Michael Maoz

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Michael Maoz
VP Distinguished Analyst
13 years at Gartner
26 years IT industry

Michael Maoz is a research vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research. His research focuses on CRM and customer-centric Web strategies. Mr. Maoz is the research leader for both the customer service and support strategies area and customer-centric Web… Read Full Bio

The age of the senses, moving from marketing to service.

by Michael Maoz  |  April 17, 2014  |  2 Comments

Perhaps less a backlash to the Digital Age than a result of, more companies are latching on to the primal role of the senses in driving the brand. In full disclosure, one of my daughters is a marketing Wunderkind at Sephora in San Francisco, the epicenter of the sensorial. Walking through the way they have created a story that revolves around our elemental encounter with the olfactory, the tactile, and the visual to create a sense of beauty is amazing.

And the Sephora story is not isolated. Almost 20 years ago, Mo and Mark Constantine started Lush out of the UK, and now there are over 800 stores around the world selling the senses – mix your own scents into soaps, gels, conditioners, and all of the other stuff that I never touch.

Burberry extends it into the tactile, in addition to the visual and auditory (adding multimedia through sensors in store items that tell the provenance of leather bags, for example). Or think about Singapore Airlines, where their patented Stefan Floridian Waters permeates everything from the hot towels, lounges, and flight attendant perfumes. Or Starbucks, where the music, scents, coffee tastes and even type fonts are identical across much of the globe.

We are going forward by going back in time when the sensorial was already a magnet. Ernest Hemingway wrote a scene in For Whom the Bell Tolls that surfaces the amazing ability of some of our senses to remove us absolutely from our current position, which, for the narrator Robert, happens to be a job as a dynamiter during the Spanish Civil War. He meets Maria and this is a bit of what he remembers, “there was the smell of heather crushed and the roughness of the bent stalks under her head and the sun bright on her closed eyes and all his life he would remember the curve of her throat with her head pushed back into the heather roots and her lips that moved smally and by themselves….”

Unless you are an insentient bivalve, this passage is redolent of a certain climate, light and touch. The list of companies that has tapped into the senses extends way beyond retail and airlines. Just think of Apple. Or Mercedes.

The next extension of the sensorial may be coming to customer support. We see the Kindle Mayday as an addition to flat chat and voice, and virtual assistants like those from Next IT and Creative Virtual add the sense of a character, and a new generation of natural language processing and high end analytics tools extract relevant information and deliver them to you. And the Quantified Self – the wrist bands and other wearable devices that extract respiration rate, heartbeat, motion, and direction.

Customer support has been a fairly boring domain of “Problem/Resolution,” without concern for an engagement of the senses. Maybe the next five years will usher in a change. What do you think? If you haven’t thought about this, now may be a good time.


Category: Applications Business Intelligence CRM Gamification Innovation and Customer Experience Intent Driven Enterprise Leadership Social CRM Social Networking     Tags:

All that a CIO needs to know about CRM was said already by the Dalai Lama

by Michael Maoz  |  April 8, 2014  |  2 Comments

I am about to release the draft of the Customer Engagement Center Magic Quadrant 2014 for review to software vendors. This is the MQ that was formerly known as the CRM Customer Service Contact Center MQ. For two years we’ve been writing about Customer Engagement Strategies, and this new MQ focuses on the role of the agent - the human voice and/or face of the business that the customer and prospect and partner interacts with. There is no beginning or end to the Magic Quadrant – it is not a cycle with a beginning, middle and end. It is not a novel or story with character, setting, plot, problem and resolution neatly bent around a beginning, a middle or an end. Nor are the dots random positions of Brownian Motion. Positions grow, decline, evolve based on the readiness of the market and the prowess of the software suppliers and the consultancies and integrators to bring the vision into reality.

And here the thoughts that I heard long ago from the Dalai Lama, who will be 80 next year, are helpful. (I know, right!) He emphasizes that, as much as we might like, we cannot control all of the variables or conditions in the world. For my clients, that is the reality that the current software and hardware environment, the maturity of knowledge, the embrace or fear of process change are what they are. The results of the CRM vendors’ solutions cannot be better than the customer they serve.

