The Economist Intelligence Unit has recently published a report titled ‘Outside looking in: The CMO struggles to get in sync with the C-suite’, sponsored by SAS. This report has showed up as rather interesting for me and I want to share with you that which has caught my interest.
CMO’s face a number of big problems
The fundamental problem is that CMOs don’t get much respect from the rest of the C-suite. CMOs say that they are doing a difficult job well: making a contribution/delivering significant value to product development, sales and customer service. The problem is that the rest of the C-suite don’t agree – they question the value/contribution that CMOs are making. And it doesn’t look like they listen to CMOs with much respect. Here is how the EIU report puts it:
“CMOs believe they are constrained because the rest of the organisation does not consider marketing to be strategic; the C-suite believes marketing has not earned the right to be more strategic because it is ineffective at demonstrating value of its investments.”
Here are the other big problems that CMOs face:
1. Many organisations have trouble defining, clearly/exactly, the CMO’s role and responsibilities. Which could explain why it is that there is no agreement on what business objective the CMO (and the marketing function) should focus upon and be held accountable for. Worse still there is a fundamental disagreement between what CMOs see as marketing’s priorities and the priorities that the other members of the C-suite assign to the marketing function. Which makes me wonder if members of the C-suite actually talk with each other, share and agree what they expect of one another. Doesn’t look like it. The EIU report says “..their greatest challenge: getting everyone to agree on marketing’s priorities.”
2. The marketing function is not coping with the challenge that comes with the territory that falls under the market umbrella: advertising, brand, market research, communications, customer analytics, social media, mobile and so forth. Why? First, the marketing function lacks people with the necessary skills and expertise to cope/deal with this broad/dynamic challenge. Second, members of the C-suite do not feel the CMO’s pain – they are not approving the necessary marketing investments.
So whilst it looks like CMOs are in a difficult position, there is no need to despair. The EIU reports offers a route to influence, credibility, impact and respect from the C-suite.
What can CMOs do to make an impact and amass influence/respect in the C-suite?
The EIU report advises CMOs to focus on the customer experience and the voice of the customer. The authors pin their hopes on the following quote from Steve Cannon, CEO, Mercedes Benz USA:
“Every single customer experience is a brand moment of truth. If we create an aspiration through our advertising, and a customer walks into a store and does not deliver on that promise that reflects on marketing.”
Any intelligent person could drive a coach and horses through this assertion. And for the the time being lets just accept and go with this assertion.
OK, if Customer Experience is the unifying theme and the rallying call for the organisation then how exactly can the CMO contribute to this play given that the CMO is not the CEO and does not control all the touchpoints, which as a whole, generate the Customer Experience?
Focus on the voice of the customer:
“Chief marketing officers (CMOs) stand a better chance of increasing their internal influence – and changing lingering doubts about marketing’s strategic contribution to the business – if marketing can consistently deliver insights and tools that benefit others across the organisation, from salespeople to call centre agents to merchandising teams.”
How feasible is this ‘success route’ being put forward by the EIU?
I say that there is a big difference between a poor strategist and a good strategist. A good strategist takes into account feasibility. Specifically, he asks this question: what is the likelihood that my client can execute this strategy? And the good strategist keeps on going until he comes up with a strategy that the client has a good chance of being able to execute successfully.
So let’s ask this question, how likely is it that marketing can:
a) marshal the voice of the customer from all the disparate sources and turn this into a comprehensive view – single view of the customer;
b) generate actionable insight into customers, how they interact with the business as a whole, the jobs that they hire the business to do for them, and their experience of using the product and dealing with the company?”; and
c) inspire the various members of the C-suite to act – to make changes in their priorities, policies and practices – so as to improve the customer experience?
I’ll let you decide for yourself. For my part I could not help noticing the following hurdles identified in the same EIU report:
1. Single customer view. ”The airline [BA] has spent the better part of the last decade integrating its systems to support the effort; data warehouse not stores 200 separate data sources from different parts of the business to provide a more granular view of the customer, based on information they have volunteered.”
2. Converting data into actionable insight. “For all the talk about data-driven customer insight, marketers are just starting to understand how they should be using the growing repository of information they are collecting through digital media and other channels.”
What do I say?
