Southwest Airlines’ massive system failure demonstrate the harms of neglecting your tech stack. Here’s why marketers need to take action.
Marketers play a glass-half-full role in business. We’re expected to see a product or service as it is and create a compelling, transformative message no matter the type of offering.
It’s a strategic process for connecting a target audience to the company’s products and services. There’s no sleight of hand. In other words, the company provides the steak, and marketing offers the sizzle.
But there’s a disconnect between corporate expectations and real, measurable marketing goals from digital transformation. Across industries, companies must bring business into the modern world by offering their customers positive digital experiences. But many have struggled to accept this, and some are still “making due” with outdated tech to their detriment.
Take, for example, Southwest Airlines and its recent systems failure. The company’s IT breakdown is infamous around the world and affected thousands of customers. The numerous delayed and canceled flights left many people stranded, causing some to miss out on holiday plans. Marketers and PR professionals are still dealing with the airline’s soiled reputation and terrible customer experience fallout.
So, what should marketers do when the company fails to deliver the service they promised?
To win customer trust the brand’s offerings meet consumer expectations. And consumers expect the companies they purchase from to be digitally advanced and relevant. This is why we marketers must be our companies’ advocates for modernization and innovation.
Tech sets the tone for modern business experiences
No matter the product or service offered, every company is digital. Marketers should drive the adoption of this digital-first identity and tie it to both the employee and customer experience.
Customers expect a frictionless digital experience. They will not accept computer problems as a valid reason for a company’s failure to deliver. Tech stacks of outdated legacy systems cannot offer the experiences customers expect.
This disconnect between prioritizing digital experiences while sticking with legacy platforms is felt across industries. Ramesh Ramani CEO of ExpertusONE which helps brands deliver digital learning experiences for employees and customers, says breakdowns like Southwest’s systems failure come from a faulty core belief. (Disclosure: ExpertusONE is a client of Zen Media.)
“Corporate leaders continue to operate under the mindset that advanced technology is nice to have — that it’s nonessential — and therefore, an investment in the tech stack can be delayed,” said Ramani said. “But tech is not a nice-to-have feature. It’s the only way companies can build relationships with stakeholders and remain competitive in their markets. Neglecting the tech stack is detrimental.”
Tech is a critical link in the customer experience chain. In this time of Google and Yelp reviews, tech is also a marketer’s chief concern. But all business leaders, marketing and otherwise, need to be on board with digital acceleration because technology breakdowns have a ripple effect.
Downtime is costly for production and business operations. Poor internal digital experiences reduce employee engagement and negatively affect morale. And the loss of customer trust due to a systems failure, like the one that Southwest experienced, can ruin a brand’s reputation and disperse its customer base.
If your company cannot meet the standard customers expect when it comes to digital experiences, you risk losing their interest and watching them flee to other, more innovative competitors.
A strong tech stack is essential to preserve customer trust
A strong tech stack is the first step in preventing a breach of customer trust. This is why marketers must be advocates for a digital-first brand identity.
Southwest’s failure proves how internal tech problems can significantly damage brand reputation.
As marketers, we need to see the value of technology from a higher level, beyond marketing-specific technology. We must understand how our organization’s entire tech stack — from operational workflow tools to L&D software to IT management and HR tools — can impact the customer experience.
The digital experience is part of the “steak” companies must provide so that marketing can deliver the sizzle. If your marketing efforts are successful, but your customer experience isn’t, the strategy will be a wash.
Let’s say you reach your target audience through social media content marketing, but your website is frequently down due to back-end IT issues. The customer will swiftly move on to another brand, likely one of your competitors. After all, if your website isn’t reliable, why should they trust that your brand is?
It’s non-negotiable. Updated tech is now the expectation. Companies failing to meet this expectation will lose customer trust, which is not quickly recovered.
Marketers cannot be solely reactive. Brands won’t successfully reach customers if their primary message is damage control. To succeed, you need the support of a tech stack that always delivers on customer expectations.
Our ability to connect brand identity to customers’ digital experiences when interacting with our company gives us the power to create a compelling case for tech innovation. We must hold our organizations to a higher standard and ensure the products we’re marketing hold up in today’s modern marketplace.
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