New research suggests that marketing leaders are shifting focus away from the customer experience, as other priorities take precedence. So what's going on?
Despite the expectation that marketing chiefs would have responsibility for customer experience management at most enterprises by the end of the decade, new research indicates that CMOs are in fact shifting their focus away from CX.
Chief marketing officers have long been heralded as the future kings of customer experience – not least by themselves. In a survey of 499 CMOs and senior marketing executives conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in 2016, the vast majority – 86% - expressed a belief that marketing would own the customer experience by 2020.
Respondents suggested that ownership of CX in their organisations would better enable them to generate a personalised, efficient and consistent customer experience that in turn would help their businesses to drive customer loyalty and brand value.
Sure enough, 2019 research by Accenture demonstrated how marketing leaders that are prioritising customer experience are driving commercial performance at their organisations. The report — Way Beyond Marketing – The Rise of The Hyper-Relevant CMO — surveyed nearly 1,000 CMOs and 500 CEOs at the world’s largest organisations to identify a small number (17%) of marketing leaders that are driving transformational change to enable their businesses to respond quickly to changing customer needs and deliver superior customer experiences.
Accenture concludes that these pioneering CMOs are helping their organisations generate shareholder returns 11% higher than those of their industry peers.
Yet new research suggests that this was a false dawn. A global study of 1,000 CMOs conducted by Dentsu Aegis indicates that their interest in customer experience is actually waning, rather than growing. The research found that while more than half (53%) of CMOs report that customer experience is one of their top three priorities now, 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.
Elsewhere, other customer-focused programmes are also declining in importance – ‘Understanding consumer and market trends’ is also expect to become less of a priority, with 47% expecting it to be in their top three priorities in two to three years’ time, compared to 53% citing it as a priority now.
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.
So why the declining focus on customer experience?
Research conducted earlier this year by digital agency AmazeRealise noted that few marketing leaders were actually investing in customer experience management, despite their proclaimed interest.
In the report The CX Challenge, it found that while 88% of CMOs expect a focused CX programme to deliver long-term customer loyalty and increasing sales, over a third (36%) admitted that their brand still hadn’t invested in customer experience.
Drilling down into the reasons for this lack of investment, AmazeRealise found that the most common explanations given were a lack of knowledge about CX, the perceived costs involved and trouble building a business case for its positive impact based on results.
In addition, nearly a quarter (22%) said the lack of investment is a result of organisational blockers and team structure, while 11% blame a lack of C-suite support and senior buy-in.
Have marketing chiefs decided to focus their efforts on other priorities that are burdened by fewer obstacles?
Possibly. But perhaps more likely is the emergence of a dedicated resource that has a specific mandate to tackle CX and the associated obstacles.
While CMOs may have been the self-proclaimed future leaders of CX, a growing number of organisations have subsequently appointed a dedicated cross-functional customer experience leader – with titles ranging from chief customer officer to head of customer experience to chief experience officer.
To reflect the growth in this field, this year MyCustomer launched CX Leader of the Year – and as the applications have been rolling in we’ve been struck by the sheer number of organisations of all sizes that have appointed a head of customer experience.
So unless businesses can find a way that the CMO can also double as the CX leader, perhaps the Dentsu Aegis findings are a reflection of the fact that managing the customer experience is too much for marketing leaders to tackle in addition to their other duties, and that a dedicated expert is required.
About Neil Davey
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.