I say that if you and your organisation are serious about building your competitive position and commercial success on the Customer Experience then follow the example of Steve Cannon the CEO of Mercedes Benz USA. Why?
Because, the role and this responsibility or organising the business around the Customer Experience is a huge change full of organisational politics. And as such it is beyond the remit and the capacity of the CMO and the marketing function. This role/challenge – that of aligning the organisation around the customer experience requires marshalling resources, reassigning resources, engendering and dealing with organisational conflict - belongs to the CEO.
Here is what Steve Cannon did in the words of the EIU report:
“..aligning the organisation around a superior customer experience has been the focus of Steve Cannon since he took over as CEO in January 2012…. Investments in customer experience programmes have been large – such as the formation of a dedicated customer experience team – and small – like providing Mercedes Benz dealers with iPads equipped with custom apps and videos.”
As regards what Steve Cannon is doing at Mercedes Benz USA I draw your attention to the following:
1. Steven Cannon was the CMO before he came the CEO. When he was the CMO he did not take charge of “aligning the organisation around a superior customer experience” No, he did it when he became the CEO. I say he is a smart man who has a sound grasp of reality.
2. If the CMO had come up with the clever idea of buying hundreds of iPads for dealers it is highly likely that he would have reinforced the C-suite’s already always listening of the marketing function as the “department of coloured pencils” (how one CEO described the marketing function) and s/he would not have got the budget approved by the CEO/CFO.
What do you say?
Corephone: a great example of the service ethos, customer experience and customer centricity! (Part I)
If your smartphone or iPad needs fixing then contact Spencer at corePhone
It is rare that I come across a person, a company, a business that has cracked the customer-centricity code. It looks like Spencer and corePhone have done just that. All you have to do is to take a look at the website (the entire design of it) and read the testimonials to get that Spencer / corePhone is a world apart when it comes to the customer experience they generate and the delight they engender in customers. So if you have a broken smartphone or iPad then you should contact Spencer at corePhone (www.corephone.co.uk).
Have you noticed that smartphones have a design flaw?
Smartphones are easy to use & useful so they are heavily used. In the process of using them we drop them and that is when we find out that smartphones have a serious design flaw: they are fragile, they don’t bounce. Have you dropped your smartphone? What thoughts/feelings did you experience? I dropped my iPhone 4 and was shocked to find that the expensive case ‘fell apart’. Yet, thankfully, it did that when it hit the ground and so my iPhone was ok. I let out a sigh of relief as I was not looking forward to paying £400+ to get a new one. Some of us are not that lucky. Recently one of my colleagues dropped his iPhone, allow me to tell you his story using his words:
“We’ve all either seen it happen or had it happen to us…shiny iPhone one minute, a moment of clumsiness / butter fingers and the next minute it looks like this…
This is what happened to me today. I have no idea how it happened but I saw it all take place in slow motion and I was left cursing …. To make matters worse, my iPhone did have a bumper on it but as happens when you drop a piece of buttered toast on the floor, my iPhone landed face down……. I couldn’t even answer the phone when it rang as the cracked screen had affected it ‘touch screen ability’!….
Luckily sense prevailed and I left the screw drivers and claw hammer in the draw and Googled ‘iphone 4 cracked screen and Portsmouth’…..and bingo!! I came across a helpful chap called Spencer.
A quick phone call later he gave me his address and instructions to be there at 6:30pm (no earlier please as he has his tea at 6pm !). By 6:45pm I skipped out his front door £60 lighter but with what was effectively a new looking iPhone. All fixed, cleaned and shiny !
…… If you find yourself in a similar situation I cannot recommend Spencer enough. Whilst he’s an air traffic controller by day, he’s running a handy side line fixing iPads, Blackberrys, Nintendo’s, Camera’s, laptop screens etc.. by night. A link to his site is below…probably worth book marking! As I live local to him I’d be happy to hand deliver your broken item to him should you want me too! Core Phone “
Let’s take a closer look at Spencer / Corephone: testimonials to die for!
