November 2, 2015

CMO Insights: Focusing on a Superior Customer Experience

by Renegade

Todd Merry is the CMO of Delaware North, a gigantic company that you many not have heard of but have probably interacted with. How is that possible?  Well, first here are a couple of key facts–Delaware North is privately held yet has revenues of more than $2.6 billion and has 55,000 employees worldwide.  Those employees work around the globe at venues like the TD Garden, MetLife Stadium and Yosemite while serving a whopping half a billion customers each year.  That’s a lot of customer experiences, experiences that, as it turns out, are not always completely in their control.  Now that’s a tricky challenge, one that requires both vision and pragmatism, two of the essential ingredients to win The CMO Club‘s Customer Experience Award as Todd did this year.  To understand how Todd and the folks at Delaware North accomplished this and more, read on:

Drew: Congrats on winning the Customer Experience Award.  Can you share the kinds of things you did to improve the overall customer experience in 2015?

We have so many different customers in different locations – MetLife Stadium, Yosemite National Park, New Orleans Airport, TD Garden, just to name a few – but the one way in which we focused on improving their experience was through insights, specifically a proprietary program called “Total Listening” which incorporates ongoing communities, social media monitoring and analytics. Through this program we have been able to identify opportunities to improve the experience throughout our interactions with customers.

Drew: How do you measure your customer experience?  How do you know if your customers are having a great experience?

We have in place a comprehensive customer experience/satisfaction program called “GuestPath”. The role of this program is fourfold – to define and codify the standards for all of our industries and geographies, to train our customer-facing personnel to these standards, to anonymously measure these results of these standards three times a year at every location and, finally, to collect, analyze and report customer experiences through an ongoing survey process.

Drew:  A lot of studies suggest that only 1 in 10 unhappy customers will share their complaints with a brand. How do you process customer complaints and make sure that a systemic issue is not overlooked?  

As above we have processes in place and are set up to relay comments to the right place and ensure resolution/followup. But we also agree that few customers, even unhappy customers, will follow your feedback processes. To that end we have employed social media monitoring to scour those channels for any negative feedback and reply to the same. Many more people will take to social media to complain and by using a comprehensive monitoring tool these channels can become your best way to catch unhappy customers.

Drew: Do you have complete control over the customer experience and if not, how do you overcome the responsibility without authority conundrum? 

We don’t have complete control over the customer experience which means two things – we have to exercise the control you have as effectively as possible and, two, we have to have great relationships with our operators who become our last mile to that customer. Thankfully most operators understand the importance of the customer experience, particularly in this hyper-connected world where every customer has an expanded reach and influence.

Drew: What other company do you think is doing an amazing job with CX and why?  

JetBlue. Not only do they seem to have almost real-time monitoring and response on their social channels but they seem to have a very active finger on the pulse of the customer experience. And as one of those customers I know they work hard it – they actively seek my opinions multiple times during a year.

Drew: Looking ahead to 2016, what is the single biggest challenge that you’d like to overcome?  

Getting a better handle on marketing ROI and specifically the attribution to “softer” efforts like customer satisfaction/experience.