In the process of running an MQ we uncover many aspects of the vendor’s nature, and success or limitations in the MQ process often stem from the vendor’s motivation in engaging us in the process. This is another piece of advice from Tibet: Everything rests on the tip of motivation. It is clear within an hour of working with a vendor if their motivation is to be as disengenuous as possible while remaining truthful, or laying it right on the line candidly.

So the third thought from the Dalai Lama that a CIO and CRM project leader and vendor can keep in mind is ” The true value of an action is not measured by whether it is successful or not, but in the motivation behind it.” Ultimately the Magic Quadrant is a reflection of a moment in time, captured to guide the direction of thinking about both the software/service and the company behind it. Our motivation is not to reward or not reward a vendor, but to frame the discussion around the needs of the Gartner client. You, as a client, are in a specific industry, and have a specific process flow, and hardware/software environment, integration and regulatory requirements and a geographic location.

The MQ is best used when the motivation of the client is to seek, without fixed preconceptions or predetermined outcome in mind, the best match between enterprise need and vendor offering. It is a good thing to remind ourselves of regularly.

We would like to thank the over 250 companies that took part in the 2014 Customer Engagement Center Magic Quadrant process. You have enriched our understanding in so many ways through your honesty and candor. Soon you will also see the results!

Until we meet in London (http://www.gartner.com/technology/summits/emea/crm/ ) or Orlando (http://www.gartner.com/technology/summits/na/customer-360/ )….


Category: Applications CIO Contact Center CRM Gartner Customer 360 Summit Innovation and Customer Experience Intent Driven Enterprise IT Governance Leadership SaaS and Cloud Computing Strategic Planning     Tags:

What every CIO could learn from Tufts University about understanding the customer experience.

by Michael Maoz  |  March 19, 2014  |  2 Comments

Tufts University, with a campus on the outskirts of Boston filled with bright, eclectic students, has introduced an amazing program that every CEO should consider for their CIOs hoping to understand the business better.  Full disclosure: Tufts is a family Alma Mater. They do not excel at most sports. They do have a statue of a PT Barnum circus elephant in the courtyard that serves as the mascot (all that is left of the original circus elephant are ashes from the accidently-cremated Jumbo, lovingly and whimsically kept in a peanut-butter jar). And they have a deep, renaissance commitment to learning.

Their commitment is to great depth in a discipline, while creating the Renaissance person – the polymath – young women and men who can tap into insights from multiple disciplines to solve a problem. Now to our CIOs: Tufts has launched a program where incoming students have the option of applying for a “Gap Year” prior to beginning their studies where they see another part of the country or world. You can see details here: http://bit.ly/1kYXkP6, but they are not the point. The point is: Imagine if our CIOs had the opportunity to be paid to spend a year living on the front line serving the customer?

In a popular US television show, CEOs go out and see what it is like to be a lower-end employee. The point there is to see what it is like to be an employee. But what is it like to be a customer? How does the customer perceive your channel strategy? Do they live the experiences the way that you engineered them? Do they love your mobile apps the way they love Uber or are you as quirky as Cloak, or do customers want to use your mobile chat the way that they do WECHAT (China) of Nimbuzz (India) or Kik (Canada) or Kakaotalk (Korea)? Do they love you on Twitter like Mashable? Is your Facebook site as active as Upworthy? As likeable as the Huffington Post? Does anyone love the technical grooviness you offer the way that they love Twitch? Would anyone compare your iPad app to Houzz? Or the level of great advice to Betterment.com?

If you, as a CIO, do not know all of the sites that I listed, you are already in trouble. Why? Because you do not have any idea what the best sites and apps provide. It also means that you are stuck deep in various forms of techno- and process- bias. A bit of Confirmation Bias and a bit of Overconfidence Bias (don’t trust my explanation – see http://bit.ly/1ejYWiq and others), leading you (as we all do!!) to prefer your own information, and to see information as confirming your world view.

