“Smart company” marketing less than smart

Sometimes marketing ideas go way to fast from idea to implementation.

Two partnering communication-suppliers in Sweden have together branded what a “Smart company” is, in terms of communication services:

A company is defined as smart that gives service to its customers when it suits them, has a mobile way of working and can share relevant internal systems with clients and partners. (TelekomIdag)

Then they have measured Swedish companies and organizations how well they are at “being smart”.

Sounds like a good idea, right. Well it depends on the reasons for the index. Both these companies want to position themselves as the key successful factors for those who want to be a smart company, and who doesn’t. But really what they are trying to do is what they always do (and should do) sell, sell, sell. They are not doing this to help or even to get any type of truth out; on the contrary, they will get organizations that are unsure of what they need to do, to invest in things their customers are not looking for.

Ok, let’s take their smart company definition one point at the time to find out what, if anything really is smart and what is absolutely necessary when doing business. In essence we want to see what in the definition will give a company or organization a cutting edge (or smartness) compared with the rest:

  • Gives service to its customers

This is a key to ANY company or organization providing a product or service. First you give service to your existing customers. To win other customers, you can compete in any of the four P’s (Product, Place, Price and Promotion). More recently, three more P’s have been added to the marketing mix: People, Process and Physical Evidence. People focus on who uses the product or service, Process on how it reaches the customer and finally Physical Evidence is demonstrating other customers’ satisfaction, which is proof of customer service.

  • When it suits them (the customer)

Have you tried to give service when the customer isn’t there? Not a good idea. Service happens when the rubber hits the road, so to speak. Service is live, attentive and can be done in a number of ways over a number of different media. But a company or organization should implement those channels that their customers ask for, or will ask for. For example, I don’t expect service if it will endanger my business; Say my bank wants to give me advice and uses an unsecured way of doing it, I would refuse such service. I don’t expect, or want, service if I am involved in something else; If my computer provider calls me when I am with a customer to help me sort out my network card which is not working, I am not too happy. Service is and always will be when it suits me, the customer, otherwise it is a nuisance.

  • Has a mobile way of working

First of all; define mobile way of working! Is it that I can bring my laptop anywhere I want to? Is it that I have one number to my fixed phone and the same to my mobile? Is it that I can choose any of the above? Second, if my doctor is mobile when I come to the emergency room, I will not be too happy; I want him there, not mobile. Sorry for the bad example, but mobility is great, but not for everyone. It will, for sure, be for more and more people, but for everyone? Don’t think so. To measure if a company is smart based on a specific mode of accessing communication services is like covering your one eye and trying to measure the distance between two trees. Very tricky, if possible at all. And really is mobility not a cutting edge anymore? I think it is commodity, no matter how you slice it we expect to be able to take a number of office features with us, on the road, in our home office or while off site.

  • Can share relevant internal systems.

This is also about definitions. What is a relevant internal system? Internet banking, e-government and other implementations are great. This is really about being smart. Doing more with less, or giving more information to the customer. Help customers to help themselves. Let partners know shipping status, get ordering details, or service case details. But is this is the hands of a communications supplier? Or is it really about publishing information, sharing and presenting it using web services, IVR system and other technologies?

A really good communication strategy starts with identifying who the customer is, how they wish to communicate, and then implementing a reactive and responsive solution that adapts and grows with the customer and organization.

Well, ok, a definition of a “smart company” is kind of good to get at least my juices running. But claiming that these four areas makes an organization smarter than others and then saying it “mirrors how good companies are in using information and communications technology” is not fair. And when they say they “hope together to be able to raise this average”, it becomes clear that their real purpose is to sell, sell, sell. And that is ok, I guess, but not smart marketing. The intent is to be objective but their arguments just became subjective and very biased.

Just my two cents anyway.

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