Customer experience boosts Dentsu – but what is adland’s latest goldmine actually doing for customers?

Dentsu brought up the rear this year among big ad holding companies, following its peers more or less with Q2 organic growth of 8.2%.

Interestingly it chose to highlight its Customer Transformation & Technology division, which grew 22.5% year on year in Q2. CX, as we might as well call it, now makes up about a third of Dentsu’s revenues, more at Dentsu International, Wendy Clark’s new fiefdom.

CX is, indeed, the flavour of the month in marcoms with agencies new and old starting or bolstering their CX operations. Yet has there ever been a time when customer experience – that’s the experience of customers – has been so dire?

Companies from water to energy to airlines to airports have surely never been under as much fire: water bills go up as leaks proliferate, fuel providers rake in billions as fewer people are able to use their cars, Heathrow airport admits it can’t cope with, er, passengers. Previously strong brands like BP and British Airways have joined habitual offenders like Virgin Media and TalkTalk on the naughty step (not that it seems to bother them.)

All these are doubtless coughing up generous fees to consultants and agencies. So what are these consultants and agencies telling them and, if it’s any use, why do their clients ignore them?

The protracted recovery from the pandemic and events like the war in Ukraine clearly don’t help but it’s managers’ job to manage in difficult circumstances and the role of consultants and agencies to speak truth to power: tell them what they’re doing wrong.

But do they? Or do we have a cojones shortfall?

One cause of the trouble – and it’s big trouble, the reputation of many important companies and providers has never been so low – is that clients and their handmaidens confuse CX with cost savings (for them.) Nothing annoys customers more than being unable to speak to a human being when there’s a problem but, increasingly, you get a totally useless and annoying bot that hasn’t been programmed to answer your query. That is, why is my service such rubbish?

This is because it saves the clients money and earns the consultants even more fees, even though it drives customers to distraction.

Is this the best the marketing industry can do? Trash its reputation for short-term savings (and income)?

Anyway, well done Dentsu’s Customer Transformation & Technology division.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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