Engaging customers with compelling, contextually relevant, experiences is the new competitive high ground.
But the commonly asked question in many Australian businesses, that are striving to embrace customer experience (CX) management, is ‘who owns the customer experience?’.
Debate exists as to where the ownership should sit: is it at the C suite? With the customer service or contact team? Or do the marketers own it given their inherent connection with the market place?
A number of recent studies have been undertaken to try to clarify this point.
The Economist (The Economist Intelligence Unit 2016) recently conducted a study amongst Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and Senior Marketers (SMs) worldwide which indicated that 86% of CMOs and SMs believe they will ‘own’ the end to end customer experience by 2020.
The study revealed that CMOs and SMs have become increasingly focused on CX because it directly impacts both the top and bottom lines of the business. CMOs are increasingly being held accountable for CX across the business, not just the marketing division.
A further study conducted earlier this year for the Australian Marketing Institute (AMI) by Vision Critical (The State of CX in ANZ: Bridging the Experience Divide) indicated that CX is the new battleground when it comes to competitive differentiation. The study showed that marketers believe the big competitive differentiator will be CX or, more importantly, how customers perceive the CX.
When it comes to ownership of the CX, the study revealed almost an even split between the Executive Office (28%) and Marketing (27%) owning CX. Customer Service followed (16%) and then Strategy/Planning (14%).
There is no doubt that strong leadership with organisations making the transition to a CX focus is critical.
I’m often asked who is showing strong leadership in relation to CX. One really good example is Vaughn Richter, CEO of ING Direct. He is quoted as saying: “It starts with a purpose, which (for ING Direct) is to help our customers to get ahead, and our view is that everything else is an outcome”. He adds that: “There are a lot of studies that show companies with a purpose ultimately outperform companies without”. Richter, as I understand it, is quite evangelical in his focus on delivering outstanding customer experiences. Such evangelic belief becomes infectious.
Of course, having CX left, right and centre of the corporate strategy is essential in engendering a whole of business focus on the CX. And strong leadership – across all levels of the organisation – is required to truly build a customer obsessed culture.
We can’t leave the question of who owns the customer experience’ without considering the rise of the ‘Customer Experience Manager’ as the designated ‘owner’ of the CX.
Many of the organisations we (The Customer Edge) engage with claim they are ‘customer focused’, they cite the appointment of a Customer Experience Manager or even a Chief Customer Officer as evidence of this. Some of these appointments are new roles, whilst many are essentially a change in title.
But the critical question is: do these roles have the level of influence to drive the change required to transition the business to being ‘customer centric’, or is it a case of a ‘tick the box’ appointment? Our observation is that, in many cases, these positions have limited ability to influence the change required – so most are, sadly, destined to fail.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a role within any business for someone to champion CX – to be the catalyst for organisational change and to provide stewardship for CX – at least early in the cultural change journey. But, ultimately, it requires a whole of business belief in the value of CX management.
So, bottom line. Who should own the customer experience? In short, everyone in the organisation.
But those organisations on the transition path to effective CX management need a catalyst to drive the cultural transformation required to be truly customer centric. Strong leadership at all levels in the organisation is critical. And, as the research indicates, today’s marketers play a key role in driving a focus on CX. But, as the Vision Critical study rightly pointed out, cross collaboration and cross organisational alignment is a critical success factor when it comes to CX.