Who’s in Charge of Your Strategy for Engaging the New Social Consumer?


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We all know that customers are demanding more ways to personalize their experiences with a business. Now that we have entered a new era defined by social Web, customer experience strategies need to focus not only on utilitarian, functional, and operational characteristics, but also emotion, style, design, and person-to-person (social) interactions as dominant factors. Consumers increasingly look to their peers for advice and recommendations about products and services. In recent a Forrester survey, consumers indicated they trusted the following sources of information in the following order: “opinion of friend who has used the product” – 83%; “consumer reviews on a retailer’s site” – 60%; “consumer reviews by users of a content site” – 52%; “an online review by the editors of a content site” – 49%.

What does this mean for CRM professionals? You must make experience-based differentiation a top priority. And, your customer experience strategy must take into account the consumer-to-consumer conversations that rapidly spread stories about poor experiences within a buyer community. User community interactions increasingly define important elements of the perceived customer experience, not the seller. A lack of a coordinated approach for how to participate in the social Web will make it difficult for enterprises to achieve the goal of a “branded customer experience.”

Creating extraordinary customer experiences is at the top of the list of priorities of many senior executives today. In fact, 85% percent of our Customer Experience Peer Research Panelists say that customer experience will play a very important or critical role in their firms’ competitiveness over the next three years. Although there’s a clear consensus on the importance of customer experience, more than half of our panelists report that their companies have an undisciplined approach to customer experience management. Only 46% of our respondents have enterprisewide customer experience programs, and more than one-third of these have just been started in the past six months.

Given the need to adapt to an empowered social customer, compete in an experience-based economy, what should you about it? My colleague Bruce Temkin tells me he is seeing companies consider establishing the role of “Chief Customer/Experience Officer (CC/CEO).” This approach can be useful for companies who try to differentiate themselves through an explicit set of promises to customers — like Westpac Banking’s “Ask Once” commitments or Travelocity.com’s “Travelocity Guarantee.” A CC/EO can help develop and manage the details of programs like this that typically span existing organizational boundaries.

However, customer experience is not a standalone activity — it’s a fundamental piece of how a company operates. So if the CC/EO is told to develop a “social web” strategy for enriching the customer experience, he runs a high risk of defining a direction that is disjointed from the overall business. For a CC/EO to be successful, the customer experience strategy must be a component that fits within a firm’s overall strategy. The CC/EO should only be responsible for helping to articulate the customer experience objectives that support the company’s overall strategy or for infusing those objectives into corporate strategy.

William Band
Bill Band is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. He is a leading expert on CRM topics, having helped organizations define customer-driven strategies to achieve distinction in the marketplace for his entire career. Click here to download free related research from Forrester (free site registration required).


  1. It is our experience that creating a special “C” level spot to deal with any issues as broad as customer experience is a recipe for failure, in most organizations. These staff functions are rarely if ever given any real power and are usually just window dressing for PR purposes or a place to park someone who cannot be trusted with a real job. They often prove ephemeral and usually disappear very soon after the fad either goes away, they get tired of having a meaningless job or the next budget crunch comes.

    Customer Experience is better handled by someone from within the line or operating organization, with a real budget, staff and power and a normal title, who knows how to work the organization and, especially, the hidden influence networks in every organization. This role should also reside within the part of the organization where the customer “experience” happens most often – call centers in some instances, the web in others. They can always network their way into the other channels.

    Naras V. Eechambadi, Ph.D.
    email: [email protected]

  2. Given that the word of the “guy next door” blogger or reviewer carries that much more weight for prospective buyers, I think every effort should be made to reach out to the influencers out there by communicating with them in their own language through their own communication channels.

    This will also provide rich data that can be used to prepare the company’s direction with respect to interacting with the social customer.

    Piyush Bakshi

  3. These points are so important to engage in discussion on because they get to the heart of the matter about why and how customer experiences succeed or fail. And that’s organizational alignment in metrics and accountability.

    When reading this series of posts, what seemed to be comingled a bit were two things. 1. The creation of a specific strategy for engaging in a social media conversation with customers from within a discipline who knows how to build and execute such a strategy, and 2. The development of an overall customer experience strategy led by someone with budget,power etc. to execute on that strategy.

    Both of these are valid points and actually point to what is happening in organizations all around the world. They are specialized actions and tasks built within their silo of the organization to get a certain result. Social media is often created inside the web strategy group, wherever it resides. Customer Experience is often a marketing task, defined either narrowly as marketing upsell and cross-sell or lifecycle development or any other number of titles and definitions.

    The challenge is that the organizational structure of silos and centers of expertise doesn’t provoke the cross-silo review and improvement of the customer experience from the point of view of the customer.

    For example; social media elicits amazing feedback from the customer on what to build next, or how to fix a major area of the operation that, if fixed would keep more customers happy. What is done with that information? If it is tossed to another silo to look at, what is the accountability for resolving the problem? Is there committed cross-silo collaboration to fix an issue that can’t be solved without it?

    The reason to consider an individual or consortium of a few key leaders of the organization to act as “Customer Officer” or “Customer Leadership” is to connect these actions. And that is a pretty valid reason. The way leaders are rewarded and recognized inside the corporation is not based on this type of collaboration. It takes an enlightened CEO and an organization willing to rethink how it solves problems and how it inspires new actions ACROSS the experience that has given birth to the idea of a “Chief Customer/Experience Officer.”

    This is meant as a spingboard for building a new competency inside organizations where shared metrics, defining operational outcomes from the customer experience perspective and building reliable ways to drive accountability can be realized as a part of the regular DNA of how the business operates.

    The sign of a successful part of this process..is that it doesn’t need to continue in perpetuity.

    Jeanne Bliss


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