Experience CMO

What happened to the role of the experience-driven CMO in 2019?


If one major trend stands out across 2019, it’s that the marketing leader’s march towards owning the customer experience has stalled. We look back at the last 12 months to find out why.

20th Dec 2019

As we highlighted in a news report in February, it was only three years ago that CMOs declared their intent as heir apparent to customer experience in their business.

86% of CMOs said they expected the marketing department to own customer experience by 2020, as declared in a study of large enterprises conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

Conversely, two years later, the Forbes 2018 Most Influential CMOs Report also noted that the CMOs on its shortlist "uniquely own the voice of the customer, and it is upon that platform that they are architecting customer experience".

Yet in 2019, this seemingly unrelenting march towards CX ownership has stalled for the CMO.

Forrester revealed that just 41% of CMOs now feel confident to say they ‘own’ the customer experience in their business.

Further research from Episerver questioned 100 in-house marketers from across the UK about their views on the future relationship between marketing and CX. The data revealed that while 62% of marketers are already working with IT to improve experiences, less than half (45%) of businesses have given the marketing team total ownership over the customer experience.

What’s more, a huge global study of 1,000 CMOs in the summer indicated that interest in customer experience was actually waning, rather than growing, among marketing leaders.

More than half (53%) of CMOs report that customer experience is one of their top three priorities now, yet its importance is forecast to decline in the next two to three years, with 47% predicting it will be one of their top three priorities by 2022.

Meanwhile, growing in importance in the coming years are ‘delivering business transformation’ and ‘leading disruptive innovation’, as respondents emphasised that marketing should take more responsibility for innovation in the future.

Marketing focus

Investment required

Despite some startling revelations about just how far CX is expected to slip down the pecking order with CMOs, Accenture still reported in June that those that are focusing on experience are delivering positive results for their organisation.

The report, Way Beyond Marketing – The Rise of The Hyper-Relevant CMO, found that a small number of innovative marketing leaders are prioritising customer experience and as a result are helping their organisations generate shareholder returns 11% higher than those of their industry peers.

So why the sudden collective dip in interest in CX? Investment continues to stifle the CMO’s commitment to the cause, for one. Earlier this year, AmazeRealise surveyed over 100 senior CX professionals from national and international brands for its new report The CX Challenge.

Many of those surveyed admitted that their CX programmes required investment in order to address significant CX challenges. These included:

  • Over half of respondents (55%) report that they don’t have a single view of all customer interactions across the business.
  • 50% report that they are unable to track their customers from offline to online.
  • Over half (55%) report that they have no processes in place to measure the impact and costs of their CX.
  • More than half (55%) are aware that other brands in their industry are improving their own customer experience.

Chris Barnes, customer experience officer at AmazeRealise, explained: “There’s still a huge and growing gap between customer expectations and the reality of what brands are delivering, especially when you see smaller, more agile disruptors entering the market place and being able to be much more forward-thinking with their digital experiences.

“According to Forrester research, CX improvements have stalled for a third year in a row. It’s clear that brands need to build trust with consumers, actually listen and take action.”

There’s still a huge and growing gap between customer expectations and the reality of what brands are delivering

Yet given that there is an awareness of the benefits of CX investment, what is preventing it?

The top three reasons cited for the lack of investment are executive leaders don't know enough about CX to commit enough money to it; the perceived cost of implementation is often considered too high; and that many CMOS have had trouble building the business case for CX’s positive impact, based on results.

In addition, nearly a quarter of CMOs (22%) say the lack of investment is a result of organisational blockers and team structure.

Barnes believes the very discussion about ‘ownership’ of CX has meant many CMOs have often tried to ask for too much, too soon:

“You don’t need to do everything at once. They can start small and go for quick wins – and shouldn’t shy away from getting customers involved in beta testing.

“Every company has some key customer moments, from the welcome experience to how a business reacts when things go wrong. You can identify these key moments by talking to people and place the focus on doing them better.

“A new brand could release a customer-focused service tomorrow that almost immediately makes another look behind the times. A customer experience journey should never end. It requires a culture of constant improvement, and marketers should remain at the heart of that.”

