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Why are few CMOs given command of customer experience?

28th Feb 2019
Editor MyCustomer
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istock/CSA

The most successful CMOs are owning customer experience at their organisations - but most CMOs face significant obstacles before they can claim CX leadership. 

Back in 2016, chief marketing officers were a confident, valiant group. 86% said they expected the marketing department to own customer experience by 2020, as declared in a thorough study of large enterprises conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).   

Certainly the most successful CMOs are spearheading their organisation's customer experience programmes. The Forbes 2018 Most Influential CMOs Report noted that those on its shortlist "uniquely own the voice of the customer, and it is upon that platform that they are architecting customer experience, digital transformation and industry innovation". However, these appear to be the exceptions rather than the rule. 

As we careen towards that mystical 2020 deadline it appears the CMO’s birth-right claim to CX has cooled in the intervening years. In a new report authored by Forrester analyst, Thomas Husson, it is revealed that just 41% of CMOs feel they ‘own’ the customer experience in their business.

Conversely, recent research released by 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.

CMOs are finding themselves paddling upstream; many are being tasked with transformative programmes in the name of CX, yet often the day-to-day role is getting in the way.

“My first question to the CEO was how much ice can I break,” one anonymous CMO told Husson, as part of the CMOs: Define Your Role In Digital Transformation report.

“I thought [that by] having a clear mandate, I could act on the digital transformation, but the reality is that two years later, I am still mostly tasked with lead generation, field marketing, and email campaigns.”

Not enough time

This summary has become an all too familiar one, and is currently hampering marketing leaders as they try to get a foothold in their company’s drive towards enhancing transformation in the name of CX.

Tenure is another clear roadblock. As Husson’s report highlights, 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. Marketers are being given long-term mandates but experiencing short-term tenures.

“There’s a bit of discord between the C-suite level of understanding for what is transforming in the marketing world as people become more empowered and are taking charge of the dialogue,” Steven Cook, CMO of FanKix and former CMO of Samsung told Digiday, when asked why CMO tenures were so short.

“That transformation and lack of understanding makes it more difficult for the CMO than it ever has been. Marketing people can’t recommend things just because of their gut feeling. It just does not cut it anymore. They need a strategy that they will be able to back up with numbers. The CMO’s job is shifting with the influx of digital technology and channels and I believe that it why a lot of execs aren’t sticking around.”

I thought that by having a clear mandate, I could act on the digital transformation, but the reality is that two years later, I am still mostly tasked with lead generation, field marketing, and email campaigns

Indeed, in Forrester’s CMO report, the pace of change was cited as a critical obstacle affecting marketing’s ability to take charge and transform CX.

“Demand for rapidly-evolving digital skills and talent continues to frustrate marketing teams, which must compete with adjacent industries,” says Husson. “CMOs report that employee recruitment and retention is the No. 2 marketing challenge for their firms, second only to competing priorities. And 32% of global B2C marketing decision-makers report technology skills as their main marketing obstacle, followed by driving decision making via customer insights.”

Teams and resource

CMOs are also failing to get the backing they require to oversee transformation and CX ownership in terms of access to relevant teams and resources.   

“CMOs have a more traditional remit and focus on customer understanding, brand strategy, and advertising across channels,” says Husson.

“Even when CMOs are officially in charge of brand experience, they do not necessarily own the teams and resources that deliver the brand promise across touchpoints.

“Too many new roles have emerged in the C-suite — think growth, digital, experience, and customer officers — that prevent the CMO from acting as the voice of the customer and the conductor of the brand experience across the organisation.”

To some degree, CMOs are being undermined by some of the new roles opening up in the boardroom. In Episerver’s aforementioned research from January 2019, in a third of cases, (35%), brands have appointed a dedicated expert or team to manage the customer experience, such as a chief customer officer or head of CX. Whilst this may put someone with a clear focus in charge of CX, it has in many cases shunned the CMO out of the limelight.

Too many new roles have emerged in the C-suite — think growth, digital, experience, and customer officers — that prevent the CMO from acting as the voice of the customer

It’s not a pretty picture, but there is hope for CMOs. Husson believes that despite its acceptance in the mainstream, many organisations are still trying to establish what the best approach to deliver customer experience is, and that marketing leaders have an opportunity in amongst the indecision.

“Now is the time to step up and rethink your role," he adds. "Consider yourself the ultimate ambassador of the customer experience. It’s too easy to make financially driven decisions that hurt the customer experience when you think of your customers as simply digital proxies or KPIs.

"You should always act as the advocate for customers and systematically evaluate the impact of decisions on customers’ perception of the brand. That’s why we expect CMOs to finally champion data privacy and trust.”

 

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