As Customer Experience continues to gain prominence, a continuing debate carries on…
…who should own the customer experience?
There are two schools of thought here.
Some think it should be one functional group that owns the customer experience.
Which group should it be? Marketing? Customer Success? Sales? Another customer-facing functional group?
When one functional group manages or owns customer experience, customer experience tends to get siloed and as a result becomes an afterthought or no thought at all.
Others think the entire organization should own the customer experience.
That can be problematic as well.
If customer experience remains undefined, leadership doesn’t champion the effort, employees aren’t passionate or accountable about customer experience, no framework is in place to manage it, then customer experience initiatives become inconsistent without focus to guide it, and, ultimately, no one manages the customer experience.
Who pays the price for inconsistent or no customer experience?
Customers pay the price, in the short run. Their experience becomes so poor that they either get stuck in a bad relationship and become resentful or they churn, as they are forced to look elsewhere for a good experience.
In the long run, organizations suffer. As employee morale waivers, customers churn, and growth becomes nonexistent.
There are also some that believe that owning the customer relationship means hoarding the customer so no one else can get to him/her. This creates internal animosity, morale suffers and the silo beast continues to grow, which ultimately hurts everyone.
What Does Customer Experience Ownership Really Mean?
Customer Experience ownership means banding together to give customers the best experience they can have.
The goal is to win customers, keep them happy, and turn them into lifetime brand advocates so they can help companies grow by helping to bring in new customers. And so the cycle perpetuates itself.
Customer Experience has been gaining ground, as more companies realize the need to be customer-centric is paramount to survival and are ramping up their customer experience efforts.
However, customer-centricity is not enough.
Companies must be customer-obsessed.
Successful companies know that the customer is in the driver seat and to keep these customers means to deliver stellar experiences. Thus, the customer must always be top of mind and be at the forefront of your mission and strategy.
Customer Experience doesn’t start when the buyer becomes a customer. It starts well before we meet a potential customer.
There are things companies can do to effectively own the customer experience.
How Companies Can Win at Customer Experience Ownership
Make customer experience the central tenet of your mission and strategy
Organizations who are successful at customer experience live and breathe the customer and as such, engrain customer experience into every aspect of their DNA.
Ensure customer experience starts at the top
Organizations that get the importance of customer experience know that executive leadership must champion the customer experience effort. Leaders establish an environment of open communication, so their teams have a voice in defining customer experience and create the framework to support it, so teams feel empowered to take ownership of and be accountable for customer experience.
A top-down integration will serve to bust any existing silos and prevent new ones from forming.
Align customer experience horizontally across the organization
For customer experience to work effectively, all functional groups and systems must align to support each other in customer experience efforts.
It’s not enough for functional groups to align to connect strategy and operations. Each functional group must share knowledge with the others, understand and breathe a consistent brand message, be able to coordinate across the organization and then be able to understand the customer and meet their needs in the way the customer wants.
Systems must also align. Operational data, CRM and customer feedback must all be integrated to create a closed feedback loop to serve the customer.
Know the customer
To truly connect with buyers, we’ve got to help them along their journey.
To do that we need to know all about them, their pains, their needs and what motivates them. Create personas and keep tweaking them.
But, don’t stop there. We must know their behaviors and emotions. If we don’t know their behaviors and emotions, we can’t help them along their journey. This is where it is important to listen to and engage with customers to be able to deliver the experience they want.
Map touch points to create customer journey maps
Understand the customer touch points that make up the customer journey so you can map out the customer’s experience. Once you know the customer, then you can capture their perceptions of their experiences based on their needs and expectations.
This is also where you can identify where gaps and opportunities in the journey process exist and implement actionable insights to close gaps and leverage opportunities. Visualizing the entire journey map “story” will help you to enhance the experience for other customers.
Focus on a sound closed feedback loop
A closed feedback loop is paramount to a great customer experience.
It’s very telling how important voice of the customer programs are. In the 2013 Best Practices of the Best Marketers Research Report, Chief Marketing Officers who performed in the top quartile used voice of customer programs 68% more often than their lower performing peers.
Organizations must be able to collect feedback from customers, share it with appropriate departments, inject actionable insights into processes to enhance the overall customer experience, and follow up with the customer to update them on the action taken.
It’s important to have a smooth and seamless process flow so the customer receives a continuously enhanced experience.
Adjust your initiatives to support your metrics
Once you implement your customer experience initiatives, align your metrics to each phase of the customer journey. Once you analyze metrics, review and implement actionable insights.
Be brave enough to make changes to enhance the experience even if that means adjusting your strategy in the process.
Always be willing to be creative and experiment to enhance the experience for your customers.
Being solid on who owns the customer experience within your organization is the first step to delivering stellar experiences. Once everyone understands their role, they’ll want to take ownership to ensure they deliver a stellar experience every time.
Hi Sue: I agree with a lot of what you have stated here, notably, that when it comes to providing customer experience, entities within an organization are interdependent, and must be self-supporting if positive experience is built into the company’s strategy.
