Is a chief customer officer crucial to CRM success?

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The rise of the chief customer officer has to be one of the more welcome trends from this past year for those in CRM. Having a representative and named advocate for CRM at board level, among some of the world’s leading companies, is a gold badge of approval for a discipline which has toiled in relative obscurity for too long.

However, while an acknowledgement of the value of customer experience within senior management is a critical step forward, we are yet to see the full impact of this influence trickle down through company structures and unify necessary silos within an organisation.

Take, for example, digital and CRM – natural bedfellows, especially in the online customer journey – but still all too often separate departments within company infrastructures. Frequently this is a heritage organisational issue. The digital department will have started up quickly in response to a pressing need, grown swiftly, and needed to expand to adapt to the continual feed of new techniques and innovations we’ve all seen develop in the last decade.

It may even have taken the lead in terms of overall marketing strategy and integration within the stack of marketing tools. And until external forces suggest it should integrate with other customer management departments, it is likely to remain separate.

Those external forces are becoming much more pressing to acknowledge, and incoming data and digital privacy legislation is a forceful one of these. Rather than a simple box ticking exercise, responding to GDPR and ePrivacy regulation will require a much more holistic approach to organisational change, and one which addresses the company’s entire use of, and ongoing approach to, customer data.

Businesses may not have recognised that customer data no longer sits ringfenced as the purview of one department but instead filters outwards into many, if not all, company departments and silos. And maintaining compliance is going to require a similar, ongoing, unified company approach.

This is just one reason why CRM and digital need to become much more closely aligned. It’s well recognised that most business’ customers no longer perceive a difference between cross device interactions with a business, but move fluidly and often unconsciously between device and touchpoint. It’s therefore imperative that businesses rethink their internal divisions to reflect customer interactions.

And if digital is no longer perceived as a separate and unique channel by customers as they interact with a brand, it will potentially colour a business’ internal response to those selfsame customers if departments are organised and encouraged to think in a different way when managing and responding to their needs.

Data driving change

Fundamentally, the fuel behind this change has to be data – and the person driving this change is the CCO.

We’ve reached a point where agile, responsive, and close to real-time single customer view databases are being fed with insights constantly. This ‘one data’ feed should be fuelling and advising a ’one marketing’ strategy within a business to make sure each customer is being looked after effectively even as they change and adapt. And while the data is informing multiple departments within an organisation, it is the chief customer officer who can champion the need for this change at board level, and lead the organisational evolution which will need to occur further down the business structure.

Only now has CRM matured far enough for the board voice of the customer to effect meaningful and lasting organisational change.

It’s only now that this change has become feasible, as only now has CRM matured far enough for the board voice of the customer to effect meaningful and lasting organisational change. As CRM has grown and we have seen customer centricity become not just the watchword for most company strategy but an imperative, its role within smart business’ structures has been fully embraced and its potential recognised.

It’s also only really recently that a one data feed can empower a one marketing approach – previously disciplines have not been connected or responsive enough. However, the perfect conditions – ability and board level buy-in and enforcement – have come about just in time for businesses to harness these changes as part of their preparation for bigger external company imperatives like the privacy legislation.

Ultimately, customers don’t wait for their chosen brands to change with them. If a company is unable to keep up to their expectations, they will find another which can. Over and above external legislation and even company sales pressures, this should be the overriding mantra of the CCO and the value added to board level decisions at every turn – the unavoidable fact that every company decision should be first and foremost sensechecked past what is best for the customer.

Many simply expect the level of service which will be provided by a one data, one marketing approach driven by unifying their marketing and CRM approaches at the data layer. As we stand at the brink of another new year, the companies who emerge successful as 2018 unfolds will likely be those who lead the way in serving the customer most effectively.

About Steve Martin

Steve Martin

Steve Martin is Vice President and Managing Director of Consulting and Analytics, Europe, Acxiom. He is responsible for enhancing and expanding Acxiom’s consulting and analytics offering across Europe and driving business growth within the region, as well as helping develop and enhance Acxiom’s global position as a strategic business partner and leading provider of data and analytics solutions.
Steve joined Acxiom after spending five years as VP of Analytics, Strategy and Innovation at AIMIA heading up their EMEA Analytics function, working with clients such as Sainsbury's, eBay, Homebase, Expedia and British Gas.  He led a team of 120 Analysts in delivering loyalty programme analytics, SKU level retail analytics and marketing analytics. Steve has over a decade of experience in advising clients in data driven performance improvement across both the public and private sectors.
Steve is currently working on linking together online advertising to offline transaction data to help understand what the impact of one is on the other. There is a really dangerous tendency with the “digital world” to come up with questions and methodologies that only consider the digital ecosystem. The reality is that whilst this is the fastest growing area, it isn’t the place where the vast majority of consumers and business spend all their time and money so, we have to find ways to join the two. We are also working on making market research much more actionable. He believes that this is an area ripe for revolution – there is so much customer insight created by market research and the reality is that much of it either ends up on the shelf or gets very diluted. As a result, Acxiom is creating direct links between research and what a customer actually experiences. His immediate focus is in helping to bring interesting data assets into the marketplace – getting them out of the silos and into a place where they can add value.
He has run some of the biggest analytics teams in the country which include AIMIA which employ over 100 analysts / data scientists and has worked across multiple industries with blue chip clients such as Sainsbury’s, ebay, American Express, British Gas, BP, Virgin, Heathrow, Rakuten.
Steve has a BA in Economics and Management from Cambridge University and completed a Leadership and Management programme at Harvard Business School.



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