Courting, Cliques, and Customer Experience Management
Remember dating in high school? All the cliques; the cool kids, band geeks, jocks, punks, gamers, stoners, artsies, metal heads, etc. If you were part of one clique or in the fringe, it was difficult if not impossible to get to know, let alone date, someone in another clique. Dating at university, while not as segregated, was tough for other reasons – there were so many more people, how could you possibly navigate through the hoards to find that one special someone?
The world of customer experience management (CEM) can seem like a blend of both those worlds; the service provider cliques – systems integrators, digital agencies, marketing agencies, creative agencies, etc. Then throw into the mix the myriad of technologies that can be used in your quest for the ultimate customer experience management (CEM) strategy – content management systems (CMS), experience management platforms, marketing automation platforms (MAP), customer relationship management (CRM) systems, etc. It is no wonder that companies starting, or planning to start, down a CEM path don’t know where to begin. With literally thousands of technology options out there and even more service providers, there are virtually endless partnership possibilities.
That is why it makes sense to follow a few simple steps before bringing a potential agency and/or technology partner home to meet mom and dad (aka: the C-Suite).
Know What You Want and Need; and Recognize the Difference
Ask yourself, and your team, “Why do we need a partner and/or technology?”. What business problem are you looking to solve: Is there a lack of skill set that a digital agency could fill? Is your current CMS so far off its upgrade path that replacing it is the only way to meet your functional requirements? Or perhaps the extent of your CEM strategy thus far is learning how to spell CEM and you need a digital agency to help you every step of the way?
Whatever is pushing the discussion to a decision to pursue a new partner and/or technology to help you deliver against your goals, having clarity in what it is you seek and why, and validation that it is truly a business need, is critical to successfully addressing that need.
Date In a Group Setting
It is important in establishing a long-term relationship that you get feedback and input from your friends and family. Same thing goes in business. Assemble your stakeholders from across the organization: IT, marketing, product management, content editors, commerce, implementers, visionaries, as well as doers and decision makers to help you refine your vision of what the new partner(s) need to bring to the table. Like any relationship, this decision will impact more than just you on a day-to-day basis, so it’s essential to collect requirements and get consensus on what is needed from the relationships from across the organization.
Know What You Bring to the Relationship
You absolutely want to find a partner that aligns with your business from a technological, cultural, and project approach (e.g. Agile vs. Waterfall). But you also want someone who complements what may be lacking or just developing within your own teams from competencies and SME perspective. Finding the Wilma to your Fred, the Ricky to your Lucy, the Betty or Veronica to your Archie.
This includes looking at past relationships and recognizing what went right and what went wrong, and why. We all dated the “bad boy” or “popular girl” before recognizing what we were really looking for in “Mr./Ms. Right”.
Stay Focused and Look to the Future
It is easy to be swayed by a suave (sales) line or a pretty (inter)face, but staying focused on the requirements you and your team have developed is critical to staying on track to finding the best-fit partner. Envisioning your future with this new partner is also an important step. Sure, the partners you are considering might meet your current needs. Will they be able to deliver what you need tomorrow, as well as help you figure out what those needs are? What about next year? Or three years from now? Is the partner you are considering able to be that long-term relationship, or are they more suited as a short-term fling? Either may be the right path forward, but you need to be sure so that you don’t end up with regrets, or worse, a huge divorce bill.