Let’s End the Partisanship
As this issue of CRM magazine was going to press, national attention was fixed firmly on the confirmation process for U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Throughout the around-the-clock coverage of all of the political speeches, accusations, and denials, it was hard not to notice just how partisan this particular process had become. The political divide in this country was on full display for a few weeks in late September and early October, and it wasn’t pretty.
Sad to say, partisanship is just as much a reality today in the CRM world as it is in national politics. Despite all of the calls to knock down the silos and bolster communications and collaboration across organizations, companies have been bogged down by party loyalties to a specific department (marketing, sales, or customer service) for a long time. Nowhere is this more evident than when something goes wrong, like when a quota is missed or a service-level agreement isn’t met. Sales blames marketing for not delivering enough high-quality leads that are ready to buy; marketing blames sales for not properly following up with the leads it provides; and everyone blames customer service agents for not sharing the wealth of customer information that comes into the contact center every day. Across all of these departments, partisanship prevents employees from sharing the single, holistic customer view that they all need to succeed. And rather than addressing the real issues, executives just throw additional resources into purchasing more technology.
In frustration, many analysts, in this publication and elsewhere, have charged that CRM is broken, that systems need a complete “reboot,” that it’s time for companies to go back to basics, to throw out all of the software they’ve already bought and start over.
That’s a little too draconian, and quite frankly, very wasteful. Before taking such drastic measures, companies can let a few changes that are already under way play out.
The first, highlighted in this month’s cover story, “Segmentation Enters the Sales Playbook,” sees customer segmentation, a staple in marketing, making its way into the sales department. Just as marketers can benefit from having smaller customer subsets to target with their campaigns, so sales can benefit from breaking down leads into smaller groups based on their intent and readiness to buy.
We are also witnessing a shift in responsibilities. It has long been documented that customer service reps are being tasked with more marketing and sales functions. Now, marketers are being charged with contributing to growth and increasing revenue, roles traditionally relegated to sales. Growth as reported in the Insight article “Marketing’s Role Changes to Growth Creator” is “long-term, sustainable expansion delivered through corporate-wide, revenue-focused strategies and decisions.”
If marketers are going to succeed in this new role, the silos need to come down. Silos, the article says, are “a common constraint to success...blocking everything from the development of an organization-wide customer experience strategy to the integration of comprehensive customer data.”
From a technology perspective, there are a few things that can be done to end the partisanship as well. Rather than scrapping systems entirely, companies can consolidate them. Systems integration is an obvious step, but that is just as much a mandate for the vendors as it is for the end-user companies, and not all vendors are willing or able to work together.
Another good starting point is data sharing, with a collaborative knowledge base that is fully accessible across all departments.
Throughout all of these changes—both the ones already happening and the ones yet to begin—the common element is that everything has to occur at a corporate-wide level. To enable the kind of change that is needed, a greater shift in overall mind-sets will be required. Everyone needs to get on the same page and realign their priorities around the needs and wants of the consumer first and foremost. After all, no company can grow without people willing to buy its products and services, and no one person or department can breed that kind of success alone. Partisan politics just don’t work—not in Washington, and not in the executive boardroom.
Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.