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Customer experience is the opportunity to grow influence

The business world’s preoccupation with customer experience (CX) has resulted in billions being invested in digital transformation. This presents marketers with the chance to play a bigger role in the organisation than ever before. To do so successfully requires clarity on where best to focus efforts and add value.

Strategy

Jonathon Palmer

GLOBAL HEAD OF STRATEGY

Jonathon leads the global strategy and UX teams at Omobono, delivering world-class strategic thinking for global business brands. He has over twenty years’ experience at the frontier of digital technology and communications and a history of delivering award winning work across both the B2B and B2C space.

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Customer relationships matter more than ever
For the past 8 years, Omobono has completed research on the state of marketing for global business brands. Along the way, we’ve learned about which channels work best, what issues marketing leaders face and the keys to success.

This year’s research gleaned from over 1,100 participants around the globe reveals some key insights about the role marketers should be playing in helping organisations shape their customer experience and become more relevant in their customers’ lives.

What’s clear is that marketers recognise that they should be taking this role seriously with 49% of participants stating that deepening customer relationships was their biggest marketing objective for the year ahead, second only to raising brand awareness.In fact, for those organisations with a turnover of £500m+, it was the number one focus with 58% of participants ranking it in the top spot.

It also seems that marketers and the companies they work for are paying more attention to CX than ever with 75% of respondents saying that it is increasing in importance.

Converting intent into action
However despite it being on everyone’s radar, only a minority of businesses are delivering a truly joined up experience for their customers.When asked to what extent CX was embedded in the organisation, only 23% of participants responded by saying that it is fully embedded.The reality is that many businesses still have a long way to go with 62% of respondents saying that it is either fairly or somewhat embedded.

This disparity between perceived importance and the actual degree of implementation reflects the inherent difficulty in delivering a consistently rewarding experience across the whole customer journey.

Despite this it’s clear that some of the respondents are committed to making it happen – “84% of our business is repeat business. Our reputation is very important and one job could ruin that”.Others told a different story – “We’ve got to change the attitudes of the organisation from selling them anything to the systematic study of the customer and how to service them”.

Taking the lead
The debate around who should own customer experience has been raging for some time. Our research shows that marketing fully own CX in only 16% of companies with a slightly higher percentage of 23% in larger companies with a revenue over £500m+.

Generally who owns CX varies with sales and customer services taking the reins in the majority of cases and operations and IT often playing a key role too.This is unsurprising as customers will always engage with sales when discussing products or complain to customer services when something goes wrong.Only three participants stated that CX was owned by a dedicated CX team so this is still a relative rarity.

New Thinking Required
The lines around marketing are blurring as by its very nature CX touches many different parts of the organisation.To fully embed it across the organisation requires new non-siloed ways of thinking and working. This presents marketers with an opportunity to play a bigger role in the organisation by helping to align key marketing drivers.We have identified brand, people and technology platforms as the three drivers that marketers most need to address. We call this the Halo model.

Those companies that are taking the lead in CX recognise that delivering a great customer experience outside the organisation begins with a great employee experience inside the organisation.For many companies your people are your product, particularly those that operate in B2B where service delivery is a key differentiator. Attracting the best people and inspiring them to deliver on the brand promise is critical to success.Therefore marketing needs to work closely with HR to help shape the employee and candidate experiences and build the employer brand, particularly in view of the fact that HR has historically been involved in CX in only 13% of cases.

IT are also a critical partner for marketing as the business’ technology, tools and platforms must seamlessly underpin not only the CX but also help support employees by ensuring they have the right tools they need to do the job.

Marketing’s Customer Experience Sweet Spot
As marketing thinking is applied more widely across the organisation, we see three areas where marketers can add the most value in CX:

  • Customer insight – While sales and customer services have front line exposure to what customers want, marketing is best placed to represent the voice of the customer in the organisation as a whole (although ironically gathering insights was tied for the least important challenge by marketers in our research). Owning customer insight, from primary research to UX and the customer journey, will help you have the ear of the organisation (including the CEO) and a bigger say in guiding the overall CX strategy.
  • Customer touchpoints – Marketing has always been responsible for key customer touchpoints such as the website, apps, events and most recently voice services such as Amazon’s Alexa. Evidence suggests that this role will continue to expand and possibly even encompass ecommerce too.
  • Customer-first mind-set – To some degree, the question of who owns CX is missing the point – as everyone in the organisation needs to have a customer-first mindset.Marketing can play a key role in defining and communicating the CX vision and strategy, helping to rally employees and drive cultural transformation so that it is fully embedded right across the organisation.

Good news…but we need to play a smarter game
While 75% of respondents agree that the role of marketing is (very or fairly) important, one of the biggest challenges it faces is a lack of influence within the organisation.Only 28% of participants said that marketing is very influential with this dropping to only 12% in bigger companies. For it to play a greater role there are three ways to get marketing up the agenda:

First it must cultivate the necessary relationships to ensure it has the ear of the board and particularly the CEO.According to our research CX is a board level issue in 34% of companies.

Secondly align marketing directly with the business strategy (which is the #1 objective across the board), and partner with sales and senior leadership to deliver it.

Thirdly ensure that there is a clear understanding of marketing’s contribution to ROI for the company.

What’s clear then is that CX presents marketers with an opportunity to play a far greater role both inside and outside the organisation if they are able to build influence, collaborate more widely and willing to invest in insight.

This article was originally posted on Marketing Week. To download the full research report, visit: omobono.com/www2018

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Ellie Jones

Business Development Director