Managing the customer experience with direct marketing

Direct Marketing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1750-5933

Article publication date: 21 August 2009



Palmer, A. (2009), "Managing the customer experience with direct marketing", Direct Marketing: An International Journal, Vol. 3 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Managing the customer experience with direct marketing

Article Type: Guest editorial From: Direct Marketing: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 3

About the Guest Editor

Adrian PalmerProfessor of Marketing at Swansea University, Wales. Before joining academia, he held management positions within the travel and tourism sector and used this experience as a background to critical examination of many marketing challenges facing service-based businesses, particularly service quality, pricing and customer loyalty. He has acted as consultant for many service organisations within the private and public sectors, providing guidance on segmentation, targeting and customer performance measurement. Current research has focused on the definition, measurement and management of the customer experience. His book Principles of Services Marketing, now in its 5th edition, has become a standard text used on management programmes. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

One of the great strengths of direct marketing has been the copious amounts of data available to marketers to help them improve their targeting and service delivery. But despite the abundance of metrics, there can still be gaps in marketers’ knowledge. Einstein once observed that “the things that can be counted don’t count, but the things that count can’t be counted”. In the latter category, customers’ emotions have emerged in recent years as something crucial to understanding consumer behaviour, but which nevertheless can be very difficult to measure. Emotions have always featured in marketing, but recent interest in the concept of “customer experience” has raised the attention that marketers give to understanding them. As consumers become wealthier, satisfying basic utilitarian needs becomes relatively less important than satisfying higher order hedonistic needs, which closely linked to emotions.

The term “customer experience” has been adopted extensively by practitioners as a new “big idea” in marketing, but critical academic discussion is still quite scarce. Paradoxes in the usage of the term customer experience have appeared, for example, buyer behaviour models have traditionally regarded experience – used as a verb – to describe a process of learning, leading to a learned response, whereas recent usage of experience as a noun emphasises novelty and the lack of a predictable, learned response. By incorporating emotions and recognising perceptual distortion over time, customer experience overcomes many of the problems associated with static, cognitive measures of service delivery.

Despite the apparent appeal of the concept, the unique nature of a customer experience, which is specific to a customer, at a specific time and location, in the context of a specific event, provides challenges for managers to implement the concept for planning and control purposes.

This special issue aims to raise debate about the theory and application of customer experience within the context of direct marketing. The first paper reviews the increasingly complex social media within which direct marketing now operates. For young people especially, communication through social network sites such as Facebook has become a mainstream form of communication, with evidence that messages received through social media are now perceived as being more important and believable than e-mail. The paper analyses the dilemmas companies face in trying to reconcile their desire to dominate communications with their target audiences, and communities’ desires to retain autonomy and members’ control over communication. There have been many spectacular failures where companies have sought to control a community, but resulted in ridicule by the community. However, the paper points to many success stories, and argues that the experience of interaction between a company and the communities it serves is key to successful use of social network media by direct marketers.

The second paper by Kamal Ghose explores the link between brand vision and customer experience. With customers becoming more knowledgeable and moving towards a holistic experience rather than buying products, the quality of customer interaction is becoming the deciding factor in brand creation and customer experience. The paper explores a model to measure the awareness, understanding and commitment of staff to the vision of the service-oriented brand.

The third paper by Avinash Kapoor and Chinmaya Kulshrestha explores the impact of salespersons’ behaviour on motivation, cognition, emotions and consumer response. Their study has implications in terms of not only understanding the mechanisms that underlie selling effectiveness but also the role of consumer psychographics, sales encounter experience and salespersons’ behaviour influencing purchase decision making.

The final paper by Raquel Reis, Caroline Oates, Martina McGuinness and Dominic Elliott focuses on the role of direct marketing at different stages of relationship building within a business to business training context. The observation is made that direct marketing only has a role in developing relationships if the received direct marketing is relevant to customers’ training needs combined with positive perceptions of the past training performance in customers’ minds. These perceptions are linked to quality and satisfaction, customers making an immediate association between the direct marketing source and past training performance.

Adrian PalmerGuest Editor

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