The new world of convergence: A letter to the CEO

Not that long ago, I sat across the table from a decision-maker in marketing and a decision-maker in technology for a travel client. I knew their business challenges, and they were both trying to achieve the same thing. Each of them, however, had their own agenda and view of the world, which isn’t uncommon.

As in many cases these days, their discussion centered on using digital technology to differentiate the customer experience, which ultimately serves as a critical factor in differentiating their brand. The marketer wanted to explore ideas around new technologies to engage customers, and the technologist was concerned with all of the practicalities and timeline to achieve something without understanding the value. They couldn’t quite reach common ground. And herein lies the dilemma: how do these departments work together, across organizational boundaries, toward a common goal?  Who is leading them down the path to converge their thinking and outcomes?

The idea of convergence between marketing and technology isn’t new. As a matter of fact, this organizational change has been slowly happening for several years. As with most tectonic shifts, this one is taking time and running its due course. The complexity of the evolving marketing technology landscape makes it an even more cumbersome challenge. The software options and services alone are endless. The fragmentation across these technologies, coupled with emerging approaches to define the customer experience create a vast array of variables in an already-complicated world.

Let me add a layer to this already complex situation . . . What I found most interesting in the conversation with marketing and technology was neither of these departments really, and I mean really, interacted with the customer. Sure, they had data, analytics and reporting around the outcomes of their efforts, but where were the decision-makers that have teams on the ground, interacting with customers each day? Where are those folks in this equation?  The operational customer service component was missing.

In Travel & Hospitality, this piece is critical. Guests look forward to very real, tangible experiences during travel. How the customer engages with your brand is entrenched in personal contact. A warm “Welcome to the Property” email is contact. A mobile notification with a relevant offer is contact.  The interaction with the bell staff or hotel front desk is contact.  It isn’t a single one of these things that generates the customer experience; it’s the convergence of doing these things in harmony that creates the bond that connects the customer to the brand.

So, what are we doing to create a truly unified customer experience?  How do we shift the tectonic plates, break down the traditional silos and create accountability across organizational boundaries?  It isn’t an overnight process, but focusing on several key areas will get us there:

  • It starts at the top. Establish an organizational culture whereby executives and their departments are accountable to each other.
  • Make everyone not only accountable to each other, but to the customer. Understand what the entire journey looks like to the customer. Departments that see how the customer journey plays out will have an easier time collaborating on a unified experience.
  • Provide perspective. Enable departments to understand, learn and value what other departments do. It’s easier to collaborate when you have an appreciation for another’s pain points.

This means someone in marketing understands how customers tangibly interact with the brand and take feedback from their customer services counterparts. This means technology increasingly works to build an infrastructure that supports marketing and the digital frontier. This means customer service has the ability and knows how to capitalize on technology and marketing efforts.

Twenty-first century CEO, I implore you. What does it look like for these disciplines to work harmoniously to achieve your company’s goals? Would a world centered around the customer delineate the need for a Chief Experience Officer who understands how these worlds collide? Will your organizational structure evolve to have the Chief Marketing, Technology, and Operations officers fold under the Chief Experience Officer?

The new world of experience is the convergence and continual evolution of all these things.