, desire, leads and conversion. We think our job is done with the ring of a till or sale out. We spend time, money and brain power engineering our funnels.

But we don’t extend that funnel into customer experience. Why are we not engaging with the teams that deliver customer experience and frequently influence public relations?

I think it’s because many companies devolve PR strategy to functional teams who create siloed plans that deliver what that team needs to deliver. Sales delivers. Marketing delivers. Brand delivers. Customer experience delivers. Sales channels deliver. Manufacturing delivers. But who is delivering the whole? Who is owning the explicit delivery of the brand promise? Who owns the brand reputation?

So many brand and product marketers abdicate customer experience decisions to sales, logistics and support teams. Why stop short when the customers hits CEP? The brand promise is the brainchild of brand managers, CMOs and product managers. Marketing needs to take ownership for ensuring that it is fulfilled across every touch point. 

We run (or we should run) brand building campaigns across channels. We carefully craft creative and imaginative campaigns based on deep understanding of our customers with finely honed on-point messaging and promises. So why are we not carrying this through to customer experience? 

We’ve learned that the best marketing campaigns are omni-channel. We need to learn that customer experience is also. The customer experience of your brand promise has to be delivered regardless of whether you are selling directly or via retailers or resellers or distributors or fulfilment houses. 

A great customer experience isn’t one that keeps a customer happy. It’s one that keeps a happy customer.

Happy bald man with a beard wearing a grey shirt as a metaphor for a good customer experience

I’m not arguing that customer experience should report to marketing. But I am arguing that brand and product marketing need to insert themselves into every policy decision that touches on the customer experience and brand reputation.

Satisfied customers naturally have a more positive perception of your brand. Conversely, repeated negative experiences tarnish your brand’s image. How a customer experiences your customer service affects your brand and your future sales in a very real way. That’s why marketing must be involved.

I’m not a great believer in brand loyalty in most segments, however I do believe strongly in customer inertia in all segments. Positive customer experiences give customers no incentive to move. Repeated good customer experiences make it harder for customers to change. They deepen the creneau and they create a brand defence. Poor customer experiences on the other hand create a positive reason to move. They motivate customers to seek an alternative. Which makes it a marketing issue.

Customer experience contributes to your overall brand image. If you consistently deliver good customer experiences you will create positive sentiments in the marketplace. Happy customers talk to potential customers and create the best leads that you can get: word-of-mouth recommendations. On the other hand, dissatisfied customers have a detrimental impact on brand perception, potentially writing negative reviews that reduce consideration. Efficient lead generation is a brand issue.

Not every competitor can offer high levels of customer experience. It can be a costly and lengthy process to create a high-performing customer experience team. But the investment is worth it.  Positive customer experience fosters trust in your brand that makes it faster to close repeat sales,  makes cross-sells less susceptible to detailed scrutiny and makes new products introductions successful faster.

Customer experience is brand experience

Remington could so easily have kept me as a customer. It wasn’t incompetence by the customer experience team that lost me. It was the gaps between all of their internal policies, the gap with  their brand strategy and a lack of ownership that caused it. The result was frustrating and disappointing customer experience that ultimately impacted my perception of the brand. Had Remington maintained control over my entire customer experience this would not have happened.   There is a real need for marketing teams to be actively involved in shaping any policies that affect customer experience to ensure that the brand promise is consistently fulfilled across all touchpoints.

If you want to talk about how you can embed your brand promise into all your customer experience touchpoints visit www.vox-publica.com/contact-us

A few FAQs about Customer Experience and Marketing

Man Thinking

Customers no longer rely on adverts, brochures and sales reps to get information about products. Today power has shifted to the buyer. They have access to a huge volume of information including the experiences - both good and bad - of other customers. Case studies are no longer under our control. Any customer can write and publish a review of their customer experience in a few minutes. If we consistently deliver outstanding customer experience we grow advocacy, brand reputation and awareness.

Its important that you aggregate the measurement of customer experience across the customer journey, and not just at specific customer experience touchpoints. Dashboards can help with this especially if they combine the result of surveys from each touchpoint (think in terms of satisfaction with a pre-sales meeting, an onboarding webinar, a success call and so on). Net Promoter Scores (NPS) despite their many flaws can also be good indicators of overall customer experience. Don’t forget that customer experience data can also be derived from sales win / lose /churn analysis as well as from feature requests and support tickets.

Customer experience management involves measuring and monitoring all of your interactions with customers at each customer experience touchpoint and finding ways to improve upon them so that it delivers your brand promise and fulfils your strategy. It requires involvement in every policy in every department that defines how a customer interaction is managed.

  1. Many companies experience a lack of internal understanding of brand promises and strategy. This is sometimes due to lack of co-ordination or it can be due to a deliberate decision by departmental leaders to put departmental targets and objectives first.
  2. Customer’s don’t always engage fully or provide feedback in customer experience surveys of NPS requests. This can mean that data is insufficient or not complete enough to create an accurate picture.
  3. Managing the customer experience through third-party sales channels. It’s difficult to enforce policies through resellers, retailers, fulfilment house etc. The owners of those businesses may be unable or unwilling to comply. Relationship managers may be unwilling to address issues.
  4. Customer experience data is largely qualitative which makes analysis and interpretation difficult and frequently open to challenge. Sentiment analysis, while getting more sophisticated, is still quite subjective and interpretative.
  5. Lack of internal training on the importance of customer experience and how each department needs to deliver it.
  6. Even today it’s not uncommon for customer data to exist in departmental silos or personally held files creating inconsistent and often incoherent narratives about customer experience.
  7. The tools needed to find customer experience data and analyse it are frequently absent from many march stacks. Equally many brand managers and CMOs lack the skills to analyse the data or the understanding to brief data and research teams. 

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