Customer focus is a honorable thing. But it can be tricky–in part because of the three main gaps that every customer leader faces:
1. The Trust Gap
‘Trusted adviser’ is a common term in many languages. ‘Trusted marketer’ is not. But why are customer leaders not known for their trustworthiness? The answer is simple: because customer-focused activities are all about what could be—including future revenue. And this future focus causes problems. First off, it’s difficult to predict customer behavior. What customers want is changing faster than ever. Leaders can run tests and crunch numbers, but they can never guarantee success. In fact, nobody can, but customer leaders are the ones who feel the heat.
To make matters worse, it’s also difficult to prove the return on past customer investments. Especially when it comes to long-term brand building. That’s why, whatever a customer leader promises, always sounds less reliable—because it is.
2. The Power Gap
In 1956, marketing expert Reavis Cox wrote: “The marketing manager must have the attitude of a purchasing agent, an investor and a horse-trader all at the same time, if he is ever to achieve the overall control that marketing operations so urgently need.” Not much has changed. Today, most customer leaders don’t control all main revenue and profit drivers, including product, price, promotion, and distribution. And great customer experience involves many departments, and most of these departments don’t report to the customer leader. And success with customers always means convincing the many people in other departments. All customer leaders are facing this power gap.
3. The Skills Gap
Business tools and technologies are changing faster than ever. Take marketing for example: while TV, radio, and print still matter, there is an ever-growing pool of new marketing tools, including mobile, social, big data.
Getting themselves up to speed detracts significant energy from many customer leaders’ main task: driving innovation and profitable revenue growth. But more importantly, when it comes to new technologies, today’s leaders never know as much as they think they need to know. That’s why the rapid technological advancement undermines many leaders’ confidence.
Leading with a focus on customers has always been hard work. And it’s not getting easier. This is the reason why, in the largest global study on customer leaders’ effectiveness, we found that leadership skills significantly outweigh technical skills when it comes to factors in a customer leader’s success. Mind the gaps!
Source: The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader, Barta/Barwise