So: out into the world you go, dear CIO – live at the end of the road where your technology touches the end customer. We’ll pay you for the experience. Keep carefull records. Take pictures, record voices, write notes, kick the tires of the competition.

The world is an endlessly changing place – process, likes, technologies, customer habits. I just got off of a plane from Tel Aviv, where I met over 75 companies in seven days. Techno-Speed Dating. I experienced marvels like 24-year-old PhDs who’d completed university at 15, and secret military projects that look like social networking startups. Geeks in green. And a City Hall where anyone can enter their apartment number online and receive the building layout, apartment size, location, taxes, local building permits planned and outstanding, average taxes for like-real estate across the city, and more. All without leaving your iPad. And insurance companies like AIG with a “Safe Drive” program where sensors inside of your vehicle determine your driving patterns and compare them to what is legal, and then rebalance the cost of your insurance accordingly. Today that is “Wow.” Tomorrow it will be a standard across the world.

Get out there. And have your CEO read this! You are in your role because you are razor smart and love how technology and process meet. Don’t let them dry you out!

Seen any good CIO programs to get you out into the world of the customer? Let us know….


Category: Applications Business Intelligence CRM Customer Centric Web Gamification Gartner Customer 360 Summit Innovation and Customer Experience Intent Driven Enterprise iPad Leadership Social CRM Social Networking Strategic Planning Twitter     Tags:

Knowingly or Unknowingly, the CIO is Building toward an Intent Driven Enterprise.

by Michael Maoz  |  March 4, 2014  |  1 Comment

Ten years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to be a Gartner Fellow. What I did during that fecund two-year period was develop a concept that I termed, The Intent-Driven Enterprise. I began to talk to my colleagues, talk to IT managers, heads of customer support, sales leaders, and software vendors about the idea. Some really got it, but most didn’t see the value. In 2005 I published my first papers on the topic, and created the first presentations. Here was the opening of the first paper (which is still archived on Gartner.com as http://www.gartner.com/document/485578 , The Next Phase of CRM Is a Customer-Intent-Driven Organization)

Building an intent-driven organization requires more than just matching the intent of the customer during an interaction with the intent of the organization. It requires integrating the organization into the customer’s life so that the intent of the organization (typically revenue and profit growth) is met, while pleasing the customer. Understanding the context of the relationship and each interaction within that relationship is critical to redesigning the organization’s processes. Move beyond standard business processes into the mass-customization of organizational processes to align with the needs of the customer.”

Looking at the great trends in Smart Machines, Personal Virtual Assistants, Haptics, Internet of Things, Big Data analytics, personalization technologies, social media analytics and Digital Marketing technologies, we might be on the edge of returning to the concept of the Intent-Driven Enterprise – of aligning corporate / enterprise (even governments and higher ed – heck: all Education!) processes such that they maximize serving the customer in line with revenue goals.

What we suggested then seems to resonate today:

“The necessary change is not to replace product centricity with customer centricity, but to recognize that customer-facing aspects of operations require different approaches than core back-office functions. Test whether the approach that has been taken toward the customer and customer-facing processes is correct, based on customer feedback. Ask customers and yourself, “Do we consistently identify the intent of the customer (their need) and then build processes that match these intents in a way that meets the needs of the organization?” This is the challenge organizations must meet if they wish to sustain customer centricity.”

So, ten years later, are you ready to build an Intent-Driven Organization? Who will run it? Marketing? Maybe a collaboration between the CIO or Chief Digital Officer and the Chief Marketing Officer?

How do you see this playing out?

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Category: Analytics for Social CRM Business Intelligence CIO CRM Customer Centric Web Innovation and Customer Experience Intent Driven Enterprise IT Governance Leadership Strategic Planning     Tags:

Hey, Marketing leader, isn’t it time to share your social media strategy?

by Michael Maoz  |  February 27, 2014  |  2 Comments

We just published our 2014 Social for CRM Vendor Guide (if you are a Gartner client you can view it at  http://gtnr.it/1ft8B8o ), and among the interesting insights is our survey that shows that Marketing controls Social strategy in 41% of enterprises, compared to 8% IT and 7% Customer Service. The more interesting evolution of social media strategy is the tactical transition that is going on wherein Marketing is reaching over to Customer Service and asking them for a hand.

