People hate change, that’s a fact. I was once involved in an enormous change management programme at an investment bank where hundreds of people were flown all over the world for training, just so the changes the boss wanted to implement could be handled smoothly. The bottom line was that all that money was spent because people just don’t like changing the way they have always worked.
We can see this all around in the news on a daily basis now as entire industries are digitally disrupted. Taxi drivers hate Uber. Hotel chains hate Airbnb. Retail banks hate all the apps offering money transfers or instant loans at better rates. Life is being disrupted on a daily basis for workers in almost every industry.
But most senior executives feel they are above the concerns of the takeaway food delivery driver displaced by Deliveroo. In some professional areas, like marketing, this is all about to change dramatically.
Marketing has already been disrupted in recent years. I got my MBA from the University of Liverpool over a decade ago and when I look back at the books I used for the marketing section of the course it barely mentions the Internet. Marketing on the Internet was something that might be worth keeping an eye on. Good advice there.
The Internet has completely disrupted the way that customers engage with brands, from the way they learn about products to buying them and asking questions. Why is it a surprise that marketing as a discipline is being disrupted? Senior marketing executives cannot just argue that they understand the Internet because they have bolted a social media strategy onto whatever they already deliver. The world has changed.
The American Marketing Association defines marketing as:
“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
The emphasis – in my opinion – here is on communication. Marketing executives focus on making sure that customers know what’s available. Nowhere in this definition does it talk about building a lasting relationship with customers, yet this is really how brand interactions are working today.
Take a look at this Gartner research publication from 2015 titled The Customer Experience in 2020. I have often quoted this article because it’s short, direct, and perspicacious. It goes to the heart of how brands need to relate to their customers in a digitally disrupted environment.
In short, you don’t need a marketing manager or department, you need a team focused on customer experience (CX). Gartner suggests a team called the Customer Experience Hub with complete oversight of marketing, advertising, sales, customer service and any other corporate function where the brand interacts directly with the customer.
Eileen Canady of Sykes commented recently on this:
“An increased expectation for a great customer experience when interacting with a brand is driving a tsunami of change through companies in every industry across the world.”
Whether you follow the Gartner advice to the letter or not depends on how your business is organised, but as Eileen suggests, the change is coming from the customer, not inside your own business. This is what C-level executives need to start planning for. They need to set the agenda for delivering a great customer experience. Asking their marketing or sales directors for advice on how CX can be improved in this disrupted business environment is like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.
A big change is coming and it will start with the concept of marketing and customer service blending together. Sales will be next. Smart marketing executives will ensure they understand how customer service works. The rest of them had better start polishing their LinkedIn profile right now.