One would think that in a marketplace that is being buffeted by the nastiest economic downturn in years and by a shift in customers' attitudes from passive respondents to becoming active, empowered, participants that companies would step up their marketing and backed by strong customer service.
Yet there is unfortunately evidence to the contrary. And companies that fail to get the word out, and deliver effective service risk failing, period.
"The most amazing statement I have heard in my career - and I am hearing it frequently these days is - we are waiting for sales to pick up so we can start marketing, " wrote TMC Group Publisher Rich Tehrani in his blog. "This is the equivalent of going to the fireplace and telling it you are waiting for it to produce heat before you put a log in. This is obviously lunacy... Marketing to your potential customers is what allows your sales to begin with. You can't increase sales without increased PR and/or marketing."
Alas a new report by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council reveals that a majority of senior marketers admit their companies are failing to take decisive, company-wide action to integrate customer voice and experience into key business and marketing processes.
The study, "Giving Customer Voice More Volume," reported that 56 percent of over 400 executives surveyed said their companies have no programs in place to track or propagate positive word of mouth among customers. In addition, only 30 percent said their companies rate highly in their ability handle and resolve customer problems or complaints. A surprising 59 percent of said their firms do not compensate employees or executives based on customer loyalty, satisfaction improvements or analytics.
The report, sponsored by Satmetrix, also revealed that two-thirds of companies do not have Voice of Customer programs in place and that only 12.9 percent of companies have deployed real-time systems to collect, analyze and distribute customer feedback. While 74.6 percent say they receive customer feedback via e-mail, only 23 percent say they track and measure the volume and nature of these messages.
The issue isn't that the CMOs don't get it. Most do. Over 80 percent of respondents said positive customer experiences and word of mouth have helped their brands and businesses grow. 45.8 percent admitted that high-profile negative customer experiences had at some time compromised their brands.
Yet their execution of customer strategies leaves sometimes something to be desired. Nor does it appear that they frequently made convincing cases for strategies to improve the customers' experiences at the C-level.
I contacted the CMO Council and asked its executive director, Donovan Neale-May:
* Why companies are failing to take decisive, company-wide action to integrate customer voice and experience into key business and marketing processes?
* What is stopping them?
* What the council's recommendations to CMOs to get senior management buy-in?
Here is his reply:
"Many chief marketing officers have the title, but not always the territory. Too few have embraced the web (for surveillance and conversational tracking) or teamed with IT to deploy sophisticated real-time listening and feedback systems. They lack the visibility into customer experience at multiple touch points (call centers, point of sale, help desks, eCommerce transactions, account management, field sales, channel, etc.) due to data being siloed, functionally isolated and not fully integrated. Nor do they always have the authority to make business policy, pricing, process, or product changes.
"Without ownership and accountability for both customer voice and experience across the enterprise, CMOs will continue to struggle for influence and effectiveness. They need a CEO mandate and consistent commitment to creating customer-centric cultures with organizational and operational alignment to achieve this state of being.
"The best way to get senior management buy-in is to conduct pilots with web-centric communities, feedback systems, loyalty programs, and user groups. This can evidence value and show where better listening, learning and leveling can improve customer retention, loyalty, advocacy and lifetime value."