As a marketing journalist, Morag Cuddeford-Jones hears the same tune on repeat – how ‘seamless’ companies are making the customer experience and in this issue, this self-confessed “data tart” gives us a view from the real world and its endless forms…

Do you know how eye-swivellingly, pant-wettingly bored I am of filling in forms? How soul-crushingly, fingertip-searingly fed up I am of filling in boxes, choosing from drop-down menus and selecting from a list of addresses? Quite a bit, is how much.

And why am I so irrationally furious with innocuous little webforms? Partly because I have a ridiculously long name that I am beyond bored of typing out, but I can’t blame everything on my sexy hyphen. It’s a toss-up between Google’s laughably inadequate ‘auto-fill’ function and the fact that no matter how many times or ways I speak to a company, they invariably want me to fill in a form ALL OVER AGAIN. Or give my mobile number. Or submit a request. Or …something.

This is made all the more frustrating because, as a marketing journalist, I am told about 10 times a day how seamless companies are making the customer experience. How joyously they are tracking the customer journey, gathering data into their customer data platforms (CDPs – must follow editorial protocol and put in relevant abbreviations even when I’m ranting) and doing all sorts of black arts with artificial intelligence (AI – there I go again).

I mean, is it just me you’re not following around? We’ve already established that I’m a screaming great data tart. And your ads are managing it. Five today for the lampshade I still can’t afford. Way to rub it in, thanks.

Anyway. I think we can all agree that this much-vaunted seamless customer experience is still some way off. And that’s not surprising because pulling together the omnichannel infrastructure that supports it is a lot easier said than done.

For a start, even for data tarts like me, we get surprisingly shy at all sorts of peculiar moments. Can you have my cookies and my social login in exchange for drooling over another lampshade? Yes, yes of course you can. I really, really want to read that article so have all my cookies, ALL of them.  And can we know your location so we can send you the right discount voucher for your most local car garage? NO! Noooo foul stalking fiend, you may not know where I and my precious babies live. Take your useful voucher and bugger off, creep.

Um. I know this is neither logical nor rational but I also know I’m not alone. So that single customer view and unified customer journey – well, it’s a bit of a mess, isn’t it?

What makes it worse is that when it works, it works. Take the Kindle app, for example. I can pick up my phone and start reading on the train. I stop when work rudely interrupts (I mean, really!) and then at lunchtime, pick it up again on my desktop, start again on the way home and finish of a chapter using a tablet at bedtime. No flicking back and forth through virtual pages. And if you really want to blow your mind, try having it read the audiobook version using Alexa and Whispersync. If you’re the sort of person who makes notes in the margin, they’ll be there too, whichever device you pick up.

As consumers, we’ve been introduced to the fancypants cloud. All our photos are stored there along with our music. Actually, on that note, why must you hold all my music for ransom in the cloud, Apple, why? I never remember until I’m too far from decent wifi and then that little cloud symbol just sits there, taunting me with the promise of Wake me up before you go-go, owned but currently unplayable…

But I digress. The point is, customers know it is possible.

Right now, I reckon companies are getting away with all the repeated form-filling and number downloading because they’re all in the same boat. They’re all as crap as each other. But when one busts out and gets their act together, watch out. It’s already happening in banking. Monzo just banked its three millionth customer and it’s only just started advertising on the telly. Once it started doing that, it was putting on 200,000 a month. That’s quite some weight gain. It’s not the telly ads that are suddenly making it attractive. It’s the offering. Everything you ever wanted to know about your bank accounts in one place, bang up to date and easy to get at. The only difference the TV ad has made is that more people know about it.

companies are getting away with all the repeated form-filling and number downloading because they’re all in the same boat. They’re all as crap as each other. But when one busts out and gets their act together, watch out

So when one company in a sector figures out all this omnichannel shenanigans and manages to tell lots of people about it at once, I say watch out, laggards. Your number is up. Unlike mine, which you have forgotten. Again.

If you don’t want to be an omnichannel laggard with someone like me furiously thumping their address into a poorly thought-out webform, take a look at this report from Digital Clarity Group – Omnichannel Success Depends on Knowing Your Customer. You know what? It really does.

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