After World War II the Military-Industrial Complex began to spring up in the US, and a mischievous film director from the Looney Tunes team that created iconic comic television programs like Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny and Tweety Bird named Frank Tashlin wrote a clever and forgotten book for children with the title: The Bear That Wasn’t.
In this children’s book, a bear goes into hibernation, but unbeknownst to him a factory is built atop and around his lair. He wakes up and runs into the shop-floor foreman, who yells at the bear to get back to work. “But I’m not a man, I’m a bear!” says the bear, and so begins a series of escalations. The bear is taken to the factory manager, and then the case is pushed up to the third vice-president, who hands it up to the second vice-president, who sends him to the first vice-president, and finally into the cavernous office of the President.
They all tell the bear he is decidedly not a bear, but “silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat.” Finally, he is brought to a zoo, but even the zoo bears don’t believe him, because any real bear would be in the zoo with them.
Read the book, or watch the film, but somehow IT managers, CIOs, Head of Digital Innovation, Presidents of Digital Engagement and VPs of Marketing consistently give the customer the feeling that they are that bear. “Yes, I run our omni-channel digital channel strategy.” Ah, and that would mean that the 50% of engagements managed by humans on the phone, or in the branch/store, are deeply embedded in this strategy? “No, we look at digital channels, operations manages customer care/support/service. And technical support? “Technical Support is in another group.”
The disparity of responsibilities within the enterprise leads inexorably to a weakened position in recognizing the customer for who she/he is, when they are where they are with the issue that they have. The organizational fragmentation leads to process fragmentation which leads to technology system fragmentation which leads the customer to feel misunderstood. The author concludes that even though no one in the enterprise understood that the bear was not a bear, “that did not make it so; the truth is he was not a silly man…and he was not a silly bear, either”.
Customers know who they are, and they know who you think they are, to a degree poorly grasped by the C-Suite. And they also know who YOU are, much better than you know who you are.
Now would be a good time to come out of hibernation, as the corporate greats have already.
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