Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Free Customer Experience Webinars

I apologize for the bit of self-promotion, but in two weeks I'll be presenting a pair of free webinars on customer experience that may interest you. The webinars are entitled "Align Marketing & Customer Experience to Build Loyal Advocates," and we will cover topics such as:
  • Why marketers' interest in and responsibility for customer experience is rising
  • The new customer journey in the age of the empowered customer
  • A high-level framework for conducting customer journey mapping processes
  • The importance of measuring both efficiency and effectiveness in your customer journeys
  • How brands with the strongest customer experience do not settle for mere satisfaction and create love
  • Why two self-sustaining loops--loyalty and advocacy--are vital for delivering customer experience and marketing success
  • How marketers can determine where best to deploy their resources to improve customer experience quickly
The webinars will be held live on Wednesday, July 27 at 10 AM EDT and 1:00 PM EDT. If you would like to learn more or register, please visit:

Gartner clients interested in diving deeper into these topics are invited to read two recent reports, How to Align Customer Experience With Marketing Channel Operations and Use Social Media to Power the Entire Customer Experience.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What Advocacy Really Means (To Marketers, Just Like Everyone Else)

Mayur Gala, Unsplashed,
Marketers cannot open their inbox or browser without being bombarded by articles and pitches about advocacy. It’s a hot topic, and for good reason—in an age of social media and always-on information, brands’ reputations and financial results increasingly depend on what people say and share. But despite all the articles and the trend towards deploying employee and customer advocacy platforms, marketers continue to be disappointed with their word of mouth outcomes. The problem is not just one of execution or even of strategy but of definition.

Marketers have a habit of redefining words to suit their needs. A couple of months ago, I explored how marketers redefine loyalty so as to make it easy to measure, but in so doing, marketers impair their ability to assess genuine loyalty. By equating repetitive purchase behavior as a sign of loyalty, marketers substitute an important and valuable metric of affinity and future purchase intent with weak signals. People regularly purchase for all sorts of reasons that do not include loyalty, such as price, convenience or a desire to avoid the time and costs of switching. You likely open your banking application and visit your bank’s ATMs regularly, but how loyal to you are to your financial institution?

In the same manner, many marketers hamper their advocacy programs from the start because of a poor understanding of what advocacy is and how it ought to be measured. I have seen dozens of social media and advocacy dashboards that count things such as likes, retweets, pins, and shares as evidence of advocacy. Certainly, it is helpful when customers extend the reach of your brand's posts, but do those actions truly represent advocacy?

The dictionary says advocacy is “public support for or recommendation.” In other words, advocacy is intentional—people are advocates only when they intend to change others’ attitudes or actions. A brand advocate is not someone who likes or even shares a funny or entertaining social media post but an individual who wants others to learn about, try or buy a product or service.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Sharing Economy Is Dead. Long Live the Leverage Economy!

Let me start by saying that I am a customer and fan of the services offered by Uber (took a ride Monday!), Airbnb (recently booked a family member into a nearby property) and other so-called “sharing” companies. In fact, just this week I gave a presentation about customer experience in which I cited Uber as an example of what brands can achieve with customer-centric product and service experiences. So, I say this as a fan and not as someone who is either anti-tech or anti-innovation: The time has come for companies in the space to stop hiding behind the “sharing economy” label and to improve collaboration with all concerned parties. Failing to do so puts these companies at risk as the industry, customer relationships, and regulations mature.

A year ago, I mounted a passionate defense of the term “sharing economy.” At the time, I argued that the word “sharing” was appropriate given these business models facilitate the mutual consumption of assets in contrast to traditional individual ownership and consumption. While this is still true, I cannot shake the feeling that companies have gotten a lot of PR and are camouflaging risky corporate practices thanks to the humanist adjectives they use, including “sharing,” “collaborative,” “trusted community marketplaces,” “the crowd” and “connected.” Who can be opposed to those ideas? It’d be like hating motherhood and apple pie!

The problem is that few of these “collaborative” companies are, well, collaborative. For a while, this was easy to overlook, because many consumers agree that some of the regulations these companies flouted were unpopular and, arguably, unnecessary. For example, Uber bypasses municipal safety regulations in many cities, and most of us don’t care because we feel safer in an Uber than a taxi. (On my last taxi trip, the driver exceeded the speed limit by 25 mph and barreled through a late yellow light near to a phone-distracted pedestrian, and I reached for my phone to give a bad review only to realize I could not.)

Because we agree some codes are outdated and appreciate the much stronger customer experience offered by the startups, it has been easy to disregard how these companies unilaterally pick which rules they like and which they do not. Laws that shield the companies from unfair practices orprotect their intellectual property–yes, please! Laws requiring they follow standard background checks or adhere to local rental ordinances–hey man, can’t you see we’re trying to innovate here!?

But it is getting harder to ignore the dangers of self-determined laws and regulations. After all, while we give a wink and a nod to Uber snubbing livery laws, do we want the manufacturing plant in our town deciding which environmental standards they’ll ignore or food companies to go maverick on safety codes?

As citizens, we all are part of the greatest collaborative platform of all–no, not Uber or Airbnb but democracy. If people don’t like certain laws, they can petition their lawmakers to change them; if citizens are not satisfied with their elected officials’ response, they can mount a recall or campaign for their defeat. Unless we want companies to set their own laws based on what is best for stockholders (or a handful of VC investors hungry for rapid and sizeable returns), then we must question the green light we give to sharing economy firms to pick the laws they deem worthy.

It seems that green light may be turning yellow. Los Angeles charged a handful of landlords with illegally evicting tenants to convert their units to short-term rentals. The New York State legislature has passed a law that would ban Airbnb users from listing some short-term rentals. Chicago just implemented new (relatively mild) rules for Airbnb. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a law requiring Airbnb hosts to register with the city. And Austin residents rejected a plan to allow Uber and Lyft to self-regulate.

In response to the new regulations, the sharing companies and their supporters have too often returned to the same old scripts. They accuse officials of being in the pockets of traditional companies. They label new laws as anti-consumer (even as consumers are asking for them). And they accuse officials of being opposed to innovation. In short, these companies ignore that their industry is maturing and many stakeholders are now asking for actions to ensure safety, equitable tax collection, a level playing field for all players, affordable housing availability, and fair rules that protect residents living adjacent to high-traffic, unlicensed hotels.