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CMOs Shouldn’t Own The Customer Experience (Unless They Do These Two Things)

Omar Akhtar
Online shopping

According to a new study by The Economist Intelligence Unit and Marketo, 86% of CMOs believe they will own the end-to-end customer experience by 2020. But don’t believe the hype just yet.

Depending on which department you ask, the definition of an ideal customer experience will vary. For the service team, it is the quick, seamless resolution of a customer support call. For sales, it could be an online purchase completed with one-click. And for marketing, it could be anything from an easy to navigate website, to entertaining social media messages. These are all important initiatives that require money and manpower. But for a company that’s implementing a firm-wide customer experience initiative, it can be difficult to figure out where to start. Which one of the above mentioned initiatives will have the greatest impact on improving the customer experience?

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be a subjective exercise. There is data that clearly indicates what matters most to consumers when it comes to customer experience. And the most of it isn’t the responsibility of the marketing department.

Take a look at the results from this 2015 survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which lists the top elements of an ideal customer experience, according to consumers.

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Looking at these elements, it’s clear that improving customer experience elements in service and sales channels trumps those in marketing or other departments. 47% of consumers identified “fast response to enquiries and complaints” and “simple purchasing processes” as the most important elements. Both these elements are in the domain of the sales and service departments. Arguably, so are the next four; “Ability to track orders in real time,” “clarity and simplicity of product information across all channels,” “Ability to interact with the company over multiple channels” and “Access to more in-depth product information in stores through technology”

In fact, it isn’t until we get to the bottom of the list that we start to see elements that really are marketing’s responsibility. These include “A more personalized experience with relevant offers and recommendations based on my interests,” “Ongoing engagement with the company after the purchase has concluded,” and “Consistency of creative imaging across channels.” When the marketing department’s actions have such little impact on what consumers actually want, why are we all advocating for them to own the customer experience?

Looking at the data, it’s clear that marketing’s ownership of customer experience shouldn’t be a given. Depending on the type of product being sold, a brand can look to customer experience leadership from its sales, service or even its product teams.

However, CMOs reading this post shouldn’t feel as if their role has been diminished or that they still can’t be CX leaders. Even if marketing doesn’t drive CX, it still has a crucial part to play, especially when it comes to customer data.

You can’t craft a customer experience without knowing the customer, and when it comes to customer data, marketing is king. Unlike sales or service, who rely on past or present transactions for to build up their customer databases, marketing can gather data on people who aren’t customers of the brand yet. They can buy it from third party sources, and also utilize analytics from the brand’s owned digital channels. Predictive intelligence tools for marketers can also now be used to create an detailed picture of customer needs and engagement behavior across different digital channels. This kind of information forms the bedrock of any CX initiatives, whether it’s the sales, service or marketing department.

The second most important CX contribution marketing can make is through content. Content is the most effective way to communicate information to a customer, whether it’s about a product, or the lifestyle associated with the product and its brand. Not only does marketing produce the bulk of an organization’s content, it also owns the channels that deliver it, including the website, email, social media and advertising. To play a part in the customer experience, marketing should be a producer and deliverer of all types of content for the brand, not just the promotional kind. Depending on what the customer needs, this could be product information, expert advice, or simple entertainment.

It’s only when the CMO is ready to be the owner of customer data and content production for the entire organization that they can truly aspire to be leaders of customer experience. Otherwise, they’re better off letting sales or service leaders take the lead. But ultimately, the best option is to have a leader who is not beholden to either one of these departments, but in fact a CX leader who sits above them all. That’s the best way to make CX an organization wide-priority, and not just a department driven initiative.