Friday, December 30, 2016

Two Marketing Trends Marketers Will (Probably) Get Wrong in 2017

Source: Pixabay
It is the end of the year, and that means every marketers' inbox and LinkedIn feed are full of articles promising the top marketing trends for 2017. Many of the same authors, blogs, and agencies that told you that Facebook sweepstakes, QR codes, Groupon deals, Foursquare mayor offers and Google+ were sustainable can't-miss opportunities are back with a new line of snake oil, er, I mean predictions.

Of course, predictions are an inherently risky business so we cannot fault people for getting some wrong, but we can fault them if they fail to fully test their predictions or promote them with ulterior motives. Too often, marketing trends are pitched with little understanding of the nuances and hard work required for success. They are usually hyped in the broadest of ways, as if every brand in every vertical targeting every audience has an equal opportunity to avail themselves of every hot new idea. And my greatest concern is the way so many "hot" trends are promoted with an urgency designed to infect marketers with FOMO (fear of missing out) by those who, of course, are only too happy to offer the cure.

Marketers love to be on the cutting edge, but our obsessive need to exploit the latest hype can get in the way of building strong, enduring brands if we do not strike the right balance between innovative strategies and the sensible, boring approaches that we know work. Investing in trends is sexier than relying on the tried and true, but they are also riskier bets. Snapchat may or may not be right for your brand, but email is becoming an increasingly overlooked workhorse for marketers. Social commerce may be buzzworthy, but good ol' organic search drives 800% more e-commerce transactions. And turning your brand into a publisher may be all the rage, but marketers must never forget the customer is king and customer experience is what drives loyalty and word of mouth.

To figure out what marketing trends are right for your brand, ask three questions and be sure you know the answers before you act:

  • Why will my customers and prospects care? Be brutal and honest--"because it's fun" or "because we'll be the first in the industry to exploit this platform" are not valid answers that result in awareness, interest, and interaction. The way to ensure customers will care and engage is to serve a need they have along their customer journey with your brand.
  • How will I measure a change in actions or attitude? Again, be realistic, because "being top of mind" or "buzzworthy" is not the same as affecting improvements in customer actions and opinions. Your brand's viral video may attract a lot of eyeballs for being funny, but if viewers' buying behaviors or brand affinity is not altered, then that was not an effective marketing tactic. Innovative trends may lack the same easy means to measure success as do mature marketing strategies, but a pilot isn't a pilot unless you can measure whether it produces business results.
  • Is my brand prepared to do it right? Do you have the skills, resources, data and systems to mitigate risks and execute properly? Brands that fail to appropriately execute "hot" trends can do more harm than good. For example, companies that launched Facebook profiles with the intention of broadcasting information rather than engaging were shamed by customers irate that the brand talked at them rather than listening and supporting them. Doing Facebook right requires tools, processes, and staff, and the same is true of the hot marketing trends hyped for 2017.

To explore how these questions may pertain to live video and influencer marketing and whether your brand can exploit these opportunities in 2017, please continue reading on my Gartner blog. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Three Simple Actions To Improve Customer Experience in 2017

Source: Pixabay
Just two weeks to go before it is 2017--good riddance, 2016!--and that means it is time to start making your professional New Year's resolutions. At the top of many marketers' lists of goals is to improve their brands' customer experience (CX), but just like my annual January commitment to exercise, that can fade under the intense pressure of daily demands and expectations.

Fear not, because there are simple (but not necessarily easy) actions you can take to ensure your customers will be more satisfied, more loyal and sing your praises next year. Here are three:

Listen to your customers

Listening to customers has not traditionally been a strength of the Marketing department. Marketers tested creative in small focus groups and tracked consumers' clicks, but most of that "listening" was designed to recognize what got people to click and buy rather than what got them to love the brand and remain loyal to it. That is changing as more marketing leaders adopt customer experience management as a strategic imperative, and this means marketers are making greater use of Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs than ever before.

You cannot improve your CX if you don't understand your brand's experiences from the perspective of the customer, and you cannot know that unless you listen. Chances are your firm already has a VOC or feedback platform in place, so in 2017, make better use of it. Get to know the platform's analytics capabilities or import data into business intelligence tools to get more insight from the data. Consider new listening posts to track consumer sentiment at different stages in their journeys with your brand. And expand your feedback mechanisms across the entire range of direct, indirect and inferred data to better understand drivers of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. (Gartner subscribers interested in digging deeper will find our Market Guide for Voice of the Customer platforms helpful.)

For two more easy actions (plus two difficult but important things you can do) to improve customer experience in 2017, please continue reading this blog post on my Gartner blog. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

What Marketers Can Learn About Customer Experience From Santa Claus

Source: Pixabay
Santa Claus, in the lexicon of marketers, has an extraordinarily strong brand. The Santa® brand we know today evolved over a century ago thanks to Clemente Clark Moore’s poem, Thomas Nast’s illustrations, and The New York Sun’s famous editorial to Virginia, and it was later cemented in our culture thanks to Coca-Cola advertising. His brand has thrived ever since, surviving war, consumerism, and the Internet.

How has Santa survived for so long and what does it tell us about customer experience (CX)?

Santa is free

Parent’s may disagree, but Santa offers a service and charges nothing. Marketers obsessed with sales can mock Santa’s poor business model, but they’d be missing the point. Price is part of every person’s consideration of a brand’s customer experience, and many of the great CX success stories of recent years have come with price tags that are smaller, not larger.

Facebook, Snapchat,, and Spotify are free to users. Netflix has grown by permitting account sharing. Uber offers better on-demand transportation experiences at a lower price than traditional offerings.

And those inclined to laugh at Santa’s bottom line might want to take note of Amazon. The retailer accounted for almost one in three dollars spent over 2016’s “cyber weekend,” more than four times the next top-selling online retailer, a commanding market share that the company achieved, in part, because of pricing that results in minimal profit. Since 2000, Amazon’s revenues have steadily increased from less than $3B to more than $100B, but the company has been unprofitable five of those 16 years (including two of the last four years) and earned net income of more than $1B only once–six years ago. Retail brands that have made more profit quake in fear of what Amazon is doing and will do to their industry and companies. Ho ho ho, who’s laughing now?

