Why Marketers Should Embrace Customer Experience: Michael Barber

Why Marketers Should Embrace Customer Experience: Michael Barber


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About Michael Barber

Michael Barber is Senior Vice President, Chief Creative Officer at Godfrey. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Forbes. This work has been awarded numerous industry awards, but more importantly has driven successes including the most effective and cost-efficient campaign in the history of a Fortune 500 company, a 160x return on ad spend, and 50 million earned media impressions within the first month of a new product launch.

Michael is one of Marketo’s Fearless 50 which recognizes the top marketers around the globe driving bold, fearless, marketing and digital transformation.

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Why Marketers Should Embrace Customer Experience 

Barber’s newest keynote is called “Bloody Hell Plus Other Marketing Truths via My British Mother.”  He explained that he grew up in a unique household. His mom and dad came from nothing and came from a part of England focused on a blue collar lifestyle. He watched his parents move to the US, start a business, be extremely successful, and live the American Dream. His mom provided him with a unique perspective on how to treat people. His parents used that in their business, and Barber says that he has tried to coalesce those lessons into how he thinks about marketing campaigns, brand development, product design, as well as things like SEO, PPC, display, and email.

Barber added that his parents provided an incredibly rich framework for how to think about how to treat customers and how things should be thought about inside of organizations.

Barber always wants his sessions to be as entertaining as they are informative. He wants people to walk away and be able to remember what they just learned and always thinks about how the audience can truly feel the things he talks about and remember them. To make his talks memorable, he uses examples of his mom and even Beyonce.

The Keynote and Barber’s Mother’s Influence

Barber’s keynote starts out with the exploration of why whis mom became that metaphor. He gives key examples of who she is as an individual and how she lives the American Dream. He then talks about how she is also a typical British woman in that she likes a good drink and provides some life lessons when she has had a few glasses of wine and really show why she is a good perspective. The keynote then moves on to why this is important and why we have to think about customer experience these days. In this part, Barber shares examples of organizations and the missteps they are making.

According to Barber, one of these missteps is putting out ads into the marketplace when those ads don’t resonate with the person. Barber said that there is an ad about making sure that you are ready for summer, and how you have to have your deck ready to go. The company had utilized this ad in the winter when people were not even thinking about summer yet, and this ad targeting just didn’t make sense.

He then provided an example of when you are sitting on an airplane and to get onto the wifi, you have to watch the worst 30 to 60 second ad in your life. After this, you are most likely not going to want to buy anything from that company because that company just wasted a minute of your life making you watch that awful commercial. At this part in his keynote, he really gets at this idea that time is likely the most valuable human asset we have and we are wasting a lot of it. From there, his mom’s lessons become a framework of 5 specific things organizations have to be thinking about when sitting down in boardrooms writing briefs or thinking about customer experiences.

Barber also explained how it is key to understand that experience is not just experience with your brand – it is also the experience of how the customer got there and the experience of their journey to get there and also after.

Customer Experience in the Digital Sphere

In Worthix’s podcast with Joe Pine, Pine said that your customers don’t mind sharing their personal information with you as long as it is being used to help them and that the problem is when companies use this information to draw a big target on your back and constantly target you with remarketing ads. Barber confirmed that this has to do with respecting how companies use the personal information they are provided with on behalf of customers.

Barber said that we can agree that every one of our customers wants a timely targeted and relevant experience and that most marketers are looking at the wrong metrics that drive decision making. For the sake of remarketing, it is very easy for us to say “these are the impressions we got and here is how many people we drove.” The difficult part is knowing what the cost of driving that many people was.

He added that within digital, they are always reaching for an average, but Barber challenges his team and clients to think beyond the averages. He elevates the discussion beyond averages because he said if you are only reaching for averages, then you are also performing in an average way.

Godfrey’s Customer Experience 

Michael Barber also gave us some examples of how he and Godfrey are working towards making Godfrey’s experience above average. He gave us a very tangible example of something very recently both for themselves and for a client.

Barber said that they have challenged a lot of their clients in the past two years to think well beyond just their individualized marketing experience and think about all of the things that help drive marketing metrics and success. He added that for the sake of one particular client, that has been understanding why do the companies that spend 10% more than the average organizations that they deal with spend those dollars with them. They want to know why it is that there is a certain subsection of clients that come to them and often spend more comparatively to the other section of those clients.