What is behind the phenomenon? Marketing has done a good job of seeing the power of Social Media, and ran fast to seize the initiative and engage customers in new ways. Amazing things are happening with keyword analysis and crowdsourced reviews and recommendations, and plain old engaging in conversation. Kudos to marketing. And now something else is happening. As marketing engages more deeply with customers, you move beyond the ‘dating phase’ and sort of settle into a relationship. Who picks up the laundry, and did you take the dog to the vet?

In the case of social media engagement, this is: “I told you that I was unhappy with your service on Twitter, but when I called in, or logged in, there was no knowledge of my Tweet. What’s up? Or, you saw my post on Facebook (or in a forum, or in a community), and you said how sorry you were, but the same problem is still there. What are you doing about it?”

Marketing does not have the trouble ticketing systems, or case management systems, or problem resolution software, to capture an issue, associate the issue from Facebook with an existing customer record, generate a case, solve or escalate the case, split it in two, route it, close it, reopen it, join two cases, set triggers or attach support links, documents or videos (oy, you’re saying, enough of the details on customer support!).

Who does have the systems, processes, and skills to manage customer issues? Customer Service and Support. What has been seen as the lowly cost center by the majority of businesses, but viewed as the gem by the small visionary and enlightened companies, is now stepping up to advise marketing on best practices, and expanding resources and tools to handle social media engagement as part of the processes traditionally handled by the contact center.

The expansion of the brief / mandate of the customer service area is what is driving interest in our newest research on the Customer Engagement Center – the next generation of Contact Center. We have had overwhelming interest in the research, though we know that it will take time for the concept and term to catch hold. But the expansion of the contact center into a center that reaches our on social media, or detects issues from a vehicle, or the home, or equipment, and reaches out to advise and assist, will drive the transformation of contact center into Customer Engagement Center.

Marketing’s increasing partnership with Customer Service to engage customers more systematically and holistically across all channels – social or other, is opening up new opportunities for the business (or government or university!), and creating new challenges for IT, Marketing and Customer Service.

We are only in the first phases of this transition, and your insights have been helpful – so keep them coming!


Category: Analytics for Social CRM Applications Business Intelligence Cloud Contact Center CRM Customer Centric Web Gamification Gartner Customer 360 Summit Innovation and Customer Experience Leadership SaaS and Cloud Computing Social CRM Social Networking Social Software Strategic Planning Twitter     Tags:

Customer Strategies engineered to solve yesterday’s challenges, or, “Why does the cable company hate us?”

by Michael Maoz  |  February 11, 2014  |  1 Comment

One of the most prescient lines I have ever heard came from a Financial Services firm’s head of customer experience. It is a line I have repeated numerous times over the years. We were discussing how it was that I could be three different answers from the same company. They have a travel group, a rewards points team, a billing team, and a fraud team and general customer service team. They never seemed to know what one another was up to or had said to me. Then came her answer: “Yes, they are they, and we are we, and though they and we are us, there is no us.”

I was visiting a young couple in San Francisco last week. They are a part of a demographic / psychographic that is very successful, well educated, and tech-savvy. They also are a new breed who, though they have high incomes relative to the overall US population, could never afford a place to live in San Francisco, and instead rent. They also do not own a car. Who needs a car when you have Uber and Zipcars?

One of the couple was just getting off of a phone call, looking very flustered and slightly apoplectic. I could hear the torrent of words, and there tone became increasingly frustrated. The issue: returning a Cisco cable box to the cable provider. The box was perfect, just that they consolidated from two apartments to one, and now they needed only one box and one service. Simple, eh?

Simple in the same way that neural brain connections are simple. Only with the human brain there are 100,000,000,000,000 connections, while with the cable company, they just want to return the silly box.