Santa solicits input, listens and uses data

Santa knows if you’ve been bad or good, which means his CRM system efficiently handles trillions of data points on tens of millions of children. (Shh, don’t tell the FTC that Santa violates COPPA.) Feeding this huge data lake (literally–Santa stores his data in a lake at the North Pole to keep his servers cool) is the greatest Voice of the Customer (VoC) system the world has ever seen. He knows what every child wants because he asks–he solicits and records individual requests via a massive multichannel system that includes postal mail, email, and, of course, his lap.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What Trump’s Looming Customer Experience Challenge Can Teach Marketers

Following Donald Trump's election victory, we have seen the inevitable flood of blog posts suggesting the lessons marketers must learn from his success. While such a newsworthy event provides easy fodder for this sort of speculation, I remain unconvinced there is much marketers can or should consider as of yet. The real lessons lie ahead--Donald Trump has much to teach us about long-term brand health and customer experience in the years to come.

Simply put, Donald Trump hasn't won the war--he's earned the right to fight in it. In the language of marketing, the election "marketing funnel" is complete and the country has "acquired" Donald Trump, but he won't get a chance to start "delivering on his brand promise" until after his inauguration on January 20, 2017. American citizens and history will not evaluate Trump based on his campaign or election win but on what he does next. Whether Trump delivers the "customer experience" citizens expect and earns "satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy" will determine if the "President Trump brand" is ultimately judged successful or not.

Too much can be made from Trump's victory as a marketing lesson. Marketers all face unique challenges, but few must address ones as complex as a presidential election. There isn't a brand in the world with an 18-month buying cycle that ends when 120 million consumers complete a transaction simultaneously. Few brands face as diverse and complex a set of decision criteria; this election included concerns of authenticity, trust, hacked data, ethics, legality, temperament, discrimination, and external interference, not to mention the actual issues at stake (which sadly went largely unmentioned during the campaign.) Moreover, what might we expect to learn from Trump's victory considering he failed to earn more votes than his opponent? Had Clinton won 107,330 more votes in just three states, today we'd be reading blog posts telling us what we can learn from Clinton's victory--and the lessons would be very different.

But no matter who won, the customer experience challenges would be the same, and that is the lesson marketers really should take away from this or any other election. To read more about what marketers can learn from Trump and from those brands that win the acquisition battle but lose the customer experience war, please continue reading my post on the Gartner blog.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Your Brands Need a Customer Experience Transformation Before A Digital Transformation

Source: Pexels

There is no doubt that brands have to adjust to an increasingly digital, mobile and automated world. But for all the focus on "digital transformation" in recent years, many brands still miss the mark, investing in technology and strategies that see slow adoption, fail to drive business outcomes and do not improve the customer experience.

The key to success in the future is not simply to improve your brand's digital acumen and footprint but to do so in the right ways that serve your customers' needs and expectations. Identifying and solving your organization's digital gaps will seem daunting unless you first concentrate on your customer experience gaps.

Modern organizations often split functions into channel-based silos--a digital group is responsible for achieving digital goals measured in digital ways while a physical- or phone-oriented team is tasked and rewarded for success only in their own channel. The problem with this approach is that consumers are neither completely physical nor digital.

When a customer uses their phone from inside a retail store to check on product details or pays using a digital wallet, are they being physical or digital? When a homeowner feels cold and says "Ok Google, make it warmer," causing their Google Home and Nest devices to send more fuel to the furnace and lift the temperature, are they being physical or digital? When people play Pokemon Go, viewing the world through their phone and traveling physically to collect digital rewards, are they being physical or digital?

Too many digital transformation efforts can operate on digital islands and thus miss that consumers easily and willfully switch from physical to digital channels with ease. Consumers do not object to merging or shifting real-world and digital channels when it benefits them; they object when brands force them to switch because doing so is best for the brand.

Many brands tried to keep website customers on the site and measured success only when the customer converted online, but increasingly marketing leaders have come to realize they can be more successful by interrupting web surfers with offers of assistance via phone or by sending them to nearby stores that have the customer's desired inventory. Brands typically attempted to keep customer care callers holding on the line for a representative, but it is now routine for customers to hear hold messages that remind them of convenient digital service options at their disposal.

While the technical capability to offer these sorts of multichannel experiences were not particularly difficult, the organizational challenges were often daunting. Who gets credit for a sale that starts online and is completed offline or by phone? Contact centers are rewarded for keeping call abandon rates down, but what happens when customers accept the invitation to hang up and use Twitter, instead? These questions only arise when digital strategies and outcomes are isolated from broader measures of business or customer success.

To learn how customer experience strategies can help and direct your digital transformation, please continue reading on my Gartner blog.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Content Is Vital, But It Isn't King

Source: Unsplash
Shortly after Obama’s first inauguration, he must have signed the "Content is King" Act of 2009 which required the use of this phrase at every marketing conference and on every agency blog. I have not been able to find a record of this bill, but given the ubiquity of the ridiculous term, the law is clearly enforced assertively. #ThanksObama!

Content is important. Our era of always-on media and fractured channels makes it vital for brands to develop, manage, coordinate, and disseminate content in smart ways. But is it the king?

I’d like to drive a stake through the heart of this phrase and do my part to ensure no one ever utters it with a straight face. Let’s explore why content is not king and why it is vital we identify what is our brands' king.

If Organic Content Is King For Brands…

Why is organic reach on Facebook still falling?

Why have the number of posts per brand skyrocketed 800% while the number of shares per blog post has plummeted 89%?

Why has the number of Fortune 500 brands with a blog declined?

Why is the number of B2B marketers who say their organizations are effective at content marketing falling?

Why has the number of consumers who say they have little or no trust in the brand information they see on social networks increased 50% to 150% in two years?

While organic and paid content are subject to different consumer attitudes and actions, the problems brands face with paid media help further illustrate why content is not king. Consumers trust friends, families, and online reviews more than advertising; a quarter will block ads this year; and email clickthrough rates have been dropping for years.

The data on organic and paid content suggest that, for the most part, consumers do not trust or welcome marketing communications. What consumers want from brands isn't great content but great experiences. Content can be part of a great experience, to be sure, but it still starts with the experience.

For brand examples that demonstrate how content serves customer experience and why it is important your brand pledge allegiance to the right king, please continue reading on my Gartner blog. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Conduct a One-Minute Professional LinkedIn Engagement Checkup

LinkedIn is the go-to place to find and learn about people professionally. That is true for you and me, and it is even more true for recruiters and hiring managers. Not only is the professional network your always-on online resume, but it is also a place to demonstrate the depth of your engagement in your career and industry, your commitment to staying abreast of professional news and your thought leadership.

Conduct a 60-second audit of your recent activity to ensure your LinkedIn interactions tell others what you wish them to know about you. Are you hungry for news and information to drive results in your job and your career? Do you engage in thoughtful dialog about the trends in your industry? Do you demonstrate your mastery of today's social communications tools and strategies?

Much can be told from your LinkedIn activities. Are you professional or not? Assertive or passive? Positive or negative? Self-interested or oriented to others? A leader or a follower? Focused on a set of key topics or scattered across many? Present and active or absent and disinterested?

