Customer Engagement, the Secret to Marketing 3.0 Success
An extensive interview with Meg Whitman, in Sunday’s NY Times*, previews the forth coming HP strategy announcement. Throughout the article she talks about new approaches to product strategy. She talks about the restyled PC, mobile devices, printers, and cloud computing containers.
Ms. Whitman says, “We have to get ahead of the curve.” But of which curve is she trying to get ahead? What she leaves out is the need to change the way HP engages with its customers. In B2B sales, the quality of the relationship is more important than product features. For example, a company can have the best products in the world, but if you can’t count on prompt high quality service when they break, they don’t fit in a business environment.
As one example, one member of our team recently bought an HP laptop. On delivery, a minor defect in connecting to PC projectors required it be sent back for repair. A required part was back ordered. When it was returned it was in worse shape than when they received it. A subsequent replacement was dead on arrival. We ended up buying an Apple to replace it. It wasn’t about the original product features that got us to Apple, it was problems with the relationship.
Besides being a difficult customer services story, there were a couple important things I learned about enabling employees to be successful.
- The first was. Because everyone is a brand ambassador, they must be empowered to do the right thing, even if it is outside their normal routine. Everyone I spoke with at HP was polite and courteous. They all wanted to help, most of them knew what needed to be done, but weren’t permitted to do it. For example, when I found out that the part would be back ordered for 30 days, I asked to have it returned to me so I could use it until HP got the part. Everyone understood the rationale for this, but they all said they were not permitted to do this. It took 5 calls to people in 2 continents before I found someone who said they could send it back.
- The second learning was companies need to invest in infrastructure to enable the right customer engagement. For example, there was no central repository with information about availability of the parts needed to fix my laptop. The problem was a known problem. If there were a central database, the person I initially spoke with could have been alerted to the parts shortage. Instead, I was repeatedly told that the only way the person in HP customer service could find out about parts availability was through email. This generally took 24-48 hours for a response.
Let me contrast my experience with that of my son. When my son had a problem with the screen on his Mac, he took it in to the local genius bar. They were able to tell him where the part he needed was in the Apple system and how many days it would take to get to the genius bar. This enabled him to use his Mac until the part arrived.
As a recent McKinsey article** points out, no successful organization can avoid coming to grips with how they engage customers.
- Customers are increasingly selective about which brands share their lives.
- They form impressions from every encounter
- Post withering online reviews.
They go on to say, “these changes present significant organizational challenges, as well as opportunities. The biggest is that all of us have become marketers: the critical moments of interaction, or touch points, between companies and customers are increasingly spread across different parts of the organization, so customer engagement is now everyone’s responsibility.1”
The focus on customer engagement has to start at the top. Making everyone a marketer requires infrastructure and empowerment and that Marketing take the lead educating those parts of the organization that touch the customer.
For more on dealing with customers online, download our Demand Generation Report Card
* "Meg Whitman’s Toughest Campaign: Retooling H.P.," NY Times 9-30-12
** "Five ‘no regrets’ moves for superior customer engagement," McKinsey Quarterly July 2012
By Tom Sadtler