CMOs are talking the CX talk, but not yet walking the walk

Kathleen Schaub

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

Customer experience is eclipsing product as a competitive differentiator. CMOs are recognising this shift and talking the talk. But are they also walking the walk? 

A recent IDC survey of tech marketing executives suggests many are not. CMOs face major hurdles (and opportunities) ahead.

Great customer experience involves the whole company. However, marketing plays a special role. Marketing engages with prospective customers first and, therefore, unduly influences whether there will be further interactions.

Customers engage with marketing assets throughout the entire relationship, influencing every other interaction. Marketing weaves the company narrative about purpose and value. Marketing influences internal and external social networks that carry the message out into the world. And marketing is the best source for skills, assets and practices, such as customer data and analytics, journey mapping, communications and creativity.

Yet IDC’s 2018 CMO Leadership in Customer Experience Barometer demonstrates how today’s CMO is constrained by traditional responsibilities. It’s hard to see how they’ll be able to take on the expanded customer experience role and still do their day job.

•   Relentless focus on demand: Customer experience should rank high on the CMOs list of priorities. Today, that is not the case. Survey participants ranked ‘increase revenue/pipeline contribution’ almost twice as high in importance as any other priority. ‘Improving customer experience’ wasn’t even a close second. Further, 87 per cent of participants measure customer acquisition/conversion but only 49 per cent measure Net Promoter Score (NPS) and 35 per cent customer advocacy.

•  Conflicting priorities:  Survey participants clustered several priorities together well behind the demand objective. ‘Improving customer experience’ ranked about equal to ‘building brand awareness/brand value’, ‘enabling sales/partners to sell more’, and ‘improving or changing company position in the market place’. 

•  Limited leadership role: Only 6 per cent of companies surveyed formally appointed the CMO to lead cross-company customer experience. To be fair, customer experience is so cross-functional, leadership ambiguity isn’t limited to the CMO. Many companies have no leader, others designate someone from a varied list of operational executives. CMOs have an informal cross-company leadership role for CX in 56 per cent of those surveyed.

Customer data flips this script, say the marketing leaders who are farthest along the CX path. Customer insights provide CMOs with the credibility to ask for change. It motivates people to persevere through the brave work of transformation.

Customer centricity also reveals the importance of marketing’s contribution and lays plain the need for cracking integration, organisational and power realignments. Marketing data must be integrated with enterprise data. Business processes must be integrated. Emerging roles rearrange tasks.

For example, some companies have designated a customer marketing function that pulls certain programs from traditional silos to heighten accountability. Programs such as customer references, executive briefings centres, customer councils, audience marketing, and voice of the customer are also being brought into new focus. And team-based org structures are being tried, such as the hybrid marketing/sales/customer success role IDC calls ‘concierge selling’.

In addition, at the executive level, several CMOs have joined forces with an operational partner to form a taskforce to prioritise and resource cross-functional initiatives, as well as work through imminent conflicts.

Whichever way you look at it, excelling at customer experience is going to require marketing to be truly committed – not just involved.  

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