Got Dissatisfied Customers? Blame It on IT


Telecommunications providers like Verizon, Sprint Nextel and AT&T Wireless are mired near the bottom of a vendor satisfaction survey by market research company VendorRate. According to VendorRate's CEO, telecom vendors "either don't get it or they don't seem to care."


Maybe it's IT's fault. That's what telecom marketers surveyed by the Chief Marketing Officer Council and the Customer Experience Board say. More than 35 percent of them see "deficiencies in IT, back office or operational systems that subvert marketing claims and fail to meet customer demands and expectations."


A Telephony Online article quotes CMO Council Executive Director Donovan Neale-May:


Marketing doesn't own the customer experience in most cases. Very few marketers are customer custodians. They are out there spending literally billions of dollars on marketing campaigns that promise a certain caliber of service, ease of use, service activation, new plans, and new programs. Yet the actual customer experience has all kinds of deficiencies, and the marketers recognized this.


Marketers are "basically wasting a lot of money," says Neale-May, because data is scattered across organizations, making it nearly impossible for customer service agents to satisfy customers. In addition to information silos, the CMOs fault IT for "inadequate or incompatible IT systems or databases." It's easy to see how both issues would exacerbate what CMOs tap as the biggest sources of customer pain: unmet needs and expectations, cited by 59 percent of respondents; product/service usability and complexity (43 percent); billing errors (40 percent); and quality or relevancy of service or product offerings (32 percent).


Sheesh, shouldn't marketers and other business types share at least some of the blame for "inadequate or incompatible IT systems or databases?" Perhaps for not providing clear enough business requirements? I wrote about the need for better business requirements earlier this year, noting that many requirements lack such basic information as what business processes the company hopes to improve.


I also shared some good tips from Steve Williams of DecisionPath Consulting, who advised companies to identify a targeted business process, determine how an application can improve the process, determine who will use it and when, and how improvements will be measured.


There's no question data silos are a problem. I got a similar take on silos from Strativity Group's Lior Arussy, author of four books including "Excellence Every Day: Make the Daily Choice-Inspire Your Employees and Amaze Your Customers," when I interviewed him earlier this month. He told me:


With silos, nobody owns the customer, nobody sees the complete customer. Sales have their own vision based on their databases, marketing have their own vision based on their databases, and so does customer service and field service, and so on. No matter how much you invest, if you have fragmented and often conflicting views of customers, you won't get the best result. You need to have a more holistic view of the customer so you are not sending an invoice or calling collections if the customer is disputing whether a package ever arrived.


So how to eliminate them? As IT Business Edge blogger Loraine Lawson wrote last month, perhaps IT should create workarounds to help folks cope with silos instead of trying to get rid of them. A number of experts, including Burton Group's Joe Bugajski, think silos are inevitable.


Other highlights of the CMO survey:


  • More than 84 percent of CMOs say costs of customer acquisition and retention are going up.
  • More than half say their companies need to improve their responses to customer pain points, and 89 percent say they need to get better at customer handling and response.
  • More than half believe their organization is not "culturally or organizationally aligned around the customer" and that "business practices, billing policies and personnel are not customer friendly."