Embrace customer obsession to transform marketing into a catalyst for growth

Michael Barnes

In his role as research director, Michael leads a team of Forrester analysts in Asia-Pacific focused on helping business and technology professionals embrace digital transformation to deliver increased business value. Michael’s coverage focuses on how firms can embrace innovation and adopt organisational structures, processes, and technology to improve customer experience and drive operational excellence. Michael has 20 years of research and consulting experience and joined Forrester through its acquisition of Springboard Research. Prior to Springboard, he led software infrastructure and application integration research in Asia-Pacific for Gartner, advising large organisations on strategies for sourcing, implementing, and managing enterprise applications and software technologies. He previously conducted software research and implementation at Meta Group, Hurwitz Group, and Prudential Insurance.

In 2018, Forrester believes 20 per cent of CEOs globally will fail to act on digital transformation and put their firms at risk.  

Why the urgency to act? Because digital transformation isn’t ‘elective surgery’. It’s the necessary response to meet rising customer expectations, deliver individualised experiences at scale, and operate at the speed of the market.  

So what does this mean for CMOs? Quite simply, focusing on traditional marketing metrics won’t cut it. By all means, continue to excel at creating and executing campaigns, optimising media buys, managing communications, and other traditional marketing functions. But long-term success is based on your ability to transform marketing into a catalyst for growth by building high frequency, emotion rich brand experiences that drive enterprise-wide customer obsession.

The big question is then: Where do you begin to improve your customer experiences? Forrester used the results of a survey of 1024 global executives to create the Customer Obsession Assessment (COA), a 21-statement self-evaluation tool that helps firms benchmark their customer-first habits against others, and determine the right starting point for a move to customer obsession.

Read more: What Aussie brands are doing to build an emotional connection with customers

In the assessment, companies address six key operational levers: Technology, structure, culture, talent, metrics, and processes. Firms must excel in each of these areas to deliver on the principles of customer obsession: customer-led, insights-driven, fast, and connected.  

We applied the COA to a select group of 45 organisations in Australia and New Zealand to compare their customer obsession maturity to firms in the rest of the world. Most participants hold the title of CMO, chief digital officer (CDO), or chief customer officer (CCO), and in some cases, all three simultaneously. The study included large and medium-size firms from multiple industries.  

So what did we learn? A few things that could help jumpstart your journey to customer obsession:  

Continuously nurture a customer-obsessed culture. A key difference between Naïve firms and more mature organisations, both locally and globally, is the latter’s willingness and ability to continuously reinforce stated corporate values. Starting strong isn’t enough. Put processes in place to ensure that your programs don’t fizzle out with leadership changes or a gradual loss of enthusiasm, like air leaking out of a balloon.

Link CX efforts to transformation initiatives. Customer-obsessed firms identify and nurture talent in diverse areas like change management, innovation, brand-building, and data science. But don’t ignore the obvious. Build strong CX-related expertise and capabilities in-house and give CX staff incentives to participate in projects to apply CX-related insight and improve customer value.

Use customer metrics. Of the six levers of the customer-obsessed operating model, ANZ firms struggle the most with metrics. Start by deciding on a top-line customer metric that the whole organisation can rally around. Then turn this into action by identifying opportunities to more effectively and consistently measure key interactions along your customers’ journeys.  

Becoming customer-obsessed is a daunting challenge. CMOs and other digital business leaders must continuously nurture a customer-obsessed culture, link CX efforts to transformation initiatives, and use customer metrics that the whole organisation can rally around.  

The COA cannot highlight everything you need to do to become customer-obsessed. But it will provide an objective starting point for a customer obsession action plan and help you gauge your customer obsession maturity against that of your peers.    

Tags: customer engagement, customer experience management

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