Category Archives: Customer Engagement
For those of you who view me as a customer service expert, you might be surprised to know that I have an avid interest in marketing and most of my work over the last 10 years has been with, and continues to be with, marketers and the Marketing function. So in this post, I am going to address what I see as two most important challenges facing marketers and the Marketing function.
Is technology the answer to the challenges facing marketers?
I recently attended and spoke at the Technology for Marketing & Advertising conference/exhibition in London. What I found fascinating is the love of new technology. I was reminded of the heady days of CRM. Do you remember those days? The days when Siebel sales folks would open up every sales presentation with “Siebel is the fastest growing software company ever.” And the point was that CRM technology was going to change the business world and put customers and their wallets at the feet of the organisation.
What is the biggest challenge facing marketing and advertising today? Is it the lack of technology to gather up all the data on prospects and customers and use this data to fire out marketing propaganda and offers, across a variety of channels; to turn prospects into customers and customers into repeat buyers and loyal advocates? If the folks in your marketing department believe this then your business is in deep trouble.
The first challenge is that of relevance
When it comes to effective marketing the first challenge is relevance. From the customer perspective the question is “Why should I listen to you? Why are you relevant to my life? What do you offer that simplifies/enriches my life?” Please tell me how technology is going to address this crucial challenge for you.
Look, Sky keeping marketing to me through direct mail, through email, and by telephoning me regularly. What does Sky want? Sky wants me to sign up for Sky TV; I was once a customer. I keep refusing. Why? My viewing needs are adequately addressed through a combination of Netflix/Lovefilm and going to the cinema. What Sky TV has to offer is no longer relevant even if it is being offered at half price.
The second challenge is that of the Customer Experience
Marketing is a profession that is tasked with manipulating impressions and emotions through the use of image, words, sounds and story. Put bluntly, marketing to date has been the discipline of propaganda. The big problem is that this propaganda does not work. Why? The most pithy answer I have ever come across is that put forth by Matt Watkinson:
No amount of marketing can compensate for an average one-star review on Amazon. You just couldn’t talk the talk anymore, you had to walk the walk.
If you get this you get the enormity of the challenge. What this means is the marketers and the Marketing function have to pretty much turn themselves inside out. They have to transform themselves from image makers to reality makers. Their challenge is to ensure that all the organisational actors that impinge on the Customer Experience do that which is necessary to deliver a Customer Experience that matches the brand promise, the value proposition, and the customer expectations.
Please tell me who the fancy technology is going to help you, the marketers, to influence the minds and shape the actions of all the people in the organisation that directly or indirectly generate the Customer Experience?
My advice to marketers
Technology is a red herring. Technology allows you to undertake marketing activities. Technology impacts the operation/mechanics of doing marketing. What technology does not do is address the strategic challenges. Worse still the pursuit of technology distracts you from the most important strategic challenges facing you, and your business. What are those strategic challenges? Brand relevance, and Customer Experience.
Why do almost all change initiatives fail to deliver?
I have been involved in all kinds of organisational change initiatives whose ultimate purpose was to power performance. These change initiatives have come in many flavours: strategy, people, process, and technology. They have encompassed the front office, or the back office, or both. These change initiatives included: BPR, Kaizen, shared services, quality, ERP-CRM-Ecommerce technology, customer service excellence, strategy…
What is it that is I found common pretty much across all of these change initiatives:
- They were mostly initiated by people gripped by a fad of that time;
- Each of these initiatives was going to deliver substantial, even breakthrough, improvements in performance; and
- Almost all of them failed to deliver on the promise.
I see the pattern being repeated with Customer initiatives that are focussed on improving the customer experience and thus engendering loyalty and advocacy. Why? Because what is being changed is the content and not the context. Working on the content whilst leaving the context intact is liking rearranging the music, the dining hall, the food & wine, say on the Titanic. Great stuff and ultimately it is merely a distraction from the inevitable. The inevitable (destiny) is always shaped/determined by the context.
Differentiating between the context and the content
Let’s start with the dictionary definitions of context:
- Background, environment, framework, setting, or situation surrounding an event or occurrence.
- Words and sentences that occur before or after a word or sentence and imbue it with a particular meaning.
- Circumstances under which a document was created, including its function, purpose, use, time, the creator, and the recipient.
- The things that are held or included in something.
- A state of satisfaction: “the greater part of the century was a time of content”.
Are you struggling with distinguishing between context and content and why this distinction is of profound significance? Let me help out. Let’s use the analogy of computer software. The context can be likened to the operating system. The content to the software programmes that you are using say Word, Excel, Outlook.
Or think of work and home. The context of work is radically different to the context of home. Or the context of a wedding is radically different to the context of a funeral. Do you see how the content – people, talk, behaviour – whilst the same is/can be radically different in the differing contexts. You talk at work, you talk at home, yet the way you talk and what you talk about is likely to be very different between work and home.
Shifts in context are the access to transformation and breakthrough results – for customers, for the organisation
Let me say this bluntly, most of the work that is taking place in the customer space in the name of customer focus, customer experience, customer-centricity, customer obsession is wasted money and effort. It is merely the equivalent of arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Or if you prefer behaving like Blockbuster or HMV – both of which have gone into administration and are busy closing or selling their stores.
I say that excellence in the customer domain, and the business benefit this excellence generates, is only available to a particular set of organisations. Which organisations? The organisations whose leaders exercise courage. What kind of courage? The courage to shift the context. Allow me to give you some dimensions along which you can shift the context that powers your business:
If you want to get a better grip of context and how it applies to the customer experience then read this post.
Great examples of shifts of context: from Amazon to Zane’s Cycles
Kuhn called this contextual shifts “paradigm shifts”. Every paradigm shapes/limits that which shows up including human relations and performance. Some paradigms create more space and generate more energy to empower high performance. If you want to transform your customer experience then pay attention to the context. Context comes first, content second. Only the fool, or one who has time-money to burn, focuses only on the content.