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Editorial

How CMOs Can Master Their New Job: Leading Customer Experience

8 minute read
Chris Johnson avatar
Chief marketing officers need to adapt to their new kinda important duty: leading customer experience.

Great news, CMOs: customer experience (CX) is the future … and if you aren’t already, you’re going to be in charge of it.

According to Salesforce’s latest State of Marketing report, 80% of marketers are now in charge of CX initiatives across the enterprise. But whether or not this has been added to your purview, you probably have some questions about this new responsibility.

Specifically: How are you supposed to do it?

Marketers Always Have Customers in Mind

Luckily, the heart of marketing is understanding your target customers, and all of your creative and strategic decisions are made with those customers in mind. By using data and research to know what people want and how to set expectations for buying products, smart marketers set the bar for customers over the long term for what their experiences should be for a company.

That said, while marketing is a subset of CX, successful CX isn’t necessarily marketing.

While marketing owns the early stages of the pre-purchase customer journey, many CMOs have had to deal with the frustrations that come with setting up expectations that the company as a whole can’t deliver due to unsatisfactory CX. Whether it’s a supplier’s inability to deliver purchased products, unhelpful customer support manned by uncanny valley chatbots, outsourced customer service representatives (CSR), or other snags that cause the overall experience to fall short of then unfulfilled promises.

CMO takeover of the customer experience (CX) can not only be a huge value-add for a company overall, but it can also empower marketers to operationalize feedback they received from customers; for example, when they are confronted by an angry customer’s viral tweetstorm about a bad brand experience. But that doesn’t mean that the transition to overseeing both marketing and CX doesn’t come without challenges.

To ease the transition and avoid potential pitfalls, here are five things CMOs can do when approaching CX and advocating for it within their company’s structure.

Related Article: Why Markets Is the New 'M' in CMO

1. Leadership Must Make CX a Priority

According to Harvard Business Review Analystic Services, 58% of business executives placed “improving customer experience” as a top priority for 2021-2022, but they may not fully understand the company-wide changes that need to take place for CX to truly deliver.

In an ideal world, your CEO will be willing to structure the vision and mission of the company to center around the customer and then do the work with internal teams to recreate metrics on how to measure success across the organization and ensure that there’s alignment around the customer.

If IT resists sharing its data, then how can you truly understand customer behavior during their 360-experience with the brand?

If you can’t align with HR over training best practices, then how can you and employees get on the same page for tricky customer interactions that might turn into viral tweetstorms?

If the social team running the brand's Facebook page notices that customers are giving consistent negative feedback about a specific issue — maybe it’s late deliveries — but that important insight isn’t heard and handled by the ops team, how can you maintain brand credibility? You don’t want to be in a situation in which someone in marketing is telling angry customers that they’re package will be delivered soon if a supply chain issue’s causing a month-long delay. 

Instead of siloing off different departments, there needs to be a culture of open communication as well as data/information sharing across operations in order to align goals, metrics and incentives that support a shared vision of CX excellence.

Related Article: Making Decisions Through the Lens of Your Core Values

2. Take Employee Engagement Seriously

Employee experience and engagement are big parts of CX. An employee’s ability to act and behave as if they’re a representative of the brand, as if they are the brand, is a key to fulfilling promises post-purchase. That level of service integration and understanding how to train, measure and reinforce behavior inside an organization that aligns with your brand and customer is incredibly important.

However, that isn’t always in the marketer’s purview. This component falls under good training, strong HR and organizational development work — all of which can be achieved with communication and leadership’s strong, cross-organizational support.

Related Article: Why It's Time to Embrace Employee Experience

3. Leverage Research to Understand Your Customer’s Needs

Along with acquiring data, a key first step is learning as much as you possibly can about your customer. This can be gathered from anything from surveys to first-party data (which we’ll get to next). Initial understanding of who your customer is and how they buy sets the table for all future CX efforts. That way, every experience can be more personalized, targeted, efficient and useful.

Learning Opportunities

But remember: while it’s important to know what your customers’ past behavior has been, it’s crucial to think of where they’re going. As people’s lives were turned upside down the last two years, their purchase behavior and even vendor-interaction preferences have evolved as well — first regarding their adjustment to the pandemic, and once again as the world appears to stabilize. So if you haven’t done customer research since before 2020, or even since the post-vaccination world in 2021, you’re essentially flying blind.

It’s also important to keep in mind the generational differences in customer expectations regarding CX. While older demographics who might be newer to the e-tail experience might need more support in their online purchase experiences, Gen-Z will be driving the change in the next five years. And if you’re interacting with a customer who’s 25-and-under, a streamlined experience is table stakes.

Related Article: Voice of the Customer: What Is It and Why Does It Matter for CX?

4. Get Your Data In Order for Actionable Insights

Companies aren’t lacking on the data front — they have tons of it. This can lead to two different challenges. Do marketers have access to the right data? (Make sure the technical departments understand the importance of sharing.) Or, more likely, do marketers have access to too much of it?

Often, companies have been compiling more data than they know how to make sense of. There is a gap between possessing the statistics and not just understanding it, but being able to use it to your advantage. 

Upon accessing a treasure trove of information, it’s important to consolidate from various sources the data into one place. If data exists in a single space rather than on multiple platforms, it’s easier to disseminate the gems from the distracting, shiny objects. 

As a CMO, you know how crucial data is when trying to analyze and identify customer truths. Once your data is in order, you’ll be armed with what you need to provide better customer service, personalize customer experiences and even identify poor experiences as they happen allowing you to intervene. For example, if a customer service representative was able to pull up a customer’s social media information during an interaction, it could be advantageous to identify if the person had been angrily tweeting about their experience and triage the situation before things get out of hand.

5. Fill the Gaps in Your Customer’s Experiences

Once your data is in order, you’ll be able to identify what the gaps are in your particular customer’s experience and put together a plan to address them.

The ultimate goal for CX is to personalize experiences for each customer. Having strong data on a customer is critical to this effort, whether it is automated in digital experiences like your website or mobile app or arming human touch points with the customer's data to make the experience as smooth as possible.

When a customer is engaging with a sales representative, data can be fed into the customer service systems to create a more targeted experience. A representative should be able to have immediate access to a customer’s explicit preferences (like purchase history) and implicit preferences (like demographic data). No one wants to wait on hold five times when being transferred from one wrong department to another. If a brand’s customer service rep can weave service history from past conversations into their current interaction, they can efficiently solve a customer’s problem and thus create happier interaction touch points.

As you create a system that betters general CX, it’s particularly important to identify who your most important customers are. The most effective way to do so is by using clustering analysis via machine learning, which enables the data to tell you who your most valuable customers are. Clustering with an eye on LTV (Lifetime Value) gives a data-based look at who your best customers are and what their expectations might be from a brand. This information doesn’t only help marketers create better campaigns, via better targeting and messaging, but it can also influence a brand’s product and service design.

CX at the Core — It’s All Worth It

Taking on CX on top of other responsibilities as a CMO might at first seem overwhelming. But no one knows customers better than marketers. No one has a stronger hold on how to use the data, understands how to speak their language, or is more agile when it comes to meeting needs that can change on a dime. 

Once best practices are adopted and corporate leadership is on board to make CX the core of their brand, going back to a more fractured system will seem archaic.

About the author

Chris Johnson

Chris is the CEO of Experience Dynamic (XD), a customer experience (CX) collective of companies. XD combines LaneTerralever, an agency with digital marketing roots, and Convince & Convert, a global leader in content marketing and CX.