It is not often that I read that kind of review, that kind of delight, that kind of enthusiasm, that kind of advocacy. So I took a look at the CorePhone website to see if my colleague’s experience was exceptional. It is not. I was totally blown away by the testimonials - specifically the way that Spencer is treating his customers, how he is making them feel and the impact he is having on their lives. Here are a selection of testimonials (I have highlighted what speaks to me by ‘bolding’):
“I cannot start without saying how amazing this company is! My iPhone was smashed front and back and my home button was faulty after dropping the phone. Spencer replied quickly to my request of a repair and he offered me a next day service. In addition, he offered an amazing price for all jobs. When the repair was conducted, it was an amazing job, the phone looked brand new and Spencer even cleaned my earpiece and other ports out of courtesy. And even more amazing, it was fixed in 20 minutes! I would definitely use this service again and would recommend all to use corePhone for any iPhone repairs as the service you will receive is first class. Gary Coldwell, Hampshire, March 2012“
“Many thanks Spencer. It is nice to find such a genuine guy who could repair my iPhone. I texted Spencer to see if he could repair my iPhone. He texted me back and booked for the repair to be done Monday night. I waited for the repair to be done and could not believe how fiddly it was, but it was soon all put back together and looks like a new phone. Phone this guy; you cannot go wrong. John Tucker, Titchfield, September 2011“
“I would like everyone to know what a fantastic service spencer(corePhone) extended to me. I texted spencer at 7:40 am on Saturday and he replied straight away. I asked if he would take a look at my I phone 3G home button as it hadn’t worked properly for a while. He allowed me to come to his home at 8am and had my phone all fixed and ready to go by 8:15am !! Nice, friendly, quick & professional service is worth every penny,especially at Spencer’s fair rates. I recommend this service 100 %. Jim, Pickfords Segensworth, January 2011“
What can we learn from Spencer / corePhone?
The testimonials show that Spencer / corePhone create superior value for people who have damaged their smartphones. Let’s take a closer look at this superior value.
The central insight that corePhone is built upon is the understanding that customers are attached to their smartphones. Smartphones break – especially the screens. Getting these screens replaced through the high street retailers is both time consuming (long delays) and expensive. Customers want a fast turnaround and more affordable repairs.
The value proposition is what converts people with a problem into customers who reach out to you and buy from you. So what is corePhone’s value proposition? According to the website, “affordable iPhone repairs”. Read through the testimonials and you will find that this is a compelling value proposition. Customer after customers speaks about the fairness, the reasonableness, the affordability of the repairs when compared to Apple and other high street retailers.
The Customer Experience
It is the Customer Experience that generates delight, indifference, disappointment and/or anger. It is the Customer Experience that generates advocacy, word our mouth recommendations, customer loyalty and repeat business. Why? Because this is where you keep or break the bargain that you struck with the customer through your value proposition. This is the area that Spencer / corePhone excel in.
If you reach out to Spencer / corePhone then Spencer responds quickly even on a Saturday morning at 7:40am or Sunday when he is out shopping. And Spencer fixes your iPhone quickly – one customer rang at 7:40 am Saturday, was at Spencer’s workshop at 8am (that day) and left delighted at 8:15. That is the next clue: Spencer fixes your iPhone quickly – seems to be between 15 minutes and a half-hour. Furthermore, by the time the iPhone is handed to you it looks new, perfect. Finally, it looks like Spencer does more than he has to (‘”cleaning out ear pieces and ports..”) and treats his customers well – his customers like him as a person not just as a professional.
In short, the Customer Experience exceeds the value proposition. The value proposition only talks about affordability and sets that expectation. The Customer Experience delivers that extra: responsiveness, speed of turnaround, the intimate contact – being with /watching Spencer fix your iPhone in front of your eyes! What must it be like to see a master craftsmen open up your iPhone before your eyes and convert it from a wreck to a work of beauty? And how many of us want to take a look inside our iPhone and see how it is put together? This is all included in the Customer Experience!
Have you noticed that corePhone doesn’t have a loyalty or social media program to generate advocacy?
At a recent CMO dinner I asserted that companies that create superior value for customers through compelling value proposition/s and delightful customer experience do not have to pay the tax of customer loyalty. Show me a company that has a loyalty program and I will show you a company that is selling ‘me too’ products, services, solutions. Please notice that corePhone is not having to go out and bribe customers with customer loyalty and social gimmicks. Why? Because it is a strong value proposition and it delivers an amazing (wow!!) customer experience.
