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The marketer's dream: Harmonic convergence
Lisa Loftis, SAS Best Practices
Harmonic convergence is the modern name for a Mayan prophecy that said when the planets aligned, the human race would enter a period where changing our calendar would enable us to experience peace and environmental harmony.
If this prophecy originated from a marketer, the objects of alignment would be business units rather than planets, and the peace and harmony would be organizational.
Harmonic convergence would signify that the marketer has truly attained the quality of cohesion; the ability to foster coordination and cooperation across the business units for the sake of customer experience management. Cohesion is one of three imperative attributes for all modern marketers and there is no question that achieving it is a daunting task. You can read about the other two in my last article, The Modern Marketing Leader – Is Your CMO Ready?
Aligning the misaligned
Peter Senge, of MIT and the Society for Organizational Learning, bears out the urgent need for alignment and cohesion quite well in his popular book, The Fifth Discipline. He says, “Alignment is the necessary condition before empowering individuals will empower the whole team. Empowering the individual when there is relatively low level of alignment worsens the chaos and makes managing the team more difficult.”
Unfortunately for marketers, examples of misaligned business units abound, most with negative consequences including unsatisfactory customer experiences and failed marketing objectives. In the last month alone, I have witnessed several particularly egregious examples where misalignment of objectives or business units have impacted marketing’s ability to empower the organization.
Adventures in apathy
Here's an example, a Latin American bank that had been experiencing declining net promoter scores launched a small, targeted customer-journey mapping exercise to determine causes for the worsening scores.
The results unearthed several process and web application problems causing frustration for highly engaged clients. Buoyed by their findings and hoping to expand the journey mapping effort, the marketing group organized an educational workshop on experience management for their partners in customer-facing business units. All invitees accepted and marketing hired an outside consulting firm to help conduct the workshop and present the findings. Despite the early positive response, on workshop day only a single business unit, a product group, showed up.
Clearly, the business units in this bank were not in alignment around improving the customer experience, despite the lip service given to the contrary. Needless to say, marketing did not obtain the buy-in they were hoping for and customer satisfaction scores continued to suffer as a result.
In another instance, the marketing analytics team for a large bank developed the capability to identify significant triggering events for customers (e.g. substantial increase or decrease in monthly payroll deposits). They wanted to use these event triggers combined with propensity models to predict individualized next best product offers. However, problems arose when pitching the concept to various sales and product management areas.
Rather than focusing on the potential benefits of the proposed approach, the branches, product groups and segment managers fixated on how the proposal would affect their ability to reach the product oriented sales goals they all labored under. Ultimately, increasing offer uptake rates through precision targeting and right time presentation took a backseat to siloed sales objectives, despite marketing’s strong conviction that both customers and business units would be better off if their proposal were put into practice.
The good news is that with persistence and a plan that fits the organization’s culture, many marketers actually can achieve cohesion and improve organizational alignment. In future columns, we will look at how journey mapping, forging the right partnerships and understanding how change is effected in your particular culture can make a substantial difference for the better.
Lisa Loftis is a principal consultant in the Customer Advisory Services team in SAS Best Practices. She was co-author of the book, Building the Customer-Centric Enterprise (Wiley, 2001). She can be reached at Lisa.Loftis@sas.com.