AmazeRealise’s report highlights the key things brands need to address in order to refocus their thinking back towards customer experience:

  1. Organisation – Start by embedding more iterative working practices – the right operational mindset can deliver incremental change and re-energise teams.
  2. Insight & measurement – Use qualitative and quantitative measurements to hear the voice of the customer and identify the moments that matter.
  3. Realistic ambition – Identify the top three things that will make the biggest change, and start there.
  4. Futureproof your brand – Establish a culture of continuous improvement to stay one step ahead of the competition.

However, Sitecore’s CMO, Paige O’Neill, believes the role of the chief marketing officer may not necessarily be easily rewired to become CX-focused again, as numerous market forces have pushed them into a multitude of different areas in the past 12 months.

“The general consensus among many marketers is that that the CMO’s role has become increasingly broad. This change has been partly a result of the growing number of channels now available for brands to communicate with customers and vice versa, but also due to the range of marketing technologies available to improve these interactions.

“Today, CMOs have to be the master of many competencies. They are expected to drive digital transformation efforts across the business, be able to derive real business insights from the data the marketing team uncover within complex data sets, choose the best marketing tools to meet business requirements and ensure the tools can be integrated within the company’s complex technology stack. The list is endless. And then there’s ownership of CX! It’s a lot to ask for one person.”

O’Neill believes there are two schools of thought around how to change the CMO’s role to ensure they are given more ownership of customer experience in the coming years:

“Some people believe that the CMO’s role should be carved up into different specialities, giving some roles, such as a Chief Digital Officer, a specific focus on technology,” she states.

“This seems to be a trend many companies are experimenting with. For example McDonald’s isn’t directly replacing its CMO role, but instead will have an SVP of Marketing Technology - who will work specifically with personalisation and AI software and report directly to the company’s CIO. Alongside this role will also be the SVP of Global Marketing, who will work on the non-technological elements and report directly to the CEO.

“On the other hand, some believe that the role should remain broad and all-encompassing. This group, which I am a part of, believe that as CMOs are closest to the customer, they are therefore best placed to drive customer experience strategy and understand how this strategy should fit within the company’s digital transformation plans.”

And then there’s  the small issue of tenure, which has remained a clear roadblock in 2019. Data from the Korn Ferry Institute states that the average tenure for a CMO is 4.1 years, compared with 8 years for CEOs and 5.1 years for CFOs. With customer experience seen as a long-term mandate, perhaps the biggest shift marketers will need to see as we look ahead to 2020, is the capacity to stay in role long enough to feel like they can truly ‘own’ customer experience.

Replies (4)

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By LinkedIn Group Member
22nd Dec 2019 13:32

From LinkedIn group CRM & Customer Experience Professionals; customer management and service, user Alicia Freites:

Maybe the issue is that CX should be an independent function from any area of the business. The leadership team should be committed to creating a Chief Customer Officer (CXO) that is independent. The CXO could drive the customer-centric culture, drive change by customers' outcomes, the understanding of the leading customer vision, and a real commitment to put the customer at the heart of every core strategic decision.

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By LinkedIn Group Member
22nd Dec 2019 13:37

From LinkedIn group CRM & Customer Experience Professionals; customer management and service, user Kate Cooper-Fay:

A really interesting read @Chris Ward, however I think CX needs to be owned by the CEO?

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By LinkedIn Group Member
22nd Dec 2019 13:38

From LinkedIn group CRM & Customer Experience Professionals; customer management and service, user Mark Vernon:

"Over half of respondents (55%) report that they don’t have a single view of all customer interactions across the business." - This statistic really stands out to me and "single view of the truth" is a phase we're hearing more often -- the need is clear.

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By LinkedIn Group Member
24th Dec 2019 13:41

From LinkedIn group CRM & Customer Experience Professionals; customer management and service, user Glyn Luckett:

A really interesting article Chris, thank you for sharing. I agree with Alicia's comment, customer operations and account planning and process managers should lead CX. Marketing uses the data to support its' initiatives. Then again maybe confusion exists around what CX really is? Any initiative supporting customer should cascade from the most senior point, without that, commitment to direction will ebb away. What gets measured gets managed. Best regards Glyn.

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