Does marketing own the customer experience?

Sorry, Marketing Doesn’t Own the Customer Experience

CX, or customer experience, is the single most important brand differentiator for most businesses today. And while many CEOs task Marketing with the responsibility of improving CX, they don’t always empower them to do so.

What does it mean to own the customer experience?

When used as it is here, the definition of “own” is as a transitive verb, meaning:

  • to hold or have as property
  • to have power or mastery over

For Marketing to own the customer experience, then, requires that they both possess and have power over CX. But in many cases, Marketing’s “power” over CX stops when the first sale is made, and sometimes even before that.

As an example, if Marketing successfully attracted a new prospect to a business only to turn that prospect over to someone in Sales, they no longer have control of the CX (unless Sales reports to Marketing). If Marketing drives foot traffic into a store but then inside customer service or clerks (who don’t report to Marketing) then take possession of the customer experience, power over CX no longer resides with Marketing. Even if Marketing has control of the CX up to and past the point of the sale, any number of other departments could still hijack some part of the customer experience, such as:

  • Accounting or billing department
  • Technology (account access, website experience, virtual or in-store checkout process, etc.)
  • Customer care or customer service responding to a customer complaint or handling a return
  • Account managers or maintenance
  • Buildings or facilities – even janitorial staff can hijack the CX!
  • Shipping, warehouse or inventory operations
  • Policies and procedures  

When you start to understand how many different departments have the ability to directly impact CX it becomes obvious that neither the CMO nor the entirety of an organization’s Marketing department truly “own” the customer experience.

Everyone in the organization owns it, or at least everyone owns a part of it.

No one can own the CX because the customer experience is not a single entity.

To use a simplistic comparison, it’s sort of like the difference between owning a single, detached home and a multi-family property. If you own a home, by and large, you get to decide what it looks like inside and out. You get to decide what happens on a daily basis. Who comes and goes.

But if you own a multi-family property, you don’t control what the insides of those homes look like. What happens in them on a daily basis. Who comes and goes.

In most organizations, the customer experience is multi-faceted. Many departments touch it directly, and every leader in the organization influences it either directly or indirectly.

So should every department report to the CMO? Of course not. But everyone in the organization, including departments and officers which historically have tended to think of the customer experience last (if at all) must change the way they operate. The organization must communally adopt a CX first mindset and work together, openly and honestly, to identify where there are deficits and make changes.

If you’re in an organization where leaders are accustomed to sitting in siloed strongholds, change like this won’t happen overnight. If you’re a CEO who pays lip-service to these types of values but doesn’t walk the talk, developing a CX-first culture is virtually impossible. And without it, the odds that you’ll be able to develop customer experience as a meaningful brand differentiator are next to none.

3 Ways to Develop a CX First Company Culture

1. Task an Empowered CXO

A CXO, or Chief Experience Officer is a C-level leader within a business who is responsible to ensure positive customer experiences with the organization’s external customers. To be successful, this position cannot effectively function like a glorified consultant or PR role. It must be a position with the power to effect positive change on any customer touchpoint in which it is warranted.

It doesn’t mean the CXO runs every department, but it does require that department leaders agree to work with the Chief Experience Officer to ensure that their policies and procedures are contributing to an overall positive customer experience. It may also require the CEO to become the final arbitrator where agreement between the CXO and another officer cannot be reached. Nor is a CX-first culture a CX-only culture. Practicality, risk, loss – any number of factors may ultimately affect a customer touchpoint. The point, though, is to let CX-first thinking lead people in the company to consider things from the customer’s point of view, and to potentially explore more options before settling on one that negatively impacts customer experience.

2. Pay Off Must Be > Pain

Change takes time and extra effort. It can be painful. It can be costly – both to individuals and organizations. And yet, people decide to change all the time when the perceived pay off they will receive is worth the extra effort, time, expense and discomfort. If you want a CX-first company culture, you need to recognize and reward behavior you want more of. Conversely, there may also need to be consequences, up to and including employment termination, for those who cannot or will not support corporate values or initiatives.

3. Collaboration Over Competition

There are organizations where leaders feel they are constantly competing with others in the organization for power, influence and resources. There are even departments where co-workers feel the same competition with colleagues. This type of atmosphere leads to mistrust, division and defensiveness. Unless or until the CMO has full power over the customer experience, departments and leaders must work collaboratively with transparency and trust to make the CX as good as it can be.

You might think this is happening in your organization already, but chances are it’s not! A recent Deloitte C-Suite Exec study of 575 Fortune 500 Companies found that only 17 percent worked collaboratively with the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) over the previous 12-month period. That’s fewer than 1 in 5, over the course of a full year!

Study: Only 17% of C-Suite Execs worked collaboratively with Marketing during the last 12 months.

Here are a few questions to ask going forward:

  • If Marketing “owns the customer experience” in your organization, doesn’t it stand to follow that 100 percent of your C-Suite should be working collaboratively with them on a regular basis?
  • If this isn’t happening, why?
  • Is your CMO indifferent, or are other C-Suiters leaving the CMO out of the equation?
  • Who has the power to change the dynamic, who wants it to change, and who is resisting it?

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