Said Cable Provider spends tens of millions of dollars on social media each year. It employees hundreds of people listening to Tweets and posts. It does social network analysis. It hosts a community. It surveys. It has a blog. But what it does not have is a basic understanding of one of the new consumers. Essentially, they have engineered today’s customer service processes for yesterday’s challenge.

For example, this couple made nine calls to ‘the company.’ In saying ‘the company’ it is to capture the discovery that, in fact, it is two companies: the Cable Provider and the third party that retrieves the boxes. And that company does not ‘get’ that a significant urban population is mobile, but may not have cars, or time to waste, or an understanding of your Kafkaesque bureaucracy.  

How do you return a cable box in San Francisco? You can have it picked up (for a fee), or you can deliver it to a return office, or you can ship it. Simple, right? Except you cannot have it picked up from any place other than where it was installed. But you don’t live there anymore. And if you go back there, you can have a four hour time window. So: kill six hours of your work life. And you don’t want to schlep a 20 pound piece of hardware in a taxi eight miles through traffic. So you will ship it! You call and ask for a carton and a shipping label. You get the carton and a shipping label for a 2 pound item. But yours is 20 pounds, and they knew that. So you call again. This time they ship you more cartons, but no label. You call again. This time they send you more boxes and two more shipping labels for two pounds each.

This time you call and ask if they couldn’t just PLEASE pick it up at your office. Then they tell you that “They” can’t make exceptions. Why not? Because ‘they’ are not the cable provider. Could you transfer me to the Cable Provider? Sure. Now you start explaining everything from scratch because the two ‘theys’ do not share context of calls. Can you enter the issue on line? No.

Back and forth this went, and you need not know the outcome (unresolved). But the company has no flexibility because it does not want to. The third party is just that. Their only interest is following orders at the customer’s peril. Is there follow up? Not so far. Was there a satisfaction survey? No.

Who will detect the problem? Had they Tweeted and added their lonely voices to the digital cesspool of fetid complainers, many authentic, many malicious, some genuine, differing in type and kind, what would have happened?

Social Media has become the Star Wars Space Based Defensive Shield – invest enough and all problems will be solved, while the real enemy of great customer service has shifted. Now it is time, convenience, agility. Not the right to complain. Who wants it to come to that?

Rather than focus on the Cable Provider, we need to look at ourselves and our organisations and ask how our customers are truly experiencing our marketing process and sales process and on boarding and billing and customer service – across the partner ecosystem and across all of our engagement channels. And not “The” customer, but across different age groups, or economic, or education – a breakdown on the level of specific customer personae.

How are you doing at this?

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Category: Analytics for Social CRM Business Intelligence CIO CRM Innovation and Customer Experience Leadership Social CRM Social Networking Social Software Strategic Planning Twitter     Tags:

Building a Customer Culture Means Less Hair Trigger and More Thoughtful Response.

by Michael Maoz  |  February 6, 2014  |  Comments Off

I mentioned that for the past many years I have sat as a judge in the Gartner CRM Excellence Awards.  This takes an enoromous amount of time, but the reward is that, in reviewing the 22 entrants for great customer service and support, there is such insight into the range and variety of approaches to the topic.  The role of the software supplier is almost an afterthought. What is separating this group of companies (and governments, universities and hospitals…) is a deeply held belief that the well-being of the employee, and a focus on understanding the true state of the customer’s situation are the foundation of enterprise success.

It is humbling to read the submissions, just as it is humbling every day to listen our clients search for solutions, search for processes and technologies to better reach customers, assist customers, guide customers, and measure the outcomes in KPIs. The position of judge is not new to me as an analyst: I am doing that currently in the evaluation process for my CRM Customer Engagement Center Magic Quadrant. So much data is required, and so much analysis. It brings me back all of the time to Pope’s, An Essay on Criticism where he opens with:

‘Tis hard to say, if greater Want of Skill
Appear in Writing or in Judging ill,
But, of the two, less dang’rous is th’ Offence,
To tire our Patience, than mis-lead our Sense:
Some few in that, but Numbers err in this,
Ten Censure wrong for one who Writes amiss;
A Fool might once himself alone expose,
Now One in Verse makes many more in Prose.

