Does marketing deserve a seat at the Customer Experience and Customer Centricity tables?


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I believe that the marketing function has a valuable role to play in customer experience and customer-centricity

In the Customer Experience and Customer Centricity communities I have noticed a certain dismissive attitude towards the role and contribution that the marketing (and advertising)  folks can and do make.  To some extent this is not a surprise as some of the most visible proponents of Customer Experience come from a customer services background. Others who share this dismissive attitude tend to come from an operational improvement background and are deeply embedded in process thinking – the engineering mindset.

Whilst I can see the shortcomings, I can also see the value of the marketing function and the contribution it can, does and needs to make: to the customer centric orientation and to the customer experience in particular.   Recently I made my point of view clear on a Linkedin conversation:

“The companies that have marginalized the marketing function are making a big mistake. In my experience, the folks working in the marketing and advertising arena are one of the few tribes that truly get the emotional nature of human beings. The best marketers get the impact of standing for something that resonates with human beings. They get the importance of symbols and how these move human beings. And they get the importance of beauty. They know how to touch upon the emotional, engage and move human beings. Customer Experience requires the harmonious integration between the rational and the emotional.”

There are plenty of people who disagree with my point of view

I was not at all surprised that my comment on Linkedin resulted in the following response – a response that I believe is representative of many working in the CE and customer-centric communities:

“Regarding marketing losing its place at the table in customer-centric companies, had marketing exhibited the skills and behaviors you describe often enough, marketing still would be at the table. However, as an overall profession, marketing is far better at promoting to people than communicating with them. “Understanding” customers isn’t sufficient. In customer-centricity, companies have to see through customer eyes, rather than understand how to look at customers.”

Does this response raise a valid issue?  Absolutely.  Is it an accurate description of marketing?  Let me share an example with you and then you can decide for yourself.

Lets examine the issue through a concrete example: my wife and Tesco

My wife used to shop regularly and almost exclusively at Tesco (the biggest supermarket chain in the UK) and made frequent use of their online shopping and home delivery service.

Over the last three months she has shopped less frequently, bought less and spent less with Tesco.  In part this is simply because she is travelling more and finds other supermarket chains (Sainsburys, Morrisons, Asda) more convenient.  It is partly because she is being more frugal.  And it is partly because she had a disappointing experience at a Tesco store: Why my wife will not be relying on Tesco….

On the 24th March 2011 my wife received the following email (I have extracted some information from this email to shorten its length) from the marketing team:
If you haven’t shopped online for weeks. 

Don’t worry.

All your favourites are still here.

So you can fill your basket in minutes.


£7.50 off
Start Shopping >> e
Dear Mrs Iqbal,  

We’ve noticed that you haven’t placed a grocery shop with us for a while, and we hope that we haven’t let you down.

Please don’t forget how easy and convenient it is to shop online.  All the purchases you’ve made online and in-store are still kept in ‘My Favourites’.

And because we’d really like to welcome you back, we’ll give you £7.50 off your next grocery order when you spend £75 or more.

eCoupon code:
Valid on deliveries up to and including 2nd April 2011.

So why not let us do your shopping for you again soon?

Best wishes,

Kendra Banks
Kendra Banks
Marketing Director


Double Clubcard points still on; Spend £1, Collect 2 points, Every 150 points = £1.50
Award Winning Service

What impact does this email have on you?  Does this piece of marketing produced by the marketing function improve or degrade your experience, your perception, your attitude towards Tesco?

How has my wife experienced this communication from the Tesco marketing team?

My wife is pleasantly surprised that Tesco noticed that she has shopped and spent less with Tesco. How is she left feeling towards Tesco as a result of this marketing communication?

She says “It makes me feel valued as a customer.  I matter to them and they want me back.  And Tesco is providing value to me as their customer by giving me £7.50 off my next order.  I know it is not a huge amount, yet it does matter that they are giving me this discount.”

