Home Depot Tops CMO Council's Audit of Customer Experience; New Study of 25 Brands Highlights Inconsistencies in Content and Touch Points

Companies Need To Unify Multiple Channels of Engagement and Ensure Consistent Messaging and Content Delivery in a Challenged and Consolidating Market, Says CMO Council Study

PALO ALTO, Calif (Sept. 29, 2008) — Marketers must become much more adept at delivering relevant, targeted and consistent brand messaging and information across multiplying channels of customer interaction and communication, reports a new study by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council.

Minimizing customer confusion, frustration and disengagement through optimal content delivery has become a critical imperative as financial failures, business consolidations and more aggressive and complex promotional and pricing practices impact the customer experience in today’s soft market, says the CMO Council.

In a new 200-page report on “The Variance in Customer Experience,” the global thought leadership group and its program underwriter, Interwoven, took a deep dive into the accuracy, uniformity and timeliness of information delivery across the customer touch points and content sources of 25 major brands selected randomly across multiple market sectors.

The CMO Council -- whose 3,500 members control more than $100 billion in annual marketing spend -- ranked Home Depot top of the list in customer experience followed by Marriott Hotels, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, AllState Insurance and Dell. Those scoring less well were DirectTV, Major League Soccer, JetBlue, Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, Music TV (MTV) and Comcast.

In light of recent industry upheavals in industries such as aviation, automotive, banking, diversified financial services and home building, the need for a major focus on the overall customer experience is arguably more important today than ever.

“Marketing’s mandate is to reinforce the brand value proposition and communicate more effectively, accurately and consistently in trying times,” said Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council. “This can significantly improve customer loyalty, retention and advocacy rates (NetPromoter scores), while also driving top line growth through deeper, more meaningful engagements with customers,” he noted.

“What the study found was that marketers – along with the channel and customer service executives – are failing to respond fully to the pain, unmet needs and expectations of today’s consumer,” stated Neale-May. “Quick, efficient and positive resolution of issues is not necessarily a hallmark of most businesses and those that set a standard can gain competitive advantage and differentiate their brands,” he added.

25 Surveyed Companies Chosen At Random
The CMO Council selected 25 companies at random to represent a broad range of consumer brands, products and services. These brands have no affiliation with the CMO Council, nor did they have any prior knowledge that they had been selected for this initiative. “While customers by and large noticed the brand’s visual identity, they were far more in tune with discrepancies and disconnects in content and service delivery,” Neale-May said. “While countless marketers fret over brand identify makeovers, refreshed websites or creative advertising, it is clear that the customer is looking for something more engaging than an image.”

Some of the study’s highest-ranked companies offered the most consistent customer experience across all customer touch points, ranging from web sites to advertising programs to call centers to in-store presentations.

Top-Ranked Home Depot
Home Depot, the top-ranked brand, did not stand out in a single category, but it communicates an even, consistent and accurate brand message. It leverages the belief, “You Can Do It, We Can Help,” clearly through its web site, call center, events and in-store content channels.

“Considering competitive messaging that brands Home Depot as an overwhelmingly cavernous warehouse, Home Depot seems an unlikely candidate for this top honor,” Neale-May conceded. “But it is not about the intimidation one feels by walking through the door. It is about the expert advice and diversity of product for both weekend Do-It-Yourself adventurers and the professional. Information was consistently the same both online and in-store.”

Other companies that scored in the top quintile in the CMO Council study were Marriott Hotels, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, AllState Insurance and Dell. Rankings were contingent on the consistency and accuracy of branding and messaging on their Web sites and in their call centers, advertising, marketing collateral, retail displays and customer-centric events. Companies that ranked in the lower quintile were DirectTV, Major League Soccer, JetBlue, Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, Music TV (MTV) and Comcast.

The Impact of Negative Customer Call Center Experiences
Hurting many companies, in particular, were negative customer call center experiences, causing the rankings of many companies to plummet. Prime examples were DirectTV and Comcast. “Call centers had an overall diminishing impact on the customer experience of many of our audited companies,” Neale-May said. “Unfortunately, call centers, a critical point of live interaction, are among the most troubled touch points of the customer experience for many companies.”

Ominously, consumers have stated that a single negative experience with a brand can alter the decision to do business with a company. According to a 2007 Harris Interactive poll of more than 2,000 adult consumers, 80 percent of consumers will never go back to an organization after a negative experience. Seventy four percent of unhappy customers would register a complaint or tell others about their experience, the poll added.

“Consumers are not taking their experiences lightly,” Neale-May said, “and their disaffection can have an immediate and measurable impact on the bottom line.”

About the CMO Council
The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council is dedicated to high-level knowledge exchange, thought leadership and personal relationship building among senior corporate marketing leaders and brand decision-makers across a wide-range of global industries. The CMO Council's 3,500 members control more than $100 billion in aggregated annual marketing expenditures and run complex, distributed marketing and sales operations worldwide. In total, the CMO Council and its strategic interest communities include over 6,000 global executives across 57 countries in multiple industries, segments and markets. Regional chapters and advisory boards are active in the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. The Council's strategic interest groups include the Coalition to Leverage and Optimize Sales Effectiveness (CLOSE), Brand Management Institute, and the Forum to Advance the Mobile Experience (FAME). More information on the CMO Council is available at www.cmocouncil.org.

About Interwoven
Interwoven, Inc. (NASDAQ: IWOV) is a global leader in content management solutions. Interwoven's software and services enable organizations to maximize online business performance and organize, find, and govern business content. Interwoven solutions unlock the value of content by delivering the right content to the right person in the right context at the right time. Nearly 4,400 of the world's leading companies, professional services firms, and governments have chosen Interwoven, including adidas, Airbus, Amnesty International USA, Avaya, BT, Cisco, Citi, Delta Air Lines, DLA Piper, FedEx, Grant Thornton, Hilton Hotels, HKMP LLP, Hong Kong Trade and Development Council, HSBC, LexisNexis, MasterCard, Microsoft, Samsung, Shell, Sky Italia, Qantas Airways, Tesco, Virgin Mobile, and White & Case. A community of over 20,000 developers and over 300 partners enrich and extend Interwoven's offerings. To learn more about Interwoven, please visit www.interwoven.com.

Steve Kaufman
(650) 433-4145