Great Buts Are Killing the Customer Experience

TLDR: Marketing, sales, and support have to unite into a single intelligent customer experience. Practicing intelligent CX means finding touchpoints, connecting them with data, and then passing that data from team to team to improve the entire customer experience.

Companies hate us consumers. I can prove it.

A year ago, I bought a shiny new MacBook Pro.

Apple sold me using slick marketing. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be Apple.

Online checkout was flawless. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be Apple.

And as usual, I had to buy all new adapters to go with it. If I didn’t, it wouldn’t be Apple.

And there my troubles began. I had a simple question: Which adapter would work with my fancy-schmancy 5K monitor? I clicked the “support” link on the relevant product page. Here’s what I saw:



The first trillion-dollar company in history couldn’t manage to link to a relevant support page?

I don’t believe it.

I think someone at Apple sits in an office and does nothing but dream up ways to make existing customers’ lives pure hell. It’s the only reasonable explanation.

Actually, I don’t think Apple hates me. If I did, I wouldn’t bother writing this post. I’m using what’s called the “Narrative Bookends” technique to make a really dry topic somewhat entertaining.

Moving on . . .

Apple Has a “Great, But” (That’s a Bad Thing)

Apple’s awful customer support content created an “it’s great, but” moment: One of those touchpoint disconnects that frustrate consumers.

Even Apple has “it’s great, but” moments–touchpoint disconnects that frustrate consumers. Discover the solution: intelligent CX.

Apple: “It’s great, but their customer support sucks.”

There are lots of examples, and we’ve all experienced them:

  • “That would be great, but I couldn’t find it.” A superb buying experience is followed by fantastic support—for a product no one’s heard of.
  • “It’s great, but I can’t figure it out.” A well-known brand launches a new product via a great buying experience, but the product is complicated and clear documentation is hard to find.
  • “It’s great, but their site was terrible.” A product dominates the marketplace and the brand invested heavily in a great support team, but the buying process is a nightmare.
  • “It sounds great, but it doesn’t exist.” A company pounds you senseless with ads but launches their product two years later (aka the Kickstarter Effect).
  • “It was great, but now I hate them.” After a few weeks, a product breaks and you have to repeatedly provide all your purchase information, the product model, and the problem to the support team.

These disconnects between touchpoints make things difficult for customers and drive them away. Disconnects lead to experiences like mine with Apple.

The Problem

Each customer is a single person. But brands treat them as three because they have three customer-facing functions:

Marketing ensures that customers can find a product or solution when it will offer the most value. “Marketing” is the teams, techniques, and technologies that help customers find your product—for example, messaging, search engine optimization, social media, and inbound.

Sales makes buying easy by answering questions and removing friction from transactions. “Sales” is all the people and tools that convert those who’ve found your product to those who buy it: your shopping cart, sales team, call center, CRO team, and CRM.

Support helps customers use the product once they have it. Most support happens when things are going right, not after things go wrong. “Support” is the humans and resources that create and maintain product usefulness. Customer care, knowledge bases, troubleshooting, training, “how-to,” and user communities are all examples of support.

These functions live in separate boxes. They don’t talk to each other. Each team happily goes about their day, completely ignoring the others.

That creates all those maddening “it’s great, but . . .” moments.

The Solution: Intelligent CX

Intelligent CX connects the three brand functions, making it far easier for customers to find, buy, and enjoy the products and services they want.

Clearlink does Intelligent CX right

Learn More

It’s an approach that connects systems, data, and teams to create a seamless customer experience from one brand touchpoint to the next. It eliminates silos in your business. It creates a system that is stronger than the sum of its parts. It reduces friction, building customer engagement, growing profits, and strengthening brand loyalty.

1: Find Touchpoints

Where does your audience “touch” your brand? They find you. They buy from you. Then they use your product or service. For example:

  • They use a search engine to research solutions to a problem, then find your product, which provides that solution. They buy your product. Then they use it, getting tips and tricks and resolving issues along the way.
  • They see an ad for your service. They pick up the phone, talk to you or your sales team, and decide to buy. Then they talk to you when they have questions. They also talk about you, asking questions in user communities and leaving comments in social media.

These are just examples. There are endless possibilities.