In retrospect, the fact that I would have studied this in the dark days of my High School years at the age of 15 makes apparent the enormous shift in the world, language and interests. It would likely be fair to say that not one in a hundred English speakers under the age of 25 reading those words today would have even the slightest notion of how to parse the meaning (which is: most critics are borderline incompetent, but regardless of that risk, we still need standards and for critics to weigh in on those standards… [why didn't he just say that, right?]). In the same way, the leaders designing customer support processes today are applying thinking that, though it may have been leading edge when they started out on the customer excellence journey, no longer holds and the customer has changed. From Pope to Beyonce. Which is why the best entrants are reaching across the enterprise to Marketing, IT, Consumer Affairs, Digital Media, and Customer Support – to keep the vision fresh.

To understand Alexander Pope in 2014, as opposed to 300 years ago when it was written, requires a combination of education, desire, and patience. And that, to return to the point, is what sets great businesses apart: IT and business leaders with the combination of customer knowledge, passion, and patience. In an age of the business executive and employee and customer always-immersed in variably-refined information sludge, a great many experiences are based on hair-trigger thinking and reacting. Projects should be sprints! Change should be quick! Feedback should be instant!

Well, sometimes projects should be quick, but not all. Change takes time. Sometimes many years – just think of hygeine in hospitals or the use of pain reduction during childbirth.

The winners of the CRM Excellence Awards won’t be announced, or even finalised, for many months, but for this analyst, they are all winners – amazing CIOs, Chief Customer Officers, rank-and-file customer support agents – working with small budgests and under great pressure for less than royal compensation – and delivering value on behalf of the customer every day. Thoughtful, measured, sedulous, evolving initiatives. Pretty cool stuff.

Thank you for sharing your examples of customer excellence, now and throughout the year.

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Category: CIO CRM Innovation and Customer Experience Leadership Strategic Planning     Tags:

Why great CIOs focus on the customer more than the software and services vendors.

by Michael Maoz  |  February 3, 2014  |  2 Comments

As a lead up to our Customer Strategies and CRM Conferences* in April and May, we are beginning to receive and review entries for our 2014 CRM Excellence Awards. I first suggested the idea of an award for the businesses that best represent excellent customer service almost 12 years ago, based on what we saw the amazing Don Peppers and Martha Rogers doing around 1-1 Marketing. They were so far ahead of everyone, and they were instrumental in our move away from calling our practice “Technology enabled Relationship Management” (TERM) to CRM. Looking at what was really going on back in 1998 – 2002, it was all about changing the CIOs focus away from technology and vendors and TO the end customer who buys a business’ goods and services.

What is so great about the CRM Excellence Awards is the focus on business leaders who marshall their corporate (or government, or educational staff) resources to better understand customer wants and needs, and to address them through technology and process change, while keeping an eye on profitability and growth.  These are not questions of business ethics, or morals, but about common sense: what makes a customer choose you? Choose you even if something has gone wrong in the past? How do you move them into a position of trusting you? Recommending you? Recommending you to another and for that other to make a buying decision the next time they consider a purchase? How do you get a customer, once they have made a purchase, stay with you?

As we have built our conference presentations, we struggle with calling any of the presentations by the name, “Customer Service.” That is so yesterday in terms of hype, while so ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’ in practical terms. Today the mantra is Digital. Digital Media and Digital Commerce and the Digital Industrial Revolution and Digital Marketing. These are all important concepts that encapsulate the transformation and aggragation of sound, images, movement, position, disposition, temperament and connections into digits that can be combined and analyzed. Anyone who compares the 2000+ employees of NetFlix and compares their product to what Blockbuster delivered just ten years ago – with maybe 50,000+ employees in 8,000 or more locations. Poof – digitized!  Billions in corporate valuations and tens of thousands of jobs vaporised.

