How do we build a customer experience ecosystem?

Who owns the customer experience? Marketing, Sales, the CEO, someone else? Does it matter who “owns” it? The ecosystem that’s required within an organization to create good customer experiences (not to mention great ones) spreads across the company, and while maybe there needs to be an “owner,” it seems more important that everyone understands the role they must play.

Getting ownership out of the way

Blake Morgan tackles the leadership question in her piece ” The Problem With Saying ‘Customer Experience Is Everyone’s Job’ “:

It’s nice to think that everyone knows customer experience is important – but what happens when there’s a lack of leadership? A leader of customer experience can make it a priority. A leader can create a governance structure around customer experience, match it to business strategy, and implement it across the company.

Without a leader to drive CX strategy, there is no strategy and certainly no good way to measure success and hold someone accountable. She went on to say:

I believe when you say “everyone is responsible for customer experience,” you are leaving your company vulnerable. How can governance be put in place around customer experience? I believe one influential heavy hitter must define what customer experience is at your company and operationalize it. Every employee should know how their role impacts customer experience.

The CMO Council looked at CMO and Sales team ownership in its recent study ” Customer Experience Dynamics: Defining the Requirements for a Strong CX Ecosystem.” What this study found that was while Marketing and Sales both felt they had an important role in CX, neither believed they owned it.

  • 31% of Sales say they have a front of the row seat for CX execution, but sit in the back when developing the actual CX strategy
  • 40% of marketers claim to be decision makers in CX strategy, helping define it, but few believe they own it.

Maybe it’s the Chief Customer Officer (CCO). The CCO role has been bandied around for a few years but hasn’t seemed to get much traction. A piece on echoed this truth:

Analysis by consultancy PeopleTECH found that only 1% of FTSE companies have a CCO on board, while high-growth firms on the FTSE AIM 100 fared even worse, with none having a CCO or equivalent.

The good thing about a CCO is they have no allegiance to any particular department; their allegiance is to the customer. This makes them a unifier around the customer:

  • Define the customer experience strategy and lead CX design
  • Work with groups across the organization to define roles and expectations in the CX strategy
  • Define and track customer measures and take ultimate responsibility for CX success or failure

Get your leader in place and make sure they understand their commitment and responsibility is to the customer first. That’s a difficult first step for many companies because putting the customer first goes against much of what companies typically think about – which is selling their products and services.

Developing the CX ecosystem

Every department in a company has a role to play in the customer experience ecosystem. Some groups are data providers; some are influencers, others are definers and still others implementers. For example:

  • Customer service and support provide data but are also implementers
  • Sales is an implementer and data provider
  • Marketer helps define and implement and provides customer data
  • HR, Finance – data providers and influencers

The foundation that underlies the entire ecosystem is the data – about customers, about products and services, about industry trends and so on. Data must be pulled together from every part of the organization to create a single comprehensive view of the customer and everything that influences their decisions and affects their experience with the company.

This aggregated view of data is a challenge for many companies. The CMO Council report demonstrated that challenge:

    35% of sales and 38% of marketers say the data they have is limited to their own functional silos.

Data silos and company politics exist in many companies, and the first thing that has to happen is the breakdown of those silos and a common understanding that access to all data is critical. You might need to find a way to ensure departments that data which doesn’t reflect a department in a positive light isn’t held against them. Instead, they should view it as an opportunity to improve their department and how they deal with customers.

Once you have the data foundation in place, you have to bring together stakeholders with all the key groups to form some type of customer experience team. It’s this team that works together to define the customer experience and outlines the plans to put the strategy in place across departments.

Everyone needs to feel like their voice is heard and the strategy reflects how their team must work to support the customer. But they also need to come away with a clear list of things they must put in place in their department to support the CX strategy and understand how what they do is affected by and affects the work other departments. Along with a list of to-do’s, they also need a list of measurements and an understanding of what success metrics they must work towards.

My take

An ecosystem works together to achieve success; each group should not view itself as operating in a silo, simply adding their efforts to the mix. A CX leader does have a responsibility to ensure everyone in the CX ecosystem understand this and supports it.

But CX team members also need to sell this idea to their departments. They also need the authority to put tactics and activities in place to make it happen, including opening the doors to their data.

A CX leader can only do so much. It’s the ecosystem that delivers on the strategy and reap the rewards – happy, loyal customers.

Image credit – Build your business team . Mixed media © Sergey Nivens –


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