Breaking down silos to create holistic customer experiences

Social media experts will tell you that social is word of mouth marketing (WOMM). Experienced grassroots marketers know better. A meticulously cultivated and well-integrated customer experience forms the foundation of word of mouth success.

A recent study from the Temkin Group shows post-purchase word of mouth feedback will more likely occur via email, phone calls, in-person, or directly to the company rather than social media.

Even better, when it comes to social channels, while Facebook and Twitter rank fourth and sixth as the most likely venues, fifth are social review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.

As marketers we need to focus on complementing the overall, integrated customer experience with a diverse set of grassroots possibilities for the customer to engage.

Customer experiences range through a complex series of touches.

They first hear about a product through a word of mouth referral or an outbound marketing touch. Then it extends to product packaging and the customer’s immediate purchase and after purchase experience. Finally, a complete experience concludes with post-purchase customer service and follow up communications from a brand.

Some of these touches are brand created, some customer initiated, and others are generated by third parties.

To be fair, many traditional different roles in the marketing department touch this user experience:

  • The product marketer engineers the customer experience from design to packaging to front-line marketing initiatives.
  • The classic PR professional serves as an ombudsman between brand and customers.
  • Customer service has an obvious and critical role after the sale.
  • And today’s community manager uses social technologies to directly interface with customers.

Five Guys: A word of mouth phenomenon.

Five Guys
Five Guys burger image by joo0ey

Gini Dietrich and I wrote Marketing in the Round in hopes of fostering better functional integration across the marketing department to help achieve this type of experience. One of my favorite case studies in the book is Five Guys.

Five Guys became the country’s fastest growing fast food chain by focusing on their in-store experience, from the food to the way employees interact with you. This includes dynamic training programs to encourage consistent food experiences and great employee interaction.

Five Guys has built its brand on the reputation it achieved through customer referrals and word of mouth. The media began paying attention, and the high-end burger chain garnered great reviews as it spread out of the Mid-Atlantic.

It’s only in the past couple of years that the company added Twitter and Facebook profiles to extend its grassroots presence. Given the company’s Twitter follower count, some social media experts might consider them a word of mouth failure. Glad they’re not running the company!

But still, the media and social components acted as support mechanisms for Five Guys. This creates a holistic, integrated customer experience.

In most companies, these various customer touchpoints remain siloed. Integration is often never achieved, creating confusing, divergent messages and experiences for customers.

The customer experience touches many parts of the enterprise. It defies siloization and even conventional approaches to breaking down silos. This presents challenges for executives who want to assign a task to a department.

Who owns the experience?

Steve Jobs Eulogized on the Apple Website

The customer experience likely belongs within the CMO’s day-to-day management, but it’s not that easy. Lead executives need to consider their customers, too.

Steve Jobs has become a mercurial icon after death, criticized for his lack of heart and character.

Regardless of the person, Jobs was a fantastic CEO and part of his ability to succeed included delivering an outstanding, comprehensive user experience for Apple customers.

Apple delivers. From word of mouth rumor and product announcement, to packaging and initial product use, to post customer service and follow-up communications. Though some people love the Genius Bar, the post experience may be the one weak area depending on who you talk to and customer service ratings.

It’s no coincidence that Jobs spent time taking customer service calls, listening to complaints and issues. I’m sure these calls gave him direct insight into how customers experienced the Apple brand after the sale.

The entire company needs to be concerned with the customer experience. Without sales and repeat customers, the company does not exist.

Every person could and may touch customers in their daily lives.

Wherever the customer experience lives within a company, that person or persons inform the entire company about how to improve and better itself. Every executive in the company needs to support this group.


About Geoff Livingston

Geoff Livingston is an author, public speaker, and strategist who helps companies and nonprofits develop fantastic marketing programs. He brings people together, virtually and physically to build loyal networks for business, change and higher knowledge. A former journalist, Livingston continues to write, and has authored three books. Most recently he co-authored Marketing in the Round, and wrote the social media primer Welcome to the Fifth Estate.

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  1. Geoff Livingston

    Thank you so much for having me as a guest blogger. Love what you guys do here at Much obliged!


  1. 5 Quick Tips to Smash Silos | Geoff Livingston's Blog - July 17, 2012

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  2. 7 Branded Experience Marketing Tips for Artists and Writers | Geoff Livingston's Blog - August 7, 2012

    […] So, we’ve discussed this a bit, but nevertheless use your branding and marketing messages to promise what you actually deliver. Authentic positioning backed by action resonates well with customers, and drives word of mouth marketing. […]

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