As brands craft their social media presence, they fret over every post, comment and like, making sure each interaction reflects their brand and commitment to customers. But as you engage on LinkedIn, you may give little thought to the story you are creating with each click of the "like" button.

Your profile is important--it contains the keyword and meta information that recruiters and others use to search for and find professionals--but your activity history is important, too. Your profile may look impeccable, conveying a capable, smart and successful professional history, but do your likes, comments, and shares tell the same story?

Here's how to know in just one minute: Do what recruiters and hiring managers do and review your LinkedIn activities. Go to your Profile menu on LinkedIn and select "Your Updates." You will also find link to "Your recent activity" near your profile picture on the top of the home page. Your recent activity page will display all of your likes, shares, and comments.

Viewed in this manner, what do your LinkedIn activities say about you? Do they tell the story you would want to convey to bosses, peers, clients, employees and others? Do your activities match your profile and accurately communicate your professional interests? Do people engage with your content and comments or are you ignored?

Also, put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter or hiring manager. Think of the next best job in your career and ask if you would hire the person you see reflected in your recent activity. Look at the ratio of topics in the last ten or fifteen posts (which is as much as a recruiter is likely to review in the few seconds they will have to evaluate you); are a majority of your posts related to professional news, trends, white papers, studies and events, or are most of your recent likes for selfies, puzzles, jokes, and inspirational quotes?

Another exercise is to think of a couple of people you admire on LinkedIn--professionals who seem to post the most interesting and pertinent thought leadership in your industry or discipline--and look at their recent activity. To do so, visit their profile, click the down arrow next to "Send a Message," and select "View Recent Activity."  What does their activity say about them? How is it different than yours? What is it they do that helps them to encourage the admiration you feel for them?

Your sterling professional history may get you noticed, but is your LinkedIn activity sealing the deal or scaring people away?  If your recent activity doesn't promote the personal brand you want, how will your LinkedIn habits change?

Actions speak louder than words; what do your LinkedIn actions say about you? (Hint: Sharing this article will definitely tell people you care about your brand and want others to better succeed at managing theirs.)


Monday, October 17, 2016

How To Be a Better Change Agent

Last week, I gave a presentation on the topic of being a better change agent as part of the Walk the Talk Milwaukee conference. I did this personally rather than professionally, although I often see the many challenges to change in my job helping marketing leaders adopt and execute customer experience initiatives.

With the world moving faster and technology threatening more jobs, the need for strong change agents—people who can recognize and lead necessary change—is growing. It is imperative we better understand and manage the factors that work for or against our change objectives.

Everyone recognizes the need to change, so why is it so difficult for organizations and people to embrace it? One data point that has been floating around for over 20 years is that 70% of organizational change initiatives fail. Ironically, despite the ubiquity of this "fact," it was first suggested in 1993 as nothing more than an "unscientific estimate." I suspect the reason this statistic has been repeated so often for so long is that it roughly matches our experiences. 

Research validates this unscientific estimate isn't far off. One 2013 study found that only 54% of executives say change initiatives at their companies are adopted and sustained. Clearly, this is a tremendous problem, since every failed change initiative is not just a missed opportunity but also an expensive mistake; in fact, one study found that one of every six large IT projects go so badly that they can threaten the very existence of the company.

The stakes are high for our careers and our organizations, so how can we be more effective at leading change in our personal and professional lives? To answer that question, we must appreciate that: 
  • There is no such thing as a change agent. That may sound odd considering I’m writing about being a better change agent, but this is a set of skills, not an ability. It is not something you are born with but something you can develop. All of us are change agents—none of us gets the luxury of waiting for others to change us—so it is vital we identify and sharpen the right skills.
  • Being a change agent is risky: No matter how much business leaders say they want to hire more change agents, being a change agent is hazardous. Change agents fail, stumble in their careers and can damage their reputation. We must appreciate that advocating for change entails uncertainty, which is why it is essential we become aware of the risks and work to mitigate them.
  • People hate change. Humans like to feel safe and comfortable, and change is risky and discomforting. Successful change agents must know how to encourage people, helping them to see and welcome the benefits of change. 

If we do these three things—sharpen our skills, mitigate risks and inspire people—we can better succeed at leading change.

Sharpen Your Change Agent Skills

To be a better agent for change, you must develop your people skills (such as networking and communicating challenging and complex messages) and emotional skills (including patience with process and people and self-awareness of biases and weaknesses). You also need to develop critical thinking skills, and it is these skills on which I'd like to focus since they are so essential to change agency.

Improving any skill requires you adopt different habits. If you do not change what you do, you cannot cultivate new skills. To improve your change agent skills, you must modify habits to encourage:
  • Love of Learning: You can’t lead change unless you are one of the first to know it is necessary. That means you need to be hungry for information. One habit that can develop this skill is to schedule the time to consume news; plan reading periods on your calendar and honor that commitment rather than using the time to catch up on email. Another suggested habit is to curate your learnings into social channels--once you begin to engage with others and collect an audience, this becomes yet another reason to continually stay on the prowl for professional studies, news, and case studies.
  • Contrarian Thinking: You can’t advocate for change if you think like everyone else. Most people gravitate to comfort, but good change agents do the opposite. For example, when everyone does the same thing the same way and agrees that the process works, begin to probe for a better way. Be different than most people, who are obsessed with what competitors are doing, and explore lessons from outside your industry. And when everybody agrees on a new trend, ask yourself why. Don’t merely zig when everyone zags—that’s just being disagreeable—but question everything and develop your own POV.
  • Analysis: Passion is necessary to fuel the fires of change, but passion never wins the day—you must be able to communicate why it matters, how to act and what measurable benefits it will deliver. The same enthusiasm that allows you to see trends before others may cloud your judgment and make it difficult to communicate objectively. One habit you can adopt is to be a contrarian to your ideas; attempt to refute your opinions and identify gaps in your logic and information. When you can no longer disprove your idea, you are prepared to present a logical case for change.

Mitigate the Risks of Being a Change Agent

Being a change agent is risky. Just look at the experience of Ron Johnson. In his 15 years as Target’s VP of Merchandising, he introduced design partnerships that changed customer perception of Target from a place to go for cheap products to the place to go for stylish and affordable products. Then Johnson spent 12 years as Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail, introducing the Apple Store concept at a time when brands like Gateway were shuttering their stores. Johnson had a long, favorable history of being a change agentuntil he became JCPenney's CEO and lasted for just 18 months.

