The Challenge of the “T” Executive

Are you a “T” executive? I was recently speaking with my friend John Shiple and he told me I was a “T” executive. Someone who had vast cross-functional knowledge, but also deep subject matter expertise. I didn’t know that it had a name. Pretty cool.

Part of that has come from an innate knowingness of when people work together things work out better.

Having worked as a management consultant in CRM (Marketing, Sales and Service) meant that I had to work with three different departments that didn’t normally work with each other or even want to work with each other. It meant that I was faced with trying to creating cross-functional capabilities in organizations where there had not been any.

Some people think of me as a  Customer Service expert because of one of my most recent positions. But even in that position I worked directly with CMO’s, with PR Directors, with Product Managers and Brand Managers– I didn’t just cover Customer Service, I also covered CRM. And CRM means Marketing…. It’s interesting how you get put in a box… I’ve done everything from small PR initiatives… like just write a press release to designing the whole media buy… i.e., TV and radio spots…

What I can tell you is that while some companies realized the need for it, and some even realized their ROI would be higher, the ability for individuals to work outside their own functional capabilities is slow to none. And that’s part of why I was thrilled when Marsha Collier, in her new book, The Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide, asked to interview me for the first chapter.

The Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide by Marsha Collier

What Marsha and I discussed in the interview and what is in the first chapter is what companies are facing and need solutions to regarding cross-functional capabilities.

There are millions and billions of dollars being wasted because of the lack of interdepartmental collaboration. It should be a crime when they don’t collaborate.

Not to mention the facturing of the brands equity in the social sphere when the separately interact with the customer. Below is an excerpt from the first chapter of Marsha’s book; if you want the whole chapter, you can get it here: http://media.wiley.com/product_data/excerpt/06/04706377/0470637706-152.pdf

The interview excerpt: “With your online presence, you are in the position to regularly interact with customers. You have the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t. Knowledge gleaned from outside your inner sanctum will enable you to address key questions, such as whether your product or service offering is right for the market and up to date with current trends. This helps you motivate employees to deliver the level of service required and to identify what, if any, are opportunities for your company’s growth. Interestingly, that has been the main focus of former Forrester analyst, Dr. Natalie Petouhoff (@DrNatalie on Twitter). At Forrester, she covered not only customer service and customer relationship management (CRM), but by observing the new juncture of social media and those disciplines, she wrote the world’s first social media return on investment (ROI) model.

Natalie, now the chief social media and digital communication strategist at Weber Shandwick, is one of the truly brilliant folks in her field; her work is legendary at businesses whose budgets we can only imagine.

Her groundbreaking ideas in this arena can help to center our thoughts on exactly how this is all going to work for our own businesses. When I asked Dr. Natalie about my theory about customer service becoming the new marketing, and about how small business has an innate advantage today, here’s what she shared with me:

People asked me why I went from addressing customer service and its professionals to a public relations and marketing firm. What I found was that companies are fracturing their brands. This started to happen even before social PR and marketing departments were crafting amazing brand promises. But because the way those departments have been organized, they don’t interact with customers after the brand promise has been delivered. So who does have to deliver on the brand promise? Customer service. And because customer service has been largely trapped into the category of a cost center, it rarely is able, during those customer interactions, to deliver on the brand promise, or even have enough respect within the organization to have others accept the idea [that] they have to change products or services to better meet customers’ wants and needs.

This dynamic—the lack of interdepartmental interaction— has been happening since companies left the mom-and-pop model. Along comes social media, and what are consumers using it for? Among the many uses—to keep in touch with friends and family, find a lost love, shop—they are realizing they can broadcast to millions their disdain about how companies are not meeting their brand promise. As a management consultant back in the days of the top management consulting companies, (the “Big 6,” including Accenture, Price Waterhouse, Coopers & Lybrand, Ersnt & Young), as PricewaterhouseCoopers consultant, we were taught that more than anything, managing customer expectations was the key to success. And that lesson learned can be applied here today in business. That is the reason I joined a PR and marketing firm. I wanted to help companies manage their customers’ expectations. After many years in the corporate world, I realized the chasm in corporations needed to be healed. That chasm?

Interdepartmental disconnect and dysfunction. If I were to really help the business world make this huge change, I myself had to be the change.

I saw that PR and marketing had mastery over delivering a brand’s promise. And that their worth was based on the ability to help customers become aware, and to consider purchasing products and services from their company. Once sales “closed the deal,” customer service’s role was to help, answer questions, and solve problems.

The disconnect was that PR and marketing professionals were not always delivering a brand promise that customer service could consistently provide. And, note, none of this was the fault of PR, marketers, or customer service. It was an artifact of how companies organize themselves into groups of specialties; and rarely do they have leadership that has the intuition that continuing to interact as disparate silos not only is not in the best interest of any of those departments, [but that] it will actually be the downfall of companies, which will go out of business if they don’t “get it.”

Of the companies that do sense some of this, many of them may not know how to break down the silos in the politically charged situations they work in. And even in the best situations, they certainly would not be compensated for interdepartmental collaboration. What social media is doing for companies is essentially this: It is a source of real-time feedback.

That feedback is filled with information, if you are listening, that can be used to change your products and service to meet your customers’ needs. Imagine how much easier it would be to market and sell a product [that] your customers said they wanted. Imagine if you are listening to your customers and you are using [what they’re saying] for product innovation. Imagine if your competitor is not. Imagine the market advantage you’d have. And imagine if you used customer service as your differentiator. Why would your customers go anywhere else?

PR has now become customer service. Customer service in now PR. The question you have to ask yourself is, “How are you going to be managing the expectations of your customers, and how will all your departments deliver on your brand’s promise?” No customers, no business. Period.

To get the whole chapter, click here: http://media.wiley.com/product_data/excerpt/06/04706377/0470637706-152.pdf

To order the book, click here: http://theultimateonlinecustomerserviceguide.blogspot.com/

Thank you Marsha! For addressing a much needed discussion and for writing a wonderful book!

Learn. Share. Grow. @drnatalie

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