Every winter for the past 12 I have begun researching the ideas that will go into my presentations for our Spring CRM-focused conferences. This year we have the Gartner Customer360 Summit, 19-21 May in Orlando and the Gartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit London 28/29 April in London. I love these events because they are intimate gatherings – 600 or so participants instead of 100,000 – and highly focused on how we as businesses, governments, schools, or non-profits can better engage customers. We look at the technologies and the processes and ask: where is greatness happening, and why does it happen there and not in other places? It helps others find a way forward.
All of the theoretical claptrap is fine, but uncovering the ‘why’ of what goes right when it does or what inhibits organizations from greater success is the ultimate goal of my talks. There are always going to be fabulous technologies and business applications, but like the best surgical equipment, it is only as good as the best surgeon. Usually I begin my research by reviewing the client calls that I have taken. There are clues to how the CIO and IT staff, or CMO or VP of Customer Experience think. After that I look at the cutting edge startup companies, and the best business consulting practices, and what is happening at the university labs. I also read gobs of what my amazing colleagues write – I am never finished being awed by my cohorts here at Gartner and their insights.
This time around I am struck by the vast chasm between the CMO and the marketing department, on the one side, and the VP of Customer Care/Service/Support on the other. The CMO has the funds, the power, and most of the glitter surrounding digital marketing, digital transformation and a dozen other very hot and in demand enterprise projects. The VP of Customer Care, etc., is fairly limited, with little access to innovative tools and budget. Lacking a direct budget of their own, they depend on an enlightened CIO, VP of Operations, or visionary CEO to help cut through the clutter and break through departmental silos.
If you don’t see this deep divide, search the latest slideware or podcasts or seminars on marketing. I recently spent two days reading the latest and greatest (external!) research on the future of marketing, and, behold, customer service and customer support and care rarely (and often never) show up in even the most thorough presentation on ‘the future of marketing.’
The two organizations have never had an equilibrium of power. Customer Support is always boxed into a corner as a ‘cost center.’ Remarkably, the most enormous cost center could be seen as Marketing, as sales does the selling, while marketing does the ‘make aware/spark engagement/make offers,’ without strict P&L accountability. Sales is accountable. Customer Service is a line item expense.
There are many remarkable companies where the CIO has emerged as the bridge-builder joining the largely disconnected marketing domain to the under-powered Customer Care / Customer Experience domain. Some have even merged them, but they are still a rarity. In honour of the passing of the US national treasure Pete Seeger, I will use his song, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” where he deals with exactly this issue of responding to changing times. The song tells of the army leader who drowns, having been unable to listen to the voices and advice from his underlings in the field. The ‘big fool’ was….
Stuck in the old quicksand.
I guess he didn’t know that the water was deeper
Then the place he’d once before been.
Another stream had joined the Big Muddy
About a half mile from where we’d gone.
We were lucky to escape from the Big Muddy
When the big fool said to push on.
It is time for all of us to change direction, to forge links between Marketing and Customer Service, and for the CIO to assert his/her authority and wisdom to see that the streams are merging and that it is time to move on.
Thanks for sharing your examples of success with me! They are great to read.