Johnson was brought into JCPenney to be a change agent. He had the backing of the Board of Directors to implement substantial change. He also had the support of shareholders, who bid up JCPenney's stock 17% on the news of Johnson’s hiring and another 24% in the three months after he joined the company,  So, with that sort of sponsorship, what went wrong in just 18 months?

Much has been written about Johnson's brief tenure at the retailer. He overestimated the desire for change or, more accurately, underestimated the organization's capacity for rapid change. In his desire to attract a new customer to JCPenney, he ignored the current customer, replacing familiar brands shoppers knew with new brands out of their budget. Johnson implemented changes without pilots, focus groups or tests, an approach that may have worked for Steve Jobs at high-tech Apple but seemed dangerous at a national mass-market retailer. Johnson attempted to run JCPenney like a startup, but changing the culture of a 159,000-employee, 1,100-store chain required more time. And lastly, Johnson quickly replaced many seasoned JCPenney executives with former colleagues, leaving few leaders who understood the business and knew the company's existing systems and processes.

Johnson's experience helps to reveal the five building blocks of change--Capital, Customer, Process, Culture, and People. If you can mitigate the risk in each of these, you can more safely and efficiently lead change: 
  • Personal Capital: None of us will find ourselves in the situation where a board of directors brings us in as CEO of a Fortune 500 company with a public mandate to change, which means we will never have as much personal capital as Ron Johnson had. The fact Johnson ran out of capital tells us how important it is to manage our "bank"--the activities that add to or draw down our personal capital reserves. You need capital to initiate change, need more for the period during which success is uncertain, and need still more to survive missteps that occur. Experience, success and working hard earn capital. So does networking and securing senior executives to mentor and sponsor you and your initiatives. Soliciting approvals at each step rather than pushing too far too fast helps you to preserve capital and spend it wisely.
  • Customer: Never forget your current customer as you pursue new ones, and make sure you base your ideas on real data about the customer. To do so, seek out information on your company's current and future customer segments and personas. Gather data and information about customer needs, goals, behaviors, and perceptions. Connect with the people in your organization who have this knowledge, such as the customer insight, customer care and voice of customer groups. Almost nothing kills an idea faster than having someone say "That is not our customer," so be sure to demonstrate how your idea fits your organization's current customers or the ones leaders wish to target.
  • Process: Business leaders may be intrigued by ideas, but they don't buy ideas; they invest in solutions and plans. If you cannot turn your ideas into logical and workable plans, you will struggle for approval. Moreover, although Steve Jobs could get away with implementing changes with little testing or piloting, you and I are not Steve Jobs. We need to preserve our personal capital by proceeding more cautiously and sensibly, which means developing a prudent, staged plan with plenty of tests along the way.
  • Culture: Change agents change organizational culture, but this occurs slowly. Work within the existing culture rather than expecting rapid change in order to preserve more personal capital. Also, you have a greater chance of success if you align plans to your enterprise's strategic initiatives, finding ways to help leaders achieve what they already want rather than suggesting something different. Finally, change agents can be perceived as square pegs in round holes within their organizations, so at every turn, demonstrate you understand and ground your ideas in corporate mission and values.

Help People Overcome their Aversion to Change

The fifth building block of change is people. People don't so much hate change as they hate being changed. No one enjoys being told what they're doing is wrong, their skills are becoming obsolete, or their jobs may be at risk. Change agents help to inspire people by: 
  •  Changing Goals and Rewards: Employees do not do what they are told to do; they do what they are paid to do. It's hard to get people to change if you do not alter the ways employees are rewarded. Improve your chances for success by identifying the right behaviors, defining proper goals and metrics, and considering new approaches to compensate people for adopting new practices.
  • Raising the Pain (with Care and Empathy): People do not change until the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same. Change agents help people to see the need for change and the dangers of staying the same. Position change not just in terms of what it means to the customer or the bottom line but employees, as well.
  • Creating a Positive Vision: Successful change agents don’t just tell people their futures are in jeopardy; they show people how they can enjoy more success and prosperity. When you tell people about the risks of not changing, pair it with information on the benefits of embracing something new.  Motivate people with hope, not fear.
  • Involving People: Like all successful leaders, change agents must tell people the "what" but allow them a voice in the "how." Involving employees helps to increase the chance of adopting and sustaining change. Tuckman's stages of group development can help you to plan for and execute change in teams. Plan not just for the time required but also the investment necessary to support employees—the training, coaching, information and systems people need to adjust.
We are entering a period of profound and troubling change. Improvements in machine learning, automation, robotics and artificial intelligence will threaten industries and jobs. The need for change agents who can see the future, develop workable plans and help people adopt change will only increase in the years to come.

He or she who helps people embrace change will rule the world. Go rule the world!

My presentation deck is shared below. I welcome your feedback and hope you find the information and suggestions helpful.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Here's How You Can (and Perhaps Should) Talk About the 2016 Election on LinkedIn

Let's start by acknowledging that we're all sick of the 2016 campaign and the bickering that has accompanied it for more than a year now. Nevertheless, I'm going to suggest you can and perhaps should engage in political dialog here on LinkedIn.

Many people complain that politics has no place on LinkedIn. They're wrong. Your employer sponsors or contributes money to Political Action Committees (PACs) and pays for lobbyists to influence elections and political decisions for good reason: Politics impacts business. The next president of the United States will make decisions on personal and corporate taxation, government debt, government spending, business regulation, international trade, employment law, minimum wage, education, and the laws that govern intellectual property, the internet, employee benefits, commerce and other aspects of business.

If you would feel comfortable posting on LinkedIn about changes in inflation or employment data, then you should feel comfortable discussing how the candidates' platforms will impact inflation and employment. If you'd post on LinkedIn about regulation in your industry, then you should have no problem offering a fair and informed point of view on how the candidates may differ on issues of regulation.

Politics is business, and business is politics. The next person to occupy the Oval Office will affect the business climate, your industry, your company, your income, your career and your retirement. He or she will also change the course of your children's and grandchildren's education, job prospects and ability to earn a living in the increasingly competitive and automated world economy. Not only does this make this year's election an appropriate topic for LinkedIn, it is hard to imagine a more important business topic than who the country elects on Tuesday, November 8th.

I'm not suggesting you have an obligation to discuss politics on LinkedIn--that is a decision we each need to make for ourselves--but we should consider and feel free to do so. There is, of course, a right way and a wrong way to discuss politics in a professional network, so if you choose to discuss the business implications of this year's election, do it right and mitigate the risks.

