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EVP, Marketing at Specialty Print Communications

Against the Grain

By Dustin LeFebvre

About Dustin

A third-generation printer, Dustin LeFebvre delivers his vision for Specialty Print Communications as EVP, Marketing through strategy, planning and new product development. With a rich background ranging from sales and marketing to operations, quality control and procurement, Dustin takes a wide-angle approach to SPC


Mapping the Customer Journey

Meeting with a major national retailer to discuss its direct marketing strategy, I was introduced to someone with the title, “Chief Experience Officer.” I was super jazzed to work with a client so committed to the customer experience that it:

1. dedicated a C-Level officer exclusively to managing the customer experience, and

2. included that individual in a direct marketing strategy meeting.

The Experience Officer marks the realization that companies are measured on factors well beyond the four P’s of marketing. Forward-thinking, service-oriented companies have long taken this approach.
  • Bellhops at Ritz-Carlton, for example, have the autonomy to comp up to $2,000 in the case of any unsatisfied guest.
  • Nordstrom sales associates famously have enormous latitude to make the customer happy.
  • Meanwhile, years earlier, employees at the late, lamented Marshall Field’s were instructed not to foist sales on uninterested shoppers; the notions of “Give the lady what she wants.” and “The customer is always right.” were early examples of minding the customer experience in a way that added value and competitive advantage.

Printing may not be the exact equivalent of shopping in a department store or staying at a luxury hotel, but customers buying print services will judge a shop by their own customer experience with that printer. They will compare that experience to those they’ve had buying from competitive printers, or any other business service.

Our world of print is hyper-competitive. Supply far outweighs demand, which means that buyers have the power to be very scrutinizing. Setting your company apart is harder than ever.

Price, quality and service are the price of entry, and the smallest of mistakes can weigh heavily in a client’s decision on which supplier to partner with for that next job. Striking the wrong tone in an email, not communicating in the way the client prefers, or countless other “small things” are what determine whether you are a valued partner—or left out in the cold.

A couple years ago, I lead a customer journey mapping exercise at SPC to closely examine the hundreds of touchpoints that can make or break the customer experience. I assembled a cross-functional team that closely examined our customer experience from the awareness phase, through the selection process and beyond.

We walked through the way a project is managed from start to finish, and continued to the phase we called “Encore.” In that phase when one project is complete, an expression of gratitude is appropriate, as is a look forward to ensure there will be a next project.

For two days, we exhaustively examined our processes and the way they affected the customer experience. We were candid with ourselves and team members were encouraged to share stories and examples from other companies and past lives. We labored over small details and split hairs on items that may have seemed trivial...but probably aren’t.

But we also found major speed-bumps in our process. We called them “red triangles,” and we plotted these deficiencies on an eight-foot-long visual map of our customer journey. We analyzed these trouble spots for trends and identified a systemic nature to 85 percent of our red triangles.

By our analysis, our weaknesses at the time revolved around workflow and our technology’s ability to manage information. We took decisive action and added a robust implementation team to alleviate these shortcomings. We worked hard and took great pride when we eliminated red triangles from our journey map.

Of course, businesses are dynamic and new triangles are bound to show up. It is important to detect these issues—through periodic examination of the customer journey—then address them promptly. At SPC, we’ve paired this approach with insight gleaned from annual customer surveys and quarterly business reviews with selected clients.

A friend of mine likes to say that “evolution is hungry.” At SPC—and most probably at your company, too—we’re hungrily evolving. Experience Officers are part of this evolution; they’re here to stay, and we’ll be seeing more of them in our industry, too.

I’ll be speaking this coming Monday, March 13, at the IDEAlliance Technology Conference in Rosemont, IL, if you want to hear more of the story.

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