Part II coming next
Enough for today, in the next post I will take a look at the corePhone website, extract and share with you the lessons for building a website that works for customers. Very few websites do that especially if they belong to a big company!
Whilst some of you loved my last post, some of you found it a little too philosophical. “Look Maz, we live in the real world. How does what you say apply to us in the hard world of business? OK, this post is for you. I will share with you how humanity and inhumanity shows up in the world of the customer and the impact that it has. Allow me to share my story with you.
I need to go and see my Dentist
Some days ago I started to experience toothache whilst eating. I meant to do something and when the pain became painful enough I did do something. I rang my dentist only to find the line engaged so I opted for the ‘ringback’ option. To my surprise and delight within two minutes of hanging up I was on the line to the receptionist. We talked and she booked me in for Wednesday morning 8:45am. At the end of this encounter I was left feeling that the Receptionist got me as a human being in pain who needed help and she played her part in helping me solve my problem. On Wednesday morning I turned up at the Dentists. The Receptionist greeted me warmly, told me to wait upstairs and showed me where the stairs were. Excellent, I am now in the waiting room – all by myself. Then I wait for around fifteen minutes for the Dentist to see me. This waiting could have shown up in my world as a pain and it did not as I was busy on my smartphone doing email.
My “I-Thou” encounter with the dentist: my dentist oozes humanity!
Before I knew it I was with the Dentist. He greeted me with a warm voice and smile and mentioned that it had been a while since we last met, “two and half years to be exact”. I told him my issue, he listened and said “That is the issue you came in with last time and I put a filling in there. Let’s take a look.”
He started looking: he prodded here, he prodded there. Then he told me that he could not see any issues with any of my fillings. “I wonder if it is do with the fact that you have sensitive teeth?” I replied that I did not think so. He suggested that we do a test and see if he could recreate the pain I had been feeling on previous days. So he blew a jet of air on the side of my gums and sure enough I felt pain but not the kind of pain I had been experiencing and that is what I told him. His response? “OK, there might be something there that I am not seeing so let’s do some x-rays!” So he did the x-rays.
Looking at the x-rays my Dentist showed me how there was no difference between the state of my teeth since my last visit. He could not see any issues. Nonetheless, I told him that I had experienced pain. Did he ignore me? No. He suggested that it was possible that I had a crack and that was the cause of my pain. He went on to tell me that he could not see it and the x-rays would not show it. So he recommended that I use the teeth on my right hand side more than I had been using them (I had been using the left side because that side was not in pain) and if there was a crack then that would show up quicker.
He gave me advice on how to brush my teeth and he gave me some toothpaste for my sensitive teeth. Why did he show me how to brush my teeth? Because he noticed that I had been overbrushing my teeth and he knows I have sensitive teeth. He showed me a way to brush my teeth that would work better for me. Why did he give me the toothpaste? So that I could smear it on the sides of my teeth /gums so as to provide some pain relief and protection against pain.
As I was getting ready to leave he recommended that I see the Hygenist. I noticed that I was hesitant and he looked at his records. “I see that you don’t like visiting the Hygenist. Why is that? What’s the reason for that?” So I told him that it occurred to me that all the Hygenist was doing was making my teeth look white and pretty. And that I had little time for vanity – I simply had not been brought up that way. I ended by saying that I was open to being persuaded if I had got things wrong. So he told me. He spent about five minutes explaining the benefits to me – healthy teeth and gums – of seeing the Hygenist once a year, starting there and then. I found his education persuasive and I agreed to see the Hygenist. [ Now here is the interesting thing: during our conversation on the merits of using a Hygenist I was fully engaged in the conversation. The Dentist did not have to use gimmicks or tempt me with prize competitions or entice me with an online game... He simply invited me to enter into a conversation that mattered to me - my teeth, my health. And by doing so he had my full attention and participation.]
Then it was time to leave. I looked him in the face, smiled, shook his hand and thanked him for being great with me. He smiled and wished me well. “What a great experience? He really cares about me! He listened to my concerns. He did more than that he educated me in an amazingly friendly, non-condescending way!”
I encounter that helpful Receptionist again!