To Discuss Politics on LinkedIn, Make It Relevant Professionally

LinkedIn is a professional network, so there are several ways to make a discussion of the 2016 campaign appropriate:
  • Your business is politics: If you are a lobbyist or are employed by a campaign, then politics is your business and posts about your business are suitable. Keep in mind, however, that as with all communications, you should focus on the needs of your audience. Offer content as relevant as possible to others' employment, business and careers.
  • You believe a candidate will have an impact on your occupation or industry: If you believe there are substantive differences between the policies of the candidates that will affect your professional field or business category, say so. If you anticipate that one candidate will be better than the other for tech, for the legal profession or for financial services, offer your perspective and back it up with data, analysis, and links.
  • You perceive one candidate will be significantly better for the overall economy: The next president of the United States will hold great sway over whether the country's economy grows, stagnates or shrinks. If you believe there are differences between the candidates that could increase the likelihood of a recession, trade war, growth in deficits, bear stock market or other adverse business outcomes, that is a proper topic for a professional network. 

How to Mitigate Risks With Talking Politics on LinkedIn

Talking politics can increase professional risks, such as causing an argument with a peer, losing connections or altering reputation. Of course, talking politics can also bring benefits--you may influence others' opinion or vote, demonstrate your ability to tackle tough topics in an appropriate way, display your knowledge and interest in a topic and perhaps even gain new followers.

You should carefully consider what is right for you and, should you choose to, engage carefully and appropriately in the following manner:

  • Be professional: On LinkedIn, all political discussions must be in the context of business, careers, and jobs. Policies on taxes, commerce, and business regulation are appropriate, candidates' marital histories are not. Avoid the many social issues (or personality differences) that separate the candidates. Tell people why it matters to their careers or companies. 
  • Be dispassionate: Bring the same manner to politics you would any topic on LinkedIn. Don't be angry. Don't call names. Don't make value judgments. Don't generalize. Don't ascribe evil intent or lack of intelligence to candidates or others. Simply tell people what you believe and why you believe it.
  • Be measured: Post about politics sparingly and keep it brief. Striving to inform people on an important business topic is in bounds; flooding their stream and annoying them is not, no matter how deeply you feel. Keep your status updates diverse to convey your breadth and depth as a balanced professional.
  • Be direct: As with all writing, your first sentences are crucial. Don't bury the lede. Don't start with an apology that people don't like politics on LinkedIn. Remember that in their stream, people will only see the first two or three sentences before your post is truncated. Make them count--use those sentences wisely to let them know why they should care to read more. Respect people's time and get to the point.
  • Be factual: Select political topics that can be introduced and discussed based on facts, not opinions. How a candidate's policies may impact businesses and careers is relevant; whether you like or trust a candidate is not. Write from the brain, not the gut. Demonstrate to people you are a clear, rational and exacting thinker. 
  • Be objective: Avoid bias to the extent possible. To do so, find links from reliable sources. Rely on trusted business media and bypass the many online sources on the right and left that prejudice their spin on the news. Give people a reason to believe your perspective. 
  • Be open-minded: Don't simply broadcast your point of view but welcome all responses. Invite challenges and be willing to engage and ready to change your opinion. Conclude your political posts with questions that ask if people agree or how they may see the topic differently. Leave people with the impression you are confident in your point of view but welcome discussion.
  • Control yourself: Political topics can be emotional. Don't respond to a comment while angry. Do not hesitate to step away from the PC or phone and review a potential answer later with a clearer mind. Don't be lured into a reply you will regret. Use "and," not "but" ("Thanks for the response and..." not "Thanks for the response but...") Strive to make your political dialog the example of how people can discuss sensitive discussions in our politically divided environment. 
  • Be in control: Do not hesitate to delete someone's comment if it crosses the line or to report a comment if it is abusive. It's still your post and your feed. You have an obligation to allow dissent, not to provide yet another online platform for abuse, bullying or vulgarity. Tolerate disagreement but moderate the tenor and professionalism of the dialog.
  • Be fair: Treat everyone the same. If you thank people who agree with you, thank the ones who do not. If you reprimand a dissenter for calling your favored candidate a name that this crosses a line, you must do the same to a supporter who uses a slur against another candidate. Take responsibility rather than assign blame by saying, "I may have failed to convey..." rather than "You don't understand..." Focus on the ideas, not the person by saying, "Can you share a link to that information?" rather than "I don't believe you." Leave everyone feeling heard and valued.
  • Be willing to retreat: You won't convince all the people all the time. Engage with those who have a different perspective, but be willing to end a discussion when it stops being productive. Agree to disagree, allow others to have the last word, acknowledge you have different perspectives and thank dissenters for their contributions. Don't let pride get the best of you--remember, you're posting to educate, not to win. 
One last suggestion involving politics and LinkedIn: You are going to see some political posts on the professional network in the next five weeks. If a person is posting about political matters in a business context, do not criticize or complain. And if someone posts about politics in an inappropriate manner, do not provide disparaging feedback in a comment since that only surfaces the post to all of your LinkedIn connections. Instead, if you see truly inappropriate political posts, either reach out the poster privately or use the small down arrow on the upper right corner of the post to "Report this update."

Talking politics on LinkedIn may not be the right course of action for you, and if that's your choice, I respect your decision. But I also respect those who care to engage on political topics that matter to business and do so in the proper way. After all, if the founder of LinkedIn is willing to talk politics on LinkedIn, why shouldn't the rest of us?

Why I Believe You Should Consider a Vote For Hillary Clinton

Having made my case for dispassionate, relevant and open political dialog, I am going to take this opportunity to suggest why you should vote for Hillary Clinton this year. You may feel more strongly about issues other than the president's impact on business, and that is your prerogative, but if you care about the economy and jobs, I believe the choice is clear:

I welcome your feedback, both to the idea of business-focused political dialog on LinkedIn and my reasoning for believing Hillary Clinton would be better for our economy, our companies and our jobs. Either way, please follow the rules. Keep the dialog professional and respectful. If you disagree, back it up with facts and links.

I will attempt to walk the talk, and if I don't, you should call me on it. We all have something to learn, both about civil political discourse and the outcome of this year's presidential race.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Customer Experience: Marketing's Pull to Balance Its Push

Blatant manipulation of reader's emotions using a push/pull
image featuring pullies.  Source: Pixabay
The key to building a healthy brand is to balance marketing's push with its pull. Push strategies drive immediate financial benefit by pressing messages, offers, and products at customers. Customer experience pull strategies build satisfaction, loyalty and word of mouth that draw customers to the brand. Wells Fargo's recent headlines offer yet another cautionary tale of what happens when push and pull are imbalanced.

Recently, Wells Fargo was in the news because the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) fined Wells Fargo Bank $100 million for the "widespread illegal practice of secretly opening unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts." Employees opened more than two million accounts that may not have been authorized by consumers.

