CMOs Need to Own the End-to-End Customer Experience. Here’s Why.

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Who owns customer experience (CX) at your org? If you’re among the rare few, you may have a Chief Customer Experience Officer sitting at the table. But if you’re like most enterprises, CX has multiple owners, each tasked with curating it for their respective functions — be that marketing, sales, customer success, customer service, and so on. Everyone puts their unique spin on it and as a result, how a customer experiences the brand can feel less than seamless.

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Why is CX so hard to manage? If we take a step back and zoom out, CX is the end result of everything everyone in the company does. It’s what everyone is striving for, at least theoretically. One would think the CEO might be best positioned to own CX, given the broad-sweeping nature of this imperative. But, CX has become everyone’s child to raise and nurture and when everyone owns it, no one does.

The customer pays the price of this. And, so does the business. It’s well established that we are all competing on customer experience in every industry. The current waves of enterprise automation and digital transformation, and the increasing adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning, are all geared towards creating a better, faster, more targeted and personalized customer experience.

But what gets missed when CX has no clear owner and leader?

1. Seamlessness :

Without a single owner behind an overarching CX strategy, the customer experience as they move from prospect to customer to renewing/returning customer to post sale support to customer advocate will likely be disjointed and inconsistent. Likewise, it’s easy to miss things when no one is truly examining the experience end-to-end and providing direction for how to improve it.

2. Insights :

When multiple departments own CX for their own function, the customer insights they glean don’t get shared and assimilated into a broader CX strategy. This leads to uneven CX maturity as one area develops faster while another lags behind. This is why we might see marketing doing a great job at providing an easy, intuitive customer recruitment and onboarding and then a complete disconnect in customer service where customer information from marketing is not shared with support agents. To the organization, it can appear that CX is doing well when CSAT scores reflect who is actually doing well — but to the customer it can feel as if they’re interacting with very different brands within the same company. Customers need to feel they are interacting with one consistent brand no matter where and when and with whom they engage, at every point in their journey. Brands cannot create this experience without shared customer visibility and data across teams.

3. Unified improvement :

There is no end point to improving CX. Brands must not only craft their own unique experiences, but also react and respond when competitors offer something better, or when customer needs and expectations shift. It’s a continual evolution. Without a single owner and leader, it’s nearly impossible to be as agile and creative at responding in a way that takes the whole into account. Top line visibility into how one change creates a ripple effect across the rest of the business is necessary to ensure that CX initiatives don’t happen in a silo.

So, why should the CMO own CX?

The first reason is because no one else is positioned as well as the CMO when it comes to the heart of CX. Marketing is often the first contact with the customer, and therefore is the first trustee of owning the customer experience. Typically, marketing hands off customers to sales who then hands them off to customer support/success. But increasingly, brands are realizing that marketing, sales, and customer support must all start working as three parts of one team. Perhaps not officially, but in practice, yes. We’ve even invented a new role to oversee all three, the Chief Revenue Officer. However, CROs primarily deal with the result of CX across all three and not how to create and manage that CX journey.

CMOs are well suited to oversee an enterprise-wide CX strategy. They have an early pulse on the customer and can build on that insight by integrating technology across marketing, sales, and support. They understand how all the parts relate to the whole and can help identify areas that need improvement. They also understand metrics and how to measure CX success as tied back to revenue.

Why the CMO and why not a CXO? If your company has a CXO, then great. As long as this person is in close collaboration with the CMO and CFO. But if you don’t want to create a new C-suite position and salary, comps and benefits, not to mention the time it would take to ramp this person — then putting the CMO in charge of CX makes sense. They already know the business and the customer. They’ve got the connections with sales and customer service. And they understand how to leverage technology to drive customer experience improvements and results.

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As a CMO, the last thing I would recommend is that any CMO who takes on ownership of the end-to-end customer experience not work in a silo. Collaboration across teams is key so bring in every CX voice across the company and some of those who don’t have direct customer engagement, like logistics and HR. A holistic CX perspective and strategy will need voices from everyone who plays a role. The point for the CMO is to own the leadership role — and thus the final decisions — not to implement new strategies without critical input internally and from the customers themselves.

Leading CX is a challenge, but a rewarding one and one where CMOs can drive real impact for the business and the customer.

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