At the same time that so much is undergoing digitization, the way that we treat customers, recognising them, understanding their status and situation and expectations, and the service we provide them, is still vastly more important than an ad about a happy puppy or a gamified app or offer. There is only so much Bread and Circus before they catch on that it is a gimmic.

Back, then, to the best CIOs: they know that technology is a differentiator, and they know that it is how technology is harnessed to provide a terrific product and customer experience that counts in the long term.  And that is why we don’t focus on “Vendor Excellence Awards” but Customer Excellence Awards. We don’t gush effusively about vendors in our blogs or our presentations or our printed research, but we do gush about businesses that have done a great job for their customers. It would be great if one day the two merged: that we had a fantastic software vendor that was providing such a great customer experience that they end up on the short list for the CRM Excellence Awards! Who knows: it could happen.

Thanks to all of you who helped us locate the great businesses we are evaluating for the CRM Excellence Awards – keep your suggestions coming!

* As a reminder, our US conference, Gartner Customer360 Summit, is 19-21 May in Orlando and the EU conference, Gartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit London is a few weeks earlier, 28/29 April, in London.


Category: Analytics for Social CRM Applications CRM Gamification Gartner Customer 360 Summit Innovation and Customer Experience Leadership Strategic Planning     Tags:

How Marketing could torpedo the Digital Transformation of CRM

by Michael Maoz  |  January 28, 2014  |  2 Comments

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.


Category: Business Intelligence CIO CRM Gartner Customer 360 Summit Innovation and Customer Experience IT Governance Leadership Strategic Planning     Tags:

Care for the customer or employee experience hovers between neglect and disdain.

by Michael Maoz  |  January 23, 2014  |  3 Comments

Close your eyes and think about the Apps you enjoy the most.

Now open your eyes and write them down. They are going to be Pinterest and Twitter and Dropbox and Waze and Facebook (well, for some of us) and Instagram and Proust and Vine and Google and WhatsApp, or some similar list.

What will not be on the list are 99% of the business applications that you are forced to sit in front of at work. What will not be on the list are 99% of the mobile applications that businesses lobbed out there. What will not be on the list are 99% of the websites that you are forced to sit in front of when you do your banking or insurance or flight planning or income taxes or anything at all to do with the US Government or just about any other government on the planet. Maybe with the exception of the City of Cape Town, South Africa.

What is going on? Have all of the great minds fled corporate IT? Are they all in a narrow strip between San Jose and San Francisco, Tel Aviv and Herzliah? Or is it that our precious IT staff is underfunded, our CIO tasked with too many projects with too few resources, and turning to large software vendors focused on the status quo?

I get around quite a bit, visiting businesses. There are also the nearly 600 phone calls that I had with clients in 2013 alone. And the 1-1s at Symposia and conferences. We all meet superb talent at all levels of IT. Brains and passion are not the problem. The issue is, and will remain, that innovation and investment in innovative ideas follows the money. Nobody believes that the next multi-billion dollar valuation is going to go to the company that builds a better customer-centric website application, or a brand new desktop for our dedicated and under-compensated customer support agents.

Corporate IT needs a shot in the arm from the CEO, and a bit more support, to take more risks that might be really cool, but not immediately translate into revenue. In the amazing 1994 film Don Juan de Marco, where Don Juan is telling Dr. Jack Mickler, the aging burnout played by a brilliant Marlon Brando, “You need me! For a transfusion, because your own blood has turned to dust and clogged your heart.” And Brando/Mickler stumbles for a moment and admits, in a moment of dawning awareness, “You’re right, my, er, my world is not perfect.”

Has the CEO asked the rank and file employee, or the customer, lately: do you love the tools and applications that we have put in front of you? Or has he/she been so beholden to shareholders that it is all about profit margins, squeezing the employee, and lip service to the customer? Rather than ask them, ask the employees, and ask the customers, and ask prospective customers – and then display the results on your corporate facebook page or website. (Please do not try this unless you a) like Siberia, b) are ready for retirement, c) have another job offer in hand.)

So: How can you become as great an app provider to your customer and employee as Pinterest or Uber?



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