The costs to the bank went beyond the CFPB fine; it must pay full restitution to all victims, an additional $35 million penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and another $50 million to the City and County of Los Angeles. In addition, Wells Fargo must now invest in communication and other strategies to convince disappointed customers that it is "committed to putting our customers’ interests first 100 percent of the time." The fines and negative publicity also impacted Wells Fargo's stock price, which has fallen almost ten percent in recent weeks.

What went wrong can be seen through the lens of push versus pull. Former Well Fargo employees--some of the 5,300 that were fired as a result of these practices--tell stories of a company that prioritized short-term results. Its "Gr-eight initiative," which sought to sell at least eight financial products per customer, created a "pressure cooker environment" that pushed employees to deliver. The bank suffered from “pervasive inappropriate practices,” such as "pinning," issuing ATM cards and assigning PIN numbers without customer authorization, and allowing employees to input false generic email addresses like to ensure transactions were completed.

Of course, Wells Fargo is far from the only organization to be tripped because its push and pull strategies were unequal. Two years ago, the former head of Engadget attempted to cancel his Comcast service and found it nearly impossible. The last eight minutes of the roughly 20-minute call went viral, with the customer determining "the only sufficient answer was 'Okay, please don’t disconnect our service after all.'" Former Comcast employees recounted that what "started out as a carrot — bonuses for frontline employees who made sales — turned into a stick, as employees who failed to pitch hard enough or meet their quotas were chastised, or worse."

Hindsight is 20/20, but the problem here is clear to see. These companies prioritized sales over happy, loyal customers, and both companies acknowledged that their incentives were part of the problem. In the wake of its PR headaches, Comcast's chief operating officer conceded the company needed to "take a look at our incentives to ensure we are rewarding employees for the right behaviors," and Wells Fargo eliminated their sales quotas less than a week after the CFPB announcement.

To learn why sales quotas are not really the problem, how leaders can balance their push and pull strategies and to evaluate how your favorite brands pull your loyalty and business, please read my complete blog post on

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Four Ways Marketers Can Stop Damaging Their Profession

Marketing has a marketing problem.

In 2012, an Adobe study found that advertising/marketing was one of the least valuable professions to society--just 13% of survey respondents ranked it as valuable. In 2015, a 4As study found that only 4% of Americans think the marketing industry behaves with integrity, ranking it below Congress and cable news. This trend is not recent; in the four decades Gallup has surveyed Americans about the honesty and ethical standards of different professions, no more than 14% have ever ranked Advertising Practitioners very high or high. Currently, Advertising Practitioners share the bottom of the list with car salespeople, telemarketers, and lobbyists.

And if consumers don't trust us, they certainly cannot trust our work. A recent study from Experticity found what every other study has about consumer trust in advertising and marketing communications: Less than half of consumers—47 percent—trust or believe advertising, and the same is true (49%) with social media campaigns. By now we've seen so many of these studies that it hardly needs to be pointed out that family and friends, along with online reviews, earn 50% more trust than the output created by marketers.

And if you think the issue is only with consumers, guess again. A 2012 Fournaise study of CEOs found that "80% of CEOs admit they do not really trust and are not very impressed by the work done by Marketers — while in comparison, 90% of the same CEOs do trust and value the opinion and work of CFOs and CIOs."

If only there were a profession to which marketers could turn to influence public perception and impact consideration of the profession! I'm not sure what it says when the discipline responsible for promoting and selling cannot promote or sell itself, but whatever it is, it isn't very complimentary.

What can the marketing industry do to begin to have a positive impact on its reputation and trust? I suggest four courses of action:
  • Action #1: Champion the difficult
  • Action #2: Stop celebrating the meaningless
  • Action #3: Embrace your inner geek
  • Action #4: Adopt customer experience
To learn more about each of these action items and what it will take for the profession of marketing to rise to the same level of respect and trust enjoyed by pharmacists and accountants, please continue reading my complete blog post on 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Writing (and Thinking) Without Bullshit

Before I recommend Writing Without Bullshit: Boost Your Career by Saying What You Mean by Josh Bernoff, I should disclose that Josh mentions one of my blog posts in the book. While I'm pleased it is a positive mention, I will further disclose that I am the writer with a bad habit in a tale Josh recounts. I can think of no better way to start my review than to share this story, because it demonstrates why I can wholeheartedly recommend this book: Josh Bernoff made me a better writer and thinker, and now he can do the same for you.

To land my first job as a research analyst, I went through a grueling process that involved writing a complete research report. I landed the job, and my first assignment was to turn that pre-hire writing sample into a published document. "No sweat," I thought, "I wrote a killer report that earned me the job offer, so this should be a slam dunk." Then I received my edited document back from Josh, and I have never seen so many edits in my life. I'll let Josh take it from here: 
"I once edited a very smart analyst who didn't realize how bad his passive habit was. After marking up the first two cases of passive voice in his draft, I added this comment, 'I'm going to ask you to slap yourself each time you write a passive voice sentence.' For the rest of the document, I just marked each passive sentence and added the comment 'Slap.' In a five-page document, he needed to slap himself about 30 times. Since then he's become highly sensitive to the unconscious use of the passive voice in his writing."
Each time I read "slap," it stung, and I spent a day convinced I was going to fail at my new job. Twenty-four hours later, I took a look at Josh's feedback with fresh eyes, and I saw something different. Josh wasn't criticizing my ideas; he was strengthening them. The edits he made weren't just grammatical; Josh was helping me to communicate the messages I intended.

I am far from the world's best writer, but I can look back over the years and see the sharp line that separates the quality of my writing pre- and post-Josh.  Wouldn't it be great if you could have that same mentoring experience? You can, for just $11.99 (Kindle price). 

The conceit of the book is that it is about how to write, and it certainly will help you to communicate better via email, social media, and other "containers," but the book is really about how to sharpen your thinking. Or, perhaps, it is more accurate to say that this work is about the many ways your writing tells people how you think, for better or worse. 

Your bad writing habits may have implications beyond poor grammar or even ineffectively communicated ideas. Josh notes that every bad writing habit you've learned is "tied up with your own psychology at work." Every single thing you write tells people if you are logical, value others more than yourself, are interested in the truth, are industrious and are brave enough to be candid. 

Josh quotes a friend who succinctly sums up the unspoken power of your writing: "If you can't write clearly, you can't think clearly." Every email, post or comment is a mini-resume in ways you may not appreciate, and Josh's book can help you recognize the problems, adopt better habits and improve your career. 

Writing without bullshit brings many benefits, but it also carries risks. Josh makes this clear from the start, with a disclaimer that reads: 
"If you follow the advice you are about to read, it will have a powerful impact on your career... While I hope these words will help you, you alone are responsible for the consequences, positive or negative, of writing without bullshit."  
If this sounds threatening, that's because it can be. As Josh notes, "Clarity can be dangerous because people who read what you wrote might disagree with it." But the risk is worth it.

