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How a United Front Delivers Successful Customer Experience

Tracy Robertson

Tracy Robertson

VP of Global Customer Experience and Marketing at Kimberly-Clark

Tracy Robertson, Andy Clement Kimberly Clark

When your Sales and Marketing teams join forces and work in unison, improving the customer experience becomes a collaborative effort that delivers the results you’re aiming for.

Quartz Network Executive Correspondent Britt Erler sat down with Tracy Robertson, VP of Global Customer Experience and Marketing, and Andy Clement, Chief Customer Officer of Kimberly-Clark Corporation to discuss the importance of department unity when driving successful customer experiences.

Tracy and Andy draw from decades of combined experience at Kimberly-Clark to offer insight into:

  • Defining the Customer Experience (CX)
  • Starting the CX journey
  • Why experience is more important now than ever

Quartz Network: How do you define CX at Kimberly-Clark?

Tracy Robertson: You Google “customer experience” and there’s a million different definitions, but at our organization, we refer to customer experience as a customer’s perspective. All their interactions, both online and offline, with an organization throughout their business relationship.

Andy Clement: To me, it’s simply about making sure our channel partners and our shared end users have the best overall possible experience they can have with Kimberly-Clark Professional.

Quartz Network: Why did you start the CX journey at your organization?

Tracy Robertson: I have to give that credit to someone else. We had a President, her name was Kim Underhill. She was Global President of our division and she’s now the President of North American Consumer. About four or five years ago, she started to look at our organization and look at the industry and what was changing. Not just in our industry, but every industry.

She was seeing that customers are really taking charge of their own buying journey, and wanting to do most of that digitally. She saw that the experience a customer has with an organization was going to become as important as the product or service that they were buying. She was also seeing trends of e-commerce, that in B2B it was going to pace to the tune of $9 trillion.

She started seeing all of those things, and she said, “We’re going to have to really start a transformation, and it’s going to need to be centered around the customer.” She went to the Board of Directors and said, “We’re going to do this, and we’re going to transform our business, so we can be around another 150 years.” That was kind of the shining moment.

Quartz Network: How did you overcome the sales and marketing divide to develop a good, strategic relationship?

Andy Clement: Traditionally, if you think about it, there’s been a handoff between marketing and sales. Marketing always does a great job on the online engagement and the purchase progression. Then it’s handed off to sales who follow up and close the deal. Because of that handoff, it sometimes fumbles, can get a little messy, and I think that generates a lot of the challenges.

Tracy Robertson: I would say there’s an opportunity, and I’m a classically trained marketer, I’ve been in marketing most of my career. There’s an opportunity for marketing to have a better understanding, and maybe even appreciation for the sales profession. It is a tough job, and it’s an evolving job.

The other thing is, as a marketer, I need to understand my customers better. I need to look at sales as a customer. Sales has a very difficult job. I appreciate what they do. As marketers, we need to appreciate the profession, and say they are representing the customer. If you look at it that way, it’s a different dynamic.

Quartz Network: How have you seen customer behavior change during your time as a sales leader and why is experience more important now than ever?

Andy Clement: Things have really moved digital and for selling that’s been happening for the last couple of years. But it’s really accelerated now. Studies show that 80% of the buyer journey is done before a seller even gets involved with that customer. More and more customers don’t even ever want to see a salesperson. And for about 74%, if they do want to see the salesperson, it’s all done digitally.

Additionally, we’ve seen end users changing their buying behavior on which channel partners they want to buy from. Some are very much focused on e-commerce and digital presence, while many others still really want the product expertise that certain channel partners can provide their facility as well. Those are probably the biggest changes.

Quartz Network: Given that change in behavior, what is the future of sales? How will the sales professional’s role change? What will you need from marketing in order to support those changes?

Andy Clement: I think some people think it’s the Death of a Salesman. I don’t believe it’s that at all. I believe sales is just really evolving, like many professions are. Moving more and more, as I said, either full time digital selling or some combination of hybrid selling where 60 to 70% is done digitally and 30% in person.

When we’re having those interactions, we’re really telling our sales people, “Make sure you have your video camera on because the conversion rates with customers is about 94% higher when you’re on video than when you’re not.”

Lastly, sales really needs marketing more than ever in terms of digital assets and demand generation. In the past, most of our leads were self-generated by sales or came from our channel partners. Now, we’ve got to control more of our own destiny and really partner with our brethren.

What is the future of marketing and what will you need from sales to be successful?

Tracy Robertson: Like sales, marketing is evolving too. We’re becoming left and right brain people now. It’s like with tech, it’s no longer just creative and ad spend and social. It’s tech and data and digital. So we’re full brain people now.

I think marketing will really be about the experience and being the advocate for the customer. Now it’s everybody’s job to be the advocate for the customer. But if you think about mobile first, and self-serve, and digital, and the buyer journey – we really must be there. We have to do a lot more heavy lifting, and we have to advocate for the customer. It’s really this marketing as part of the experience, as part of the product. We have to change our language and our mindset from convincing customers to buy to helping them to buy wherever they want.

From our sales professionals it’s about partnership and patience because this space is changing so fast. What was relevant last year is not relevant today. We’re just in constant change mode. That’s where the transparency is key, and working and saying, “Hey, this is new stuff we’re putting in, so we don’t know what we don’t know.” That partnership and co-development is really key.

Quartz Network: In your opinion, who should own CX in an organization?

Andy Clement: Everyone in your organization has their own customer experience. That goes from supply chain to the people that manufacture the product, all the way to the people that sell it. And everyone in between. Most importantly with that is, it’s a mindset to always be thinking about the customer that’s out there.

Tracy Robertson: You do have to have people to help lead it, to drive the change management piece. To Andy’s point, yes, people can own it. Like we’ll carry the flag and help drive the change. But everybody has got to really say, “We’re in this for the customer first.”

Quartz Network: What are some lessons learned you both could share about your CX journey?

Andy Clement: You have to have leadership buy-in at the beginning. When our Global President brought in Tracy and her team, it was very clear to me that this is a really important initiative that we have to drive. Secondly, I would say one thing I’ve learned from Tracy is there’s no quick fixes here. It takes time. You can’t just flip a switch and have the perfect customer experience. It’s a process.

Tracy Robertson: I would say, co-development is the middle layer. Even if you have leadership sponsorship and support, it’s always in the middle layer where things kind of get stuck. Getting in there, and developing, and then objective sharing – like my objective is your objective – so we can win together.

The last one, which I think is really important, is about opting in. There’s certain things that you have to do when you’re on a CX journey and where you go. These things we have to do because, for the organization, and for our customers, these are opted in. Then the other things we can talk about, and decide together, if that makes sense for it.

Quartz Network: From your seat, what is one piece of advice you’d give a marketer?

Tracy Robertson: I would say, empathy at the core. If anything taught us about last year, it’s that empathy is rising. It has to be a differentiator about how we think. That’s for both employees and for customers, and how we design everything. I would also say to look at your sales professionals as your customers. They are representing customers. If you can look at that, and co-develop with them, and have them as your partners, you’re going to go a lot faster in any journey.

Andy Clement: To build on that, I would just say get out and see your customers in action. Don’t take it for granted. Walk a store, see the product being used, talk to a channel partner, ride with a salesperson, which is easier to do now because everything’s digital. Don’t assume that what you read online is exactly always the case with buyers.

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