But there are a couple of slippery slopes. First, I’m unclear how to reconcile the need to know all about our customers to help them along their buying journey, and developing closed-loop systems for implementing tactics. One objective mandates seeing no boundaries or partitions, and the other requires creating them. For me, it seems the latter objective is more achievable and probably more valuable. As vendors, we can become mired in the effort of chasing panoramic knowledge when, in reality, we can be highly effective in meeting customer needs without it. Rather, pursuing the most relevant knowledge should be a top priority. That’s not easy, either. And it’s never static.
Second, while I agree that delivering consistently high customer value is an important goal, I believe that getting every department to adhere to common operating practices to be a Herculean task – easier said than done. The main problem is that different ‘customer facing’ departments – e.g. Sales, Marketing, Service, Production, transportation/logistics, Quality Control, Contracts, Payables, Finance – have vastly different goals, and see ‘positive customer experience’ through much different lenses. A short and sweet written Statement of Customer Values helps. But it has to be continually reinforced, challenged, and discussed, and not just remain “website wallpaper” to make customers feel good.
Third, you bring up a very interesting idea about wanting customers to become lifetime brand advocates, and having them help to bring in new customers. It’s been much debated, and some ethical concerns have cropped up recently. In particular, companies that offer customers financial incentives to advocate for their products, but don’t disclose that fact to prospective customers. Lumosity was cited in an FTC complaint last year for using this tactic (see my article, Announcing the 2016 Sales Ethics Hall of Shame. http://customerthink.com/announcing-the-2016-sales-ethics-hall-of-shame/).
Thanks for this article – I’m interested in your thoughts.
Thanks for your comments, Andrew.
Here are my comments:
1. You’ve got to know who your customers are and what their pains and motivators are to be able to provide them with the right content, right tools, right answers, know how they process info, know how they behave/feel about things at different touch points, etc. And, these items are paramount to being able to create journey maps for your customers. Journey mapping and voice of customer go hand in hand. Having closed VoC loops is the only sound way to “close the loop” with the customer – escalate existing issues, identify new issues, help enable continuing engagement and loyalty, etc.
2. You just proved why it is important that organizations row in the same direction with their customer experience – and that alignment occur horizontally and vertically.
3. You bring up an interesting point about brand advocacy. There needs to be guidelines on compensation so ethics issues don’t arise. At the very least, brands do need to disclose these compensatory arrangements. This was a hot topic in the influencer marketing realm last year and will continue this year. It appears that all roads are leading to some type of formal guidelines coming out soon on how to address.
Thanks for reading and commenting!
You have covered a lot in this post. I just want to address the “who owns CX” part. Obviously, the answer to the question telegraphs organizational priority. Does HR own diversity? Does Finance own the budget? If you ask the most customer-centric organizations on the planet, they all will tell you that everyone is responsible for delivering a great customer experience, even if a functional unit may be accountable for supporting that focus. Peter Drucker reminded us that “the purpose of the organization is to create and retain a customer.”
But, a singular focus is more complex than meets the eye. If you were the CEO of Rolls Royce would you want employees perpetually obsessed with great customer service or building an extraordinary automobile? How about Lockheed-Martin? Granted, if you deliver mediocre service, you risk trashing your distinctive competence, whatever it might be. And, the world of health care is full of conflicting priorities. If you are Mayo Clinic or MD Anderson, does customer-obsessed mean making patients happy or healthy? Obviously you want both but what is the priority of health care professionals when those two (happy or healthy) are in conflict? As a fan of customer-obsessed I share your allegiance. But, I have also learned that the pursuit of the singular focus on the customer can be challenging.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Chip.
Having a single point of focus is very tough, but ensuring that customer experience is treated more as a mindset so everyone is rowing in the same direction and they know their own ownership/accountability piece helps.
Somewhat echoing Chip Bell’s thoughts, I’d add that while optimized product/service value proposition and customer experience design are critical – often accomplished through targeted emotionally-based research – perceived value and experience delivery are largely accomplished through the culture and through employees. So, while experience definition/redefinition and leadership may be invested in a relatively few managers and execs, execution (through employee ambassadorship) is the responsibility of everyone within the enterprise.
And, while agreeing that enterprise customer-centricity isn’t enough, I’d also submit that neither is customer obsession, unless it it encompasses stakeholder-centricity: http://customerthink.com/for-employees-and-customers-should-the-goal-be-higher-engagement-or-higher-experience-value/
Thanks for reading and commenting, Michael.
You’re right that even customer obsession isn’t enough. That’s why I note above that customer experience must be treated as a mindset.
The simple answer should be: the CEO. He/she is responsible for embracing the customer and for ‘infecting’ the other members of the board and the rest of the company with that behavior. If the single most important person in the company isn’t the customer experience advocate, it will be impossible to get the entire company on board. As you state it: CX should be imposed top down.
I wonder what you would do differently to improve customer satisfaction? I guess the same as for Customer experience
Second the customer belongs to everyone….the biggest danger is to say so and so is responsible for customers…The Customer Service Director, The Marketing Drector etc…I cringe when the CEO tells me the Customer is taken care of. Meet my Director of Service who is in charge of Customers
Thanks for reading and commenting, CRMco72!
Thanks for reading and commenting, Gautum! I know what you mean about a CEO saying the customer is taken care of and then passing you onto Customer Service! Yikes!! That’s why CX as a mindset so all employees know their individual roles and the organization knows its role is so important.