How to become the customer experience custodian

Kathleen Schaub

Kathleen Schaub is the vice-president of IDC’s CMO Advisory Practice in the US.

The number one objective enterprises give for embarking on a digital transformation is to improve customer experiences with new engagement models, according to IDC’s 2017 global study.

This response will come as no surprise to CMOs. Marketing has been blazing this trail for more than a decade. And in most companies, the marketing leader has the best resume for leadership in this pivotal area. Yet in another IDC study, we found fewer than 10 per cent of US companies with CX initiatives believe those are primarily a marketing effort. Why?

Company executives associate marketing with its important, but limited, purpose. As a result, the marketing team has an outsized role in customer experience.

Customer experience is a customer’s perception and emotional response to the sum of interactions and engagement with an enterprise. By definition, this is cross-functional. Marketing doesn’t handle the sale, purchasing, billing, onboarding, training, service provision, or problem response and resolution. So how can CMOs become the customer experience custodian if they don’t control all the levers of power?

If CMOs aspire for a greater CX role, they must reach beyond functional borders. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to achieve this:

  • Accumulate and share tribal knowledge about customers. Ensure marketing teams gain first-hand customer experience to foster a deeper understanding of reality. Use your communication skills to spread this knowledge throughout the company.
  • Channel the voice of the customer. Customers crave authenticity. By fostering open communication between peers, marketing both serves the customer and contributes to the trustworthiness of the enterprise.
  • Signal a customer-centric culture. This starts at the top. The actions of leaders will either encourage progress or provide excuses for antiquated behaviour. The CMO can be a role model and help the CEO to motivate the company. Work with human resources to design employee programs and customer-centric rituals all adhere to. 
  • Build ‘connective tissue’. Companies must bridge functional silos. The CMO can create tools for alignment, such as the company’s customer mission statement. Marketing can trailblaze with agile org structures, and help IT integrate customer-facing applications.
  • Forge feedback loops. Intelligence helps companies avoid bias and get closer to the truth of customers’ needs. Companies need feedback to be agile and responsive. Marketing can become the most intelligence-driven function in the company and communicate these insights everywhere.
  • Cultivate customer counsel in solutions. To nurture high-propensity buyers, marketers must understand customer requirements and do so within the context of the company’s solutions. CMOs can work with product teams to develop more effective customer councils and listening programs. Marketers can work with customer success teams to develop useful loyalty programs.
  • Become the customer metrics tsar. Customer centricity must be measured. Revenue, particularly from renewals, expansion, and repeat business, re the ultimate metrics. Churn rates and Net Promoter Scores are also popular. However, to get ahead of problems, companies should also measure leading indicators. Many advance metrics, such as social media sentiment and willingness to refer, are under marketing’s purview.

As customer experience escalates in strategic importance, IDC believes that winning companies will progress towards more formalised and measured actions. CMOs who use their team's capabilities to lead these initiatives will get a bigger role in this crusade.

Tags: digital marketing, customer engagement, customer experience management, marketing strategy

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