Josh is not interested in teaching you about sentence structure or when to use a colon versus semi-colon. Instead, he wants you to be cognizant of when you are afraid, because "fear generates bad writing habits." When you're afraid to deliver bad news or make a tough call, you equivocate, use weasel words and bury the lede. In short, your fear shows, and your readers see it. Or, as Josh eloquently puts it, "If you plant daisies around a pile of poo, it still stinks. Why not just point out the poo so we know not to step in it?"

Writing Without Bullshit shares many positive examples that illustrate his advice, but part of the fun of the book is that Josh doesn't hesitate to offer bad examples, as well. For example, Josh shares a painful article written by a technology CEO, and he notes "not only does this passage say nothing, it marks the CEO as a man who can't marshal facts to defend his perspective. It's worse than no statement at all." If that sounds brutal, ask yourself if someone may be thinking that about your writing.

Some of the advice Josh offers is quite simple, such as visualizing your audience. Not only does that help you to avoid jargon that your audience may not understand, but it also helps you to write directly to them using the word "you." Josh notes, "You can't write 'you' unless you have a clear idea of your audience. If you don't know who you're writing for and what you want them to do, why bother writing it all?"

Another practical tip is how to frame your writing project at the beginning. If you cannot fill in the bracketed sections, you are not ready to start: "After reading this piece, [readers] will realize [objective], so they will [desired action] and think of me/us as [desired impression]."

Josh not only wants you to change what you write, but he also recommends better habits to improve how you write. For example, good writers are prepared, or as Josh calls it, "being paranoid early," He notes, "Any piker can be paranoid when up against a deadline, where any little thing could destroy weeks of work. It takes a professional to be a paranoid at the start of the writing process."

Josh had a tremendous impact on my writing and my career. I treasure and use his advice every time I sit at my keyboard. I'm just a tad disappointed his coaching is now available to everyone in a compact 251-page book, but my disappointment can be your gain. 

If you write and care about the way clients, peers and bosses perceive you (and who doesn't?), you will find Writing Without Bullshit a worthwhile investment. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Avoid the Uncanny Valley When Automating Customer Experience Interactions

Source: Pixabay
I wrote some months ago that marketers trying to improve their brands' customer experience can make the mistake of attempting to manufacture emotion rather than evoke it. Emotion is vitally important to build strong customer relationships, but the secret is to evoke positive emotions within your customers, not manufacture it at customers. Nowhere has this difference been more evident to me than in the way some brands stumble into the "uncanny valley" as they automate customer interactions.

If you are not familiar with the concept of the "uncanny valley," it describes the way humans can experience discomfort and even revulsion at robots that appear almost, but not exactly like, real human beings. While this term is typically applied to robots, you can see this effect at work in the way brands automate their customer engagement. Research suggests that automation must balance humans' awareness they are interacting with a machine with the functional and emotional cues provided by that machine. Attempts to make robots too human can create small incongruities that result in oversized negative reactions.

As brands adopt more automation in their social media, bots, IVR systems, marketing programs, and customer care systems, they must be careful that the desire to seem more human doesn't inadvertently cause negative, brand-damaging experiences. Just as a single incorrect line of code can cause an entire application to break, the smallest of missteps into the uncanny valley can damage customer relationships.

The danger to brands of the uncanny valley came to mind recently as I interacted with two brands' automated systems. In each instance, the brand attempted to inject emotion into their automated interactions in a way that created a negative rather than a positive response.
A Virtual Trainer Tries to Bolster My Ego

An online training program "hosted" by an imaginary virtual trainer provided positive feedback to a quiz response, telling me, "I'm proud of you." My reaction was profoundly negative for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that this pre-programmed, artificial being has no ability to feel anything, much less pride. The program designer stumbled into the uncanny valley, ascribing human emotion to a computer program. I know the system isn't human; the instructional designer knew the system isn't human; only the system seemed not to know this, and that felt creepy.

Another factor was that the level of praise was not appropriately matched to my action. The question I was presented was painfully obvious, and answering it correctly was no challenge. This level of effusive praise for such a simple behavior felt condescending, as if someone told me how proud they were I was able to tie my own shoes.

For another example of the uncanny valley, an examination of how brands stumble with this in social media and three tips to avoid the issue, please continue reading the complete blog post on my Gartner blog.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Six Reasons Customer Journey Mapping Fails (And What To Do About It)

Natalie Fox,
Customer journey maps are a strong tool for marketers seeking to improve their brands' customer experience. Unfortunately, many marketers report that their customer journey mapping initiatives fail to drive the value expected and desired.

Because producing a customer journey map requires a considerable investment of time and money, and because each failed journey mapping exercise represents an enormous lost opportunity, we recently published the report "How to Manage Effective Customer Journey Mapping Processes" for subscribers to Gartner for Marketing Leaders' research.

We found there are six primary reasons customer journey mapping exercises fail to live up to expectations, and you can solve each with careful preparation and an orderly process:
  • The journey mapping team is too narrow: Developing a cohesive customer journey that addresses the issues caused by organizational silos, disconnected systems, and uncollaborative processes cannot be achieved by a siloed, disconnected, and uncollaborative team. Solution: Select your team carefully to include representatives of all parts of the organization that affect the customer's entire journey.
  • The customer journey map fails to focus on key segments and personas: You cannot create a journey map that is all things to all people. Different segments with different attributes and goals will have different needs, expectations, journeys, and sentiment. Solution: Start by defining the who and developing a thorough persona (free blog post).
  • The scope of the customer journey map is insufficient: Journey maps routinely fail to start early enough--when the prospect has a need--and rarely extend far enough--not just to the stage when the customer uses the product or service but into the vital portions of the journey where the brand cultivates loyalty and word of mouth. Solution: Utilize a process that identifies the complete journey from Buy to Own to Advocate (free blog post).
If I have whetted your appetite to learn more, please continue reading on my Gartner blog. You'll learn the last three reasons customer journey mapping initiatives fail and how data, perspective, and goals set the stage for success.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Voice of Customer (VoC) Platforms Become Customer Experience Platforms

This post was originally published on my Gartner blog for marketing leaders

Ten years ago, "voice of the customer" (VoC) platforms were thought of as systems that sent surveys to collect feedback about customer satisfaction so that the data could be exported and distributed, typically via an Excel spreadsheet. As the demand for customer experience data, knowledge and action has grown, so has VoC. Today, these platforms are becoming robust tools to combine customer feedback with other indirect and inferred data so as to catalog customer journeys, understand customer sentiment and experiences, identify customer experience issues, resolve outstanding customer needs, and measure improvement in satisfaction, loyalty, brand advocacy and business outcomes.