2: Use Data to Connect Touchpoints

Data doesn’t have to be creepy. Data is feedback, whether it’s qualitative or quantitative:

  • A customer’s tone of voice at the end of a support call
  • Site traffic reports
  • Net Promoter Scores
  • Call logs
  • Social media conversations about your product or service
  • Unsolicited reviews
  • Sales

You need to collect that information. If you’ve got the budget, use a fancy data warehouse. If you don’t, a spreadsheet or a text file of notes is just fine, too.

Then look for relationships between touchpoints as indicated by the data. Start with the basics:

  • Connect sales to support. Do customers who buy a specific product always ask the support team the same question?
  • Connect marketing to sales. Do visitors to one article always convert? Do visitors from one ad always bail out of the buying process at the same step?
  • Connect marketing to support. Did support calls fall right after you added a blog post?

These are just examples. Maybe you don’t have the feedback you need to make these exact connections. That’s fine. Make other ones. Collect additional information. Unless you never sell anything, or never talk to customers, or never have anyone see anything about your product anywhere, you’re collecting data. Use it.

Look for relationships between touchpoints and connect your marketing, sales, and support efforts to create better, more intelligent customer experiences.

3: Use Connections to Bridge Silos

Now, derive action from the data. Make a plan and do something.

The “plan” could be a giant, formal, This Is What We Will Do This Year slide deck you show to the board.

But your bosses may not want to make big moves. That’s OK. What matters is that you act.

  • Have sales create a “common questions versus products” report. Then set a monthly revision schedule for product data and transactions information.
  • Ask marketing to show the most-engaged social media posts that ask about features. Then ask the sales team to revise their pitches.
  • Ask the marketing team to provide a list of the most-asked questions in social media and the answers that got liked. Then ask the support team to keep those answers at their fingertips.
  • Add relevant social media questions and answers to customer care data.
  • Ask marketing to add site content answering questions found in social media, in customer care conversations, and during the sales cycle.


A Few Examples

Here’s what intelligent CX looks like:

  • Find. Channel performance data show how customers find you, including the questions they ask and the features they like. You can use that data to guide customer care content and chatbot intents, which improves customers’ buying and product experience.
  • Buy. Checkout behavior and sales call transcripts give you a peek into the buying process, including even more information about the questions they ask. Use that data to inform site content, marketing targeting, and customer care content. You can answer potential customers’ questions further “up” the funnel and target paid marketing at the folks who will most benefit from your product.
  • Use. If you watch how customers who find you certain ways and who buy from you for certain reasons, you can tie that to how they use your product. You anticipate questions, improve care content, and guide customers to the right support team. You can also apply use data to further improve the find and buy experience.

In every case, data collected at each touchpoint gets shared to across marketing, sales, and support. That data improves decision-making for each of those teams. Teams start treating the customer as a single person instead of a finder, buyer, or asker. The customer experience improves.

None of this integration requires that you track individuals. If you can track anonymously and in aggregate (which is a lot easier), you can protect privacy. Not that any of us have any privacy left. But it helps me sleep at night.

One Step at a Time

There are endless possibilities. There are piles of data. It’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Take a breath. You don’t have to do it all at once. Pick one piece of information. See what it offers. Make a plan. Then act on it. Repeat.

Big or small, all of these examples require a data source and an explicit action. None say “look at the data and get back to me.” They all say “look at this particular piece of data, and then do this other thing.”

Follow that formula, and good things will happen.

No More Great Buts

Intelligent CX is now the price of admission. Customers expect a great experience every time they interact with a brand.

Intelligent CX is now the price of admission. Find and connect customer touchpoints–or fall behind your competitors.

Brands creating “great, but” moments—even the mighty Apple—are going to fall behind.

You have all the necessary pieces to implement intelligent CX. Take the time to find touchpoints, collect data, and act on what you see. You’ll have happier customers and a clear competitive advantage.

Or don’t. Your competitors will thank you.

It’s your call.

Learn more about how Clearlink approaches intelligent customer experiences.

Self-promotion: My Engage 2019 keynote talked about intelligent CX. Check it out.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is executive vice president of marketing and founder of Portent, a Clearlink Digital Agency. Portent provides paid and organic search, social media, content, and analytics services to B2B and B2C brands including Patagonia, Princess, Linode, and Tumi. He writes about marketing, search, history, and all things nerdy.


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