I take the paperwork (that my dentist has given me) and head downstairs to the Receptionist. She smiles and asks me if I want to book in an appointment with the Hygenistt. “Yes”, I say. “When?” she asks. “Can you do this Friday?”. “No, the Hygenist does not work on Fridays.” I look disappointed and say “Oh”. The Receptionist, seeing and hearing my disappointment, says “How about today, right now? She is free for the next half an hours!” I agree and she shows me into ‘Hygenist’s office’.
Hygenist: an excellent model of inhumanity, of the “I-It” encounter
The Hygenist does not greet me. She does not smile. She does not use my name. I notice that she has not noticed me – not as a human being, not as the dentist did only some 20 minutes ago. She tells me to sit down in the chair. I sit, she reclines the chair and gets busy working on my teeth. Have you been to see a Hygenist? If you have you will know that it is not the most pleasant of experiences. She prods here, she scrapes there, she pokes here, there and everywhere. In the process of poking around, vigorously, she pokes one of my upper teeth on the right hand side. EXCRUCIATING PAIN. EXCRUCIATING PAIN. When she stops doing that momentarily I raise my hand, move my head forward and empty the contents of my mouth – mainly blood into the little sink next to me.
I tell her. I say “That was incredibly painful. It is the most pain I have experienced for a long time!”. And move back into the position. “I am sorry. That can happen sometimes. Do you want me to stop? Or I can carry on? I promise to be careful so that I do not touch that tooth there again. What do you think?” That is what I am expecting her to say. That is what I would say in that situation and mean it. And that is what my dentist would say and meant it. What does the Hygenist do?
In my world it occurs that she has ignored me! How? Why? Because she does not say a word. She gets straight back to work and guess where she goes back to work? The exact spot that had caused me that pain! So there I am again: excruciating pain – though less than the last time. I am captive, I cannot do anything whilst she is doing what she is doing. And shortly after that it is all finished. I am grateful that my torment is finished. There must be some humanity there I say to myself. So I say “It must take great skill to be able to do what you do in such a small space!” In a flat, cold, voice she says “Yes, it does.” The way that is said I tell myself “This person is not a people person. She is not interested in conversation. She is here to do a job and that is it. Everything else is simply ‘waste’. Clearly she has been to the six sigma school of business: do the job as effectively and efficiently as possible and when that is finished get on to the next job.” I am convinced that in her world I do not show up as human being. I bet that to her I occur as a product that has to be processed. This is not that much of a surprise – one of my best friends is a doctor and I remember him telling me (a long time ago) that after a little while human beings simply show up as ‘pieces of meat’ to be processed and sent on their way.
I thank the Hygenist. She does not look at me. She does not smile. She does not wish me a good day. She does not offer any advice. I walk out of that room and make a promise to myself. I will NEVER go and see that Hygenist again – no matter what!
How does inhumanity show up? Inhumanity is simply indifference to the humanity of our fellow human beings. We get on with the ‘task at hand’ and completely ignore the person in front of us. We do not acknowledge, we do not validate, we simply ignore the other as a human being. The leave us experiencing that they have been experienced as objects – not as fellow travellers on the path called life.
What does it take to put humanity into the game? When I mentioned the excruciating pain a humane person would have:
a) acknowledged that I was in pain - “So when I was cleaning your top teeth you felt a tremendous amount of pain. On a scale of 1 – 10 how painful is it?”;
b) validated me - “10! That is amazingly painful. I don’t know how you managed to keep so calm, so still. If I was in that much pain I would not have been able to do what you just did.”;
c) worked with me to address my pain – “I have only a little bit more work to do on your teeth. Are you up for that today? I promise, I will stay clear of that tooth that is causing you so much pain?”
d) left me feeling as one human being interacting with a fellow human being who gets me and who cares about me.
You might me tempted to dismiss the example that I have shared with you here – you might label it “extreme” or an “exception”. If you are serious about cultivating that personal emotional connection with your customers then I counsel you to recognise that inhumanity (the “I-It” mode of encounter) is pervasive – it is the default condition. And you have an opportunity to differentiate yourself simply by moving from “inhumanity” as the default to “humanity” as the default. As I said in my previous post, Zappos and Rackspace have become extremely successful businesses in competitive industries simply by the amount of humanity (genuine caring for customers as fellow human beings) that they put into the game every day.