In our new report, "Market Guide for Marketers' Voice-of-the-Customer Solutions," we surveyed the marketplace and found that as surveys are becoming table stakes, VoC platforms seek to differentiate themselves in other ways, including:
  • Ingesting and analyzing data from other systems, such as CRM, call center and web analytics platforms. 
  • Providing ways to close the loop with customers using alerts and workflow management.
  • Parsing unstructured data, not merely text answers to open-ended survey questions, but customer care emails, social media posts, and voice calls, as well.
  • Democratizing customer feedback within the organization with a broad range of dashboards to serve the needs of employees and leaders.
  • Furnishing interactive and rich-media methods for customers to supply feedback and improve upon the information collected.
  • Gathering and interpreting the voice of the employee (VoE).
  • Offering powerful analyses to identify trends and discover insights to guide CX efforts and investments.

VoC vendors that traditionally served the needs of customer care or operational leaders are seeing growing demand from marketers with responsibility for customer experience management. If you are a marketing leader and Gartner subscriber interested in VoC and customer experience, please read our new "Market Guide for Marketers' Voice-of-the-Customer Solutions." It provides summaries of more than a dozen vendors offering solutions for direct customer feedback, text and sentiment analytics, speech and interaction analytics, market research communities, customer journey monitoring and VoE.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Introducing the Buy/Own/Advocate Customer Experience Journey

Even though we all recognize the role of word of mouth (WOM) in building brands and delivering marketing results, customer journey models routinely omit any consideration for the impact of brand advocacy. Many of the journey frameworks used today to guide customer experience (CX) initiatives fail to account for the ways happy customers champion the brands they love and how others value WOM as they discover, evaluate and select products and services.

In the era of always-on, personalized information and trusted WOM at scale, it is time to update our customer journey models to recognize how great customer experience drives WOM, and great WOM drives business outcomes. Marketers need a new and better framework--one that considers the entire virtuous circle from buy to own to advocate and back to buy, again.

The customer journey model we use on the Gartner for Marketing Leaders team--the Buy/Own/Advocate framework--recognizes that strong brands aren't merely better at acquiring customers; they are better at keeping them and motivating them to tell others. This is why improving CX isn't just the right thing to do for your customers; it is also the right thing to do for your organization and its stakeholders.

For example, in 2011, Starbucks was honored as one of the top five brands for customer experience. That same year, the brand moved up two spots to become the third largest restaurant chain based on sales. It did this despite “being outspent on advertising anywhere from two to eight times by rivals.” This company and its success demonstrate how great marketing results come from the combination of smart outbound marketing and compelling, differentiated customer experience.

To learn about other brands activating their Buy/Own/Advocate customer journeys, the importance of driving customers not just to use but love and the power of advocacy and loyalty, please read the complete blog post on my Gartner blog. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

You Don't Own the Customer; She or He Owns You

"Who owns the customer?"

This is a question I have heard from a wide variety of organizations. Insurance firms wonder if the agent or the company "owns" the customer. B2B firms struggle with sales and account teams that seek to "protect" their clients. CPG brands wish to have more direct customer relations while retailers work to control the customer relationship. And companies with many competing or complementary products and services strive to balance the contradictory needs of different brands and departments.

Author Ursula K. Le Guin once said, "There are no right answers to wrong questions." "Who owns the customer?" is the wrong question. The terrible connotation of asking who owns a human being should be the first hint we're on thin ice. Moreover, it should be easily apparent to everyone that brands don't own or control anything; it is the customer who chooses us, pays for us, and abandons us if we fail to provide the right value or experience vis-a-vis the competition. If you consider this question from the perspective of the customer and not the organization, there is no question that you don't own the customer; he or she owns you.

Thus, the right question is not "Who owns the customer?" but "How best can we serve the customer?" This servitude approach is not simply philosophical but can have a profound effect on the actions of your firm and your employees. To see how important it is to start with the right question and learn the ways it drives better process and outcomes, please visit my Gartner blog for the complete post. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Marketers’ Questions about Customer Experience and the New Customer Journey

Last week I provided a free webinar about customer experience. I presented a new customer journey, one that is based not upon mass media era processes and behaviors but on the ways brands are built and sustained in the age of always-on, personalized information and trusted word of mouth. The presentation touched on the importance of authentic loyalty and advocacy, ways to measure efficiency and effectiveness in your customer journey and outside-in processes for creating customer journey maps. If this piques your interest, you can stream the customer experience webinar for free. (Well, not entirely free-it'll cost you your contact information.)

We received many questions during the webinar and could not get to them all, so I hoped to continue the dialog and furnish some details on my blog:

For B2B brands that may have multiple categories of customers, where would you recommend we start customer journey mapping?
The first step in any journey mapping effort is to answer "Who?" This involves selecting your important audience segments and building personas for each. Most customer journey mapping efforts identify a handful of key customer segments for which journey maps will be developed.

Also, a quick word on firmographic versus role-based journey maps for B2B firms: Too many B2B brands approach customer journey maps as if everyone employed within the companies in their target market shares a single mind that experiences the entire journey simultaneously and identically. Of course, that is not true, so B2B brands must start by first identifying the attributes of target firms and then classifying the key roles within those firms, understanding the professional and personal needs of individuals in each role and recognizing the ways they interact with the brand.

Do you have to put the customers into different segments and take into account things like B2B, B2C, region/country, etc.?
For customer experience purposes, select only those attributes that drive substantive differences in customer needs, expectations or experiences with your brand. If you find there are profound differences between customers in different regions and countries, then this may be an important attribute; if not, then do not consider geography as you define your key segments. Let data be your guide, gathering and analyzing the data necessary to uncover what makes your audience segments unique.

There is an art and science to defining segments. If you define your segments too broadly, the behaviors, needs, preferences and experiences of those in each segment will vary too much to provide a sound basis for mapping their journey. Conversely, if you define your segments too narrowly, you can end up with a restricted focus that fails to improve the journey for a sufficient portion of your customers.

There isn't a single answer for every firm in every category, but as a best practice, it is more important to identify your key customer segments and improve their journeys than it is to slot every existing customer into a category. By focusing on a handful of your most important segments, you can best prioritize your CX efforts for the prospects and customers who matter most to your firm. If you are a Gartner client, you can learn more in our report, "Use Personas to Drive Exceptional Customer Experiences."

For more questions and answers, covering topics of voice of customer, ratings and reviews, and employee engagement, please visit my Gartner blog.

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.