If CMOs lead CX, who will follow?

by Tom Kaneshige. CX leadership is also increasingly falling into the lap of the CMO - and it's a political quagmire.

by Tom Kaneshige. Is the job of leading the customer experience, or CX, a fool’s errand? In many ways, it’s an impossible mandate chock full of technology complexity and political quagmire. CX leadership is also increasingly falling into the lap of the CMO.

Companies, especially large ones, are gaining confidence in the CMO as the customer authority. The CMO Council found that 62% of business leaders consider the essential role of the CMO to be “customer experience advocate and champion”; followed by “digital transformation and marketing automation leader”. These are some lofty titles, tall orders, loaded guns or whatever euphemism you want to use. And there’s good reason for this.

Today’s digital environment has given rise to the self-reliant buyer and puts a spotlight at the top of the funnel. Marketing is now in the vanguard and has the most relevant customer interactions, including, in some cases, converting sales. The most innovative marketers are coming up with ways to leverage MarTech and data to tailor more personalised experiences in the customer’s moment of need. More than anyone in the organisation, marketing and the CMO know the customer best.

But what does it really mean to be a CX champion and lead the charge? Digitally speaking, customer interactions with brands come fast and furious. While they might appear to be distinct, customer interactions are actually interrelated and interdependent, says Jason Szcuka, chief digital officer at Cigna, during a recent Insight Partners webinar, The Data Revolution: Is the Chief Digital Officer Really the Chief Experience Officer? Together, they make up the customer experience. Shouldn’t someone see the big picture?

“You need to name and empower a leader as the chief experience officer,” Szcuka says. “You’ve got to give them the power of the purse so that they can orchestrate decisions and roadmaps across the various business functions that represent those touchpoints.” However, this should raise the blood pressure of CMOs in charge of setting the CX tone. It’s hard enough getting sales on board. Imagine trying to get line-of-business executives — all with different agendas, opinions and incentives — marching in lockstep to the beat of the best interest of the customer.

CX champion challenges

If salespeople are incentivised on commissions, are they really going to be customer-centric? If contact centre agents are incentivised to lower average handle times, are they really thinking about helping the customer?

Then there’s human nature bumping up against change. Some business executives might not think CX transformation and agility applies to them and thus refuse to make significant changes, says Laureen Knudsen, chief transformation officer at Broadcom, speaking at the Insight Partners webinar. Middle managers and directors, too, often feel like they’re going to lose their jobs if they allow the transformation to move forward.

To be a CX champion, CMOs need to know what customers want today and what they’ll want tomorrow — and that’s far from clear. Digital customers are a fickle bunch. Telehealth, for instance, had bounded to the front of the line, but now shows signs of tapering off.

Where should CX champions place their bets? CMOs need to be masters of customer data and machine learning to be able to predict and meet customer expectations. But there’s still work to be done. The CMO Council says 60% of marketers aren’t happy with the depth and granularity of customer insights.

The challenges are many, the mountain steep, yet CMOs have some advantages in their favour. After all, they are the caretakers of critical CX metrics, such as NPS, churn rates and customer lifetime value, or LTV. “My favourite one is lifetime customer value… the understanding that customers are getting value from your products over the entire lifecycle and the whole time that they own your products,” Knudsen says.

LTV is a key performance indicator of a company’s ability to deliver great CX, say marketing leaders. The CMO Council found that the number one reason marketing leaders track and measure LTV is to help them create customer value. Further, CEOs (53%), heads of sales (49%) and line-of-business leaders (44%) leverage LTV to drive strategic decisions.

“Companies shouldn’t view LTV through the lens of maximising revenue at every possible consumer touchpoint,” Brett Townsend, head of North America Insights at Electrolux, told the CMO Council. “It should be about making the customer experience so great that they happily, and even excitingly, come back to you the next time they want to make a purchase or engage with your brand.”

*Related: Download our report, Forging the Future of Customer Experience.


Main image credit: Photo by Gil Ribeiro on Unsplash.


Tom Kaneshige is the Chief Content Officer at the CMO Council. He creates all forms of digital thought leadership content that helps growth and revenue officers, line of business leaders, and chief marketers succeed in their rapidly evolving roles.



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