Last updated: Who’s responsible for the customer experience (hint: it’s not the CMO)?

Who’s responsible for the customer experience (hint: it’s not the CMO)?


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Everywhere you look in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, industry pundits are proclaiming that today’s winners will be those companies which deliver the best customer experience. For instance, 89% of marketers expect to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience by 2016, according to a 2014 Gartner survey on marketing’s role in the customer experience.

If that’s the case, then it seems natural that the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) should be the primary corporate leaders responsible for the success or failure of their companies’ efforts to deliver the best customer experience.

The rise of the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) has also been driven by the lack of an established executive within many organizations with the requisite skills to foster a positive customer experience in today’s web-oriented, ‘on-demand’ world.

I’d like to suggest that the Chief Operations Officer (COO) is the right CXO to ensure that every facet of an organization is aligned to deliver a seamless customer experience.

There’s no question that the customer experience begins with smart marketing programs that offer well-targeted and compelling messages that appeal to a particular buyer’s specific needs. This requires careful market research to properly identify the correct buyer and exact execution to successfully engage the buyer to consider your offering.

Delivering these messages also entails the right omnichannel strategies and tactics, along with a properly integrated set of online and traditional storefront access points. Digital marketing has certainly become an increasingly important ingredient with more buyers relying on mobile apps to access information to help them with the decision-making process before they ever engage with a salesperson. As a result, many companies are spending a growing portion of their marketing dollars on a variety of web-based systems to entice potential customers with on-line ‘eye-candy’ and continuously contact them with additional information to convince them to buy.

While the upfront selling process – from initial contact to close – is pivotal to win a prospective customer, the real customer experience doesn’t begin until the actual purchase is made and the product/service delivery process begins.

At that point, the most important determinants of a successful customer experience is how well a company delivers and supports the product or service the customer expects. Meeting this expectation requires easy-to-use billing systems, reliable fulfillment procedures, quality training programs and knowledgeable support people. Of course, none of this will make any difference without manufacturing quality products or services.

The real customer experience begins after the first purchase is completed

When you add up all these components of a positive customer experience, it becomes readily apparent that the bulk of the work actually takes place after the sale is won.

Therefore, the responsibility for assuring a quality customer experience should fall on the executive most responsible for the ‘backend’ of the process – the Chief Operations Officer.

Some might argue that the ultimate responsibility for the customer experience sits with the CEO. While it’s hard to dispute this contention, the truth is that the CEO has too many other issues to contend with.

On the other hand, the COO’s responsibility is clearly focused on optimizing the company’s operations and the primary purpose of those operations is to deliver quality products and services to customers (and partners). And what is the ultimate measure of quality products and services? A positive customer experience.

Gartner predicts that 50% of consumer product investments will be redirected to customer experience innovations, by 2017. If this is true, then the COO will be responsible for making sure that these investments are properly apportioned across the product development, manufacturing, supply-chain, fulfillment and support functions, in addition to sales and marketing.

Although it is easy to say that everyone within a company is responsible for the customer experience, it is still necessary to assign executive responsibility to a specific senior person. I nominate the COO to lead this effort.

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