Prof. Dr. Sebastian Scharf

  • Prof. Dr. Seba­stian Scharf is professor of Analy­tical Marke­ting and Brand Manage­ment at the Mitt­weida Univer­sity of Applied Sciences. He also heads the Insti­tute for Analy­tical Marke­ting at the M21 Campus in Munich. For many years, Scharf has consulted across various indu­stries inclu­ding auto­mo­tive, consumer goods manu­fac­tu­ring, and utili­ties.

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At the end of the day, the goal of all efforts remain the same: to fulfil or exceed customer expec­ta­tions because satis­fied custo­mers exhibit higher reten­tion rates, pay higher premiums and give recom­men­da­tions to others. Thus, they allow long-term safe­guards to an increase of the firm’s added value – while at the same time lowe­ring costs.

What about the issue is there­fore new?
The frag­men­ta­tion of commu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels and methods is constantly increa­sing. If we start in 2012 with an average of 51-75 touch­points between a firm and its custo­mers, we will find 221 such touch­points as of 2016 – according to a study by Franz-Rudolf Esch from 2016. At the same time, customer-to-customer inter­ac­tions are always increa­sing through the capa­bi­li­ties of social media. This brings with it chal­lenges and oppor­tu­nities for busi­nesses. As a conse­quence, custo­mers’ jour­neys and along with them the corre­lated effects between the influ­ence varia­bles (touch­points) and target varia­bles (e.g., customer satis­fac­tion) become deci­dedly more complex.

The diffi­cul­ties outlined result in – among other things – the fact that 46 percent of marke­ting budgets flow into touch­points that are irrele­vant for custo­mers (cf. Esch et al. 2016). For the circa 4,000 parti­ci­pants of the State of Marke­ting Report 2016, the correct forma­tion of inter­ac­tions with custo­mers belongs to the most important criteria for a successful customer journey. This result is stressed in a study by the Gartner rese­arch firm: according to the study 89 percent of marke­ters expect that customer expe­ri­ence manage­ment will become the most important success factor in 2017. As far as conse­quences go, nume­rous firms – such as KMPG, Amazon, and Google – have already created posi­tions like chief customer expe­ri­ence officer or customer expe­ri­ence vice presi­dent. The rele­vance of this theme has also been high­lighted by rese­arch. The inter­na­tio­nally-renowned Marke­ting Science Insti­tute, again in 2016, set the issue of customer expe­ri­ence manage­ment at the top of its list of rese­arch prio­ri­ties. An adequate sensi­ti­vity to the subject is there­fore assumed. Now it is a matter of deve­lo­ping profes­sional attempts at a solu­tion.

Customer satis­fac­tion as a central link between touch­points, customer beha­viour, and finan­cial perfor­mance
A core element for the under­stan­ding and manage­ment of customer expe­ri­ence is the ability to measure and monitor the reac­tions of custo­mers to the o›erings of compa­nies in the form of percep­tions and atti­tudes. In addi­tion, top rese­ar­chers Kathe­rine N. Lemon and Peter Verhoef have under­lined in a current edition of the Journal of Marke­ting the long-known construct of customer satis­fac­tion. This is because customer satis­fac­tion is concep­tua­lised as the matching of the actual-deli­vered perfor­mance with the expec­ta­tions from the customer’s side and thereby a suitable target value for the highly compressed measu­re­ment of overall customer percep­tion. Customer satis­fac­tion serves ulti­mately as the central inter­face construct between touch­points and down­stream beha­viour para­me­ters and finan­cial target values. Apart from that, rese­ar­chers De Haan, Verhoef, and Wiesel in 2015 show in a study that the predic­tive power of customer satis­fac­tion and the inter­me­diate, often alter­na­tively inserted, net promoter score are compa­rable.

Measu­ring touch­point quality and content
In order to produce trans­pa­rency and compa­ra­bi­lity between touch­points, a firm measu­re­ment for touch­point quality in various dimen­sions is indis­pensable. So, of inte­rest is the touch­point extent on one side and the inten­sity of percep­tion on the other, as well as the rele­vance and “attrac­tiveness” of touch­points from the point of view of the customer. For this purpose, concrete measu­re­ment inst­ruc­tions have to be defined.

Calcu­la­ting the influ­ence of touch­points and customer satis­fac­tion, brand strength, and value crea­tion
Decisive for the deri­ving of reli­able recom­men­da­tions for actions is ulti­mately however not the isolated perfor­mance measu­re­ment of indi­vi­dual touch­points but its effect on down­stream target dimen­sions such as customer satis­fac­tion, brand strength, prefe­rence, beha­viour, and added value. The diffe­ring levels of effec­tiveness on one side and he effect of inter­ac­tion between touch­points on the other can be indi­cated on the basis of analysis of market drivers. Driver analyses can be carried out on the one hand on the basis of calcu­lated touch­point quality and on the other hand on the basis of focussed content with the touch­points.

Deri­ving recom­men­da­tions for action for the control of touch­points
Should recom­men­da­tions for action in the direc­tion of prio­ri­ti­sa­tion be derived from, for example budget allo­ca­tion to touch­points, then the strength of drivers will be calcu­lated on the basis of touch­point quality described above. The result can, for example, be a ranking of top touch­points with their related strength of influ­ence to defined target criteria such a customer satis­fac­tion, brand strength, and customer loyalty. On this basis, valu­able deri­va­tions can be gathered for an e£cient and e›ective budget allo­ca­tion. Should recom­men­da­tions for action in the direc­tion of content forma­tion of touch­points be derived in regard to the target setting of customer satis­fac­tion, brand strength and further down­stream target constructs, then the calcu­la­tion of power of drivers for focussed brand content will take place. The results provide infor­ma­tion as to which brand content plays a special role in customer percep­tion. On this basis, deter­mined agent brie­fings will finally be formu­lated in order to be able to opti­mally formu­late the indi­vi­dual touch­points in the sense of consi­stent bran­ding. The defined extent of measu­re­ment can finally be a star­ting point for a compre­hen­sive touch­point control.

Prof. Dr. Sebastian Scharf

  • Prof. Dr. Seba­stian Scharf is professor of Analy­tical Marke­ting and Brand Manage­ment at the Mitt­weida Univer­sity of Applied Sciences. He also heads the Insti­tute for Analy­tical Marke­ting at the M21 Campus in Munich. For many years, Scharf has consulted across various indu­stries inclu­ding auto­mo­tive, consumer goods manu­fac­tu­ring, and utili­ties.

Want to get to know Prof. Dr. Sebastian Scharf?

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Still curious?
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