What other impact has this email from the marketing function made on my wife?  She is left thinking that Tesco:

  • Is a professional company that is on top of things because they noticed a change in her shopping behaviour;
  • Is proactive because Tesco has taken the first step to recover / ignite the previous shopping behaviour; and
  • Tesco is simple (as in easy to do business with) and straight with its customers because the email is written in that way – no fluff, no gimmicks, no tricks.

You might say great, but has she actually made any behaviour changes?  The answer is yes – she is once again shopping and spending more with Tesco.  And all because of a single email from Tesco’s marketing team.

So what is the lesson?

Marketing matters, the marketing function matters because it touches the customer in so many ways.  And if your marketing function is not making the kind of impact that the Tesco marketing function is making then it is time to learn from Tesco (and others who practice good marketing).

Disclosure: I am a member of the Institute of Direct Marketing and thus possibly biassed!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maz Iqbal
Experienced management consultant and customer strategist who has been grappling with 'customer-centric business' since early 1999.


  1. Maz, you pose a great question.

    I think you could also ask, does sales, or purchasing or customer service belong at the cex table — if they don’t add value to the customer experience.

    I think too often people equate customer service= customer experience. While it’s true that service matters (what company could be considered ‘customer centric’ if it gave bad service?) all the other experiences matter too.

    In our research a few years ago, we found that about 1/3 of ‘memorable’ experiences were generated in customer service interactions. But the other 2/3 were distributed throughout marketing, selling, purchasing and usage interactions.

    My take is that a truly customer-centric organization will have ALL the key functions at the cex table, including marketing. Everyone should be challenged to deliver loyalty-building experience, even though they also may have other goals more aligned with short-term business goals (promote, close deals, etc.)

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post that will help marketers get out of a promoting rut.

    I just wrote about the prospect experience and its role in B2B brand building. In this case, I’m concerned that B2B marketers are too focused on automation and “scoring” prospects on their potential value, and not taking a customer-centric view to consider the impact that prospect interactions will have on the brand.

    B2B Marketers, Analyze This: How Do Prospects Score YOU on Their Experience?

  2. Hi Maz Sorry we couldn’t connect via Skype recently. I agree with you that marketing has a key part to play in today’s changing world. Like Bob I think the existing silos all need to be represented at the customer centricity table. Where I think we go wrong is in assuming that we have all the skills and processes needed for a move towards customer centricity, already in our businesses. What’s typically missing is the cross functional co-ordinating group of customer centricity champions (I call them clienteers) who have the necessary time, skills and influencing skills to drive the voice of the customer (in the form of actionable insights) deep into every corner of the business. In my experience marketing and sales people are not always best suited by training, experience and sometimes personality to undertake these roles. I characterise the difference as between “hunters” and “farmers.” A good business needs both and each must respect the contribution of the other.

  3. Bob, I thank you for taking the time to read the post and share your perspective.

    You and I are in agreement: customer experience and customer centricity are team games in which every single person needs to play. I see it rather like an orchestra – every player matters and they either add to the quality of the piece being played or detract from it. For me that means every function (whether ‘front office’ or ‘back office’): armies have lost wars because of weak logistics (back office). And it means everyone including the CEO. Notice: I am not talking about the people on the front line – they are not the weakness in the chain!

    As for your B2B article, I have read it and am once again in complete agreement. In fact, this week I had a similar experience. One B2B company reached out to me and scheduled a meeting to demonstrate their software. I agreed and we set-up a date. I did not solicit this phone conversation, they did.

    Later, the ‘sales rep’ from this company called me and told me that he had to qualify me out because I am in the process of leaving my current employer (Vertex); he knew this because I told him when he first phoned me to set up the meeting/demo.

    Now the interesting part is that I cannot fault the logic. The company was never interested in me – as a person, an individual. It was interested in selling to my employer through me. Yet, at a human level I am offended. I am left feeling that this company does not care about me, about persons, just revenues. I was treated simply as a means to and end. The encounter, in Buber’s term, was in ‘I-It’ encounter. And that has left a bad taste. So what is the chance I will do business or recommend this company? Nil.

    All the best Bob, I look forward to our next conversation.


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