In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing, many of whom you can read about in Drew's new book, The CMO's Periodic Table: A Renegade's Guide to Marketing. For Drew's complete interview with CMO Award Winner Todd Merry, click here.
Imagine you're at a major sports arena, or enjoying the great outdoors at a national park or savoring a few moments of relaxation before a connecting flight. Your focus is likely on the team, the mountains or your seating assignment, but behind the scenes is an operation that requires careful choreography and periodic readjustments to keep the audience delighted. Delaware North is one such operation, a leader in hospitality and food experiences for venues like TD Garden, the MetLife Stadium and Yosemite National Park. Following this year's CMO Club Awards, I had the opportunity to catch up with CMO Todd Merry, recipient of a prestigious Customer Experience Award, who offered the following insights on how he and his company offer world-class service to some of the world's most diverse crowds.
More of the good stuff
Now, let me first say that receiving The CMO Club's Customer Experience Award speaks to some impressive leadership in that area. Take a survey of the other CMOs awarded this year, and you'll find that many of their companies also expertly shape the customer experience into something remarkable. So what makes Delaware North, under Todd Merry, stand out this year? Merry tells me that his company upped the ante on the customer experience, even across its disparate venues, thanks to the help of a program called "Total Listening". More than the mere collection of data, this proprietary insights program incorporates ongoing communities, social media monitoring and analytics to help Merry and his department spot potential areas for development. "Through this program, we have been able to identify opportunities to improve the experience throughout our interactions with customers," he says.
Taking the room's temperature...
Marketers love to tell a good story, but when it comes to impacting the customer experience, more important is our ability not to speak, but to hear. Collecting data and measuring customer satisfaction is a comprehensive process at Delaware North, Merry tells me. For this, the company employs "GuestPath", a customer experience program with four goals. First, to unify standards across the various industries and geographies that Delaware North serves. Second, says Merry, to help familiarize customer-facing employees with these standards. Third, "to anonymously measure these results of these standards three times a year at every location and, finally," he says, "to collect, analyze and report customer experiences through an ongoing survey process". In short, unifying the customer experience and then gathering feedback help the company adjust and improve on an ongoing basis, even in real-time. "We have processes in place and are set up to relay comments to the right place and ensure resolution and follow-up".
...and then taking it again.
Merry acknowledges that even with a thorough system in place for monitoring satisfaction, not every customer with a strong opinion will want to play by the rules. To ensure that no unhappy stone is left unturned, he says, "We have employed social media monitoring to scour those channels for any negative feedback and reply to the same." Merry says that he and his department have found social to be a useful tool to this end. "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."
The limits of crowd control
The Delaware North method of delivering, monitoring and improving customer satisfaction is sophisticated, if that's not obvious by now, but the marketing department can only exert so much control over the actual customer experience. Merry tells me that this means two things for his department. One, "we have to exercise the control we 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, he says, most partners understand the influence that customers wield in today's closely connected world, so Delaware North can rest a little easier knowing that the customers are in good hands - no matter where they find themselves.
CMO of the Week is an exclusive Social Media Today column appearing every Thursday