The proliferation of service channels demands that the heads of IT and marketing work together.
We all know the story: You see an item in a chain store catalogue but decide to buy it from the retail store to avoid delivery charges. The retail store assistant, however, cannot find the item and, after consulting the store's product database, tells you it's no longer available. At home you turn on your PC, find the store's Web site, and miraculously locate the product. You order it, but now must wait for delivery. You get the result, but not in the way or the time frame you wanted.
Similarly, you dial your credit card issuer, an automated voice-response system answers, and asks that you enter your card number. You dutifully punch in the 15 digits. After a lengthy wait during which you listen to a repetitive recording about how much the company values your business, a live customer service representative finally comes on the line and asks for your 15-digit account number. You tell her you already entered it. She tells you the system did not forward the information. You get the result, but again, not in the way or the time frame you wanted.
So where does the problem lie? Is this a marketing issue for the CMO or a technology issue for the CIO? Of course the answer is: both.
Indeed, every time you see significant dysfunction in the way a company or brand interacts with its customers, it is not the fault of one corporate function but two - both marketing and technology. The combination of people and technology deployed across multiple service channels fails to provide the basic services you sought, let alone the worldclass services you expected.
So when will CIOs and CMOs join forces to address these challenges, not from their well-defended functional silos but together? The answer: when both parties take time to fully understand and account for the impact their solutions will have on the consumer.
Slumping Satisfaction, Rising Costs
The pressure is mounting for action. The irony is that companies have gone to heroic lengths and considerable expense to build multiple service channels to meet customers' needs. These range from retail stores to catalogues, Web sites, call centres, interactive voice-response units, handheld PDAs and touchscreen kiosks, to name a few. In response, however, customers have grown increasingly frustrated by the lack of coordination and consistency of experience across these touch points.
Every Web site is, in theory, one part marketing and one part technology; or one part CMO and one part CIO. The breakdown occurs in an uneven execution of IT-enhanced sales and service functions which, upon deeper examination, often reveals unresolved issues between the marketing and IT disciplines.
For example, when Motorola introduced its sexy new camera phone in 2004 (the V710), it stitched glossy bind-in brochures into upscale magazines such as Vanity Fair and The New Yorker to lure readers online to access a special microsite for the handset within Motorola.com. Marketing e-mail campaigns to drive traffic to the same special URL revealed nothing more than a general information page on the company's mobile phone line. A search on the site for the V710 yielded absolutely no results. The new model was actually listed on the site, but not under its retail model number. No one from marketing or IT had configured the site to receive the campaign's traffic - or to mention the new product by name at all.
This is one of an infinite number of examples of the CIO and CMO speaking different languages in the design of the "presentation layer", the interface that makes a software application visually appealing and user-friendly (Windows vs DOS) or accessible to the non-tech-savvy self-taught consumer (World Wide Web or AOL vs BITNET and USENET). Effective corporate presentation layers are the work of a solid partnership between CIO and CMO; the outcome is a customer-friendly gateway that is experientially compelling. Large corporations cannot expect their customers to navigate the arcane backwaters of a corporation's systems and sub-systems, any more than a software maker can expect customers to learn machine language to use its products.
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