Barber and his team have really honed in on this tactic of understanding what are the things (the intangibles and the tangibles) that make those particular types of groups of customers and clients spend more with your organization. Barber stressed that there are often 3 to 6 specific reasons for this and that the challenge for marketers is to understand how to apply those particular insights to the rest of their customers whether that is working with sales, product design, roadmapping of products, or supply and logistics.

When it comes to Godfrey, Barber said that they are terrible at focusing on their own brand and their own marketing efforts, but over the past 6 months they have challenged themselves to do better. He added that the output of this has been a brand new site that just launched, and it was all focused around understanding what their clients and future team members are looking for and how they could combine those two to provide a really good experience since those are the two core audiences that come to their site.

Godfrey did a variety of things such as bringing prospective clients in to do exercises and bringing in potential employees to ask what they would be looking for. They also did user acceptance testing with those groups that allowed for changes as they were going through the testing process with their new website.

Barber and Customer Experience

Although many customer experience professionals tend to separate themselves from marketing, Barber does not, and he told us the reason for this. He said that there are too many times during the day when he puts his hands on his face and asks “why is this happening” as a customer. He added that this has driven him crazy and that he runs up against so many examples of bad customer experience. He said that he wants to make sure that if he is doing something from a marketing perspective that he is not only thinking about what is this driving and why are we doing this, but also about what the impact is before and after the experience.

Wowing Customers and Consistent Experiences

We asked Barber what he thinks is more important – to be constantly wowing your customers and giving them an amazing experience or consistently providing a positive experience. He stressed that the first thing you must focus on is consistency. You should not just randomly surprise along the way if you cannot provide a consistent experience.

Barber said that once you have nailed consistency, then you can surprise and delight. If you don’t provide a consistent experience, and then you surprise and delight, then the customer is just surprised and wondering why they are surprised. He added that surprise and delight is great when the consistency is there it elevates the impression of the organization inside the customer’s head. If you surprise and delight before consistency, you are not elevating, you are simply surprising.

Barber added that Jay Baer has talked about how he doesn’t believe surprise and delight is a good tactic for organizations to use. Barber believes that surprise and delight is often at the detriment of normal customers. It is often for your brand loyalists or the people that spend most money with your organization.

Barber said it is extremely important to figure out how do we not alienate the people that drive a significant part of revenue for the people that drive the most. He stressed that this is a huge challenge that marketers have.

Southwest and Customer Experience 

Barber talked about Southwest being a company that is doing customer experience really well. He said that there are two reasons for this. First of all, they give rewards regardless of what type of individual you are, and also how they go to market the brand through love and leading with empathy.

He added that Southwest has built this idea of empathy into their brand and live it everyday. He provided the example of a woman who was getting married the day after her Southwest flight, and her dress didn’t make the connecting flight. Within 25 minutes, Southwest authorized the team in that city to take that woman and spend up to $10,000 to replace the dress when it didn’t arrive.

Barber commented that these things create very impactful moments for customers and that it is essential to give customers a place where they can tell about those experiences.

The Success of Customer Experience in the Long Run

We talked with Michael Barber about brands providing personalized experiences for their customers and whether or not he believes that companies that provide these personalized experiences and random surprises for their customers can continue to do these things in the long run and continue to be profitable and customer centric at the same time.

Barber said that the only way a company can continue to be customer centric is by having a leader at the top that has a foundational belief that being customer centric is important for their organization and provides success for them. He stressed that it falls down almost every time if your leader does not believe that customer centricity is what creates success for the company.

In addition, he said that we have to understand that every single time a customer sees an elevated experience, they reset their expectations. Therefore, customer experience professionals must understand where the bar is sitting and ensure that they are at least meeting customers’ expectations. Barber added that companies must figure out the metrics that ensure that customer centricity creates profitability.

Voice of Customer Metrics

We asked Barber about voice of customer metrics that companies can use to hear how their customers feel about the experience the company is providing and use that information to improve the way they do business. He said it is about showing that data at different parts of the organization. He explained that at Godfrey they have a single dashboard that shows how customers are doing, how the company is doing from a financial perspective, and how they are focused on products that are impacting their clients whether those are campaigns or improving voice of customer. He said it is essential to get the whole team excited and on board.

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Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond is Chief Marketing Officer at Worthix, the world's first cognitive dialogue technology, and host of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast. Originally a passion project, the podcast runs weekly and features some of the most influential CX thought-leaders, practitioners and academia on challenges, development and the evolution of CX.



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