Customer Experience (CX) has graduated from being just a marketing problem to becoming a top priority for the customer-focused CEOs this year.
Especially for those companies that outperformed their peers both before and during the pandemic.
But IBM's latest study says CMOs have been dropped out of the picture.
60% of the outperformers listed CX as a top priority for the next 2-3 years.
Marketers across the board have been focusing on retention over acquisition and fortifying existing strengths.
That's because, since the pandemic, customer retention has replaced acquisition as the primary focus of most businesses.
Gartner's latest survey confirms that the majority of CMOs will focus on increasing sales of existing products to existing customers.
Nothing new there.
But what caught my attention was that CEOs don't believe CMOs will play a critical role in the essential priorities of their businesses over the next 2-3 years.
A 2020 UK study found that senior marketers in FTSE 100 companies lack the basic understanding of digital channels – like search engine marketing.
And a more recent CMI survey says that this skill gap is widening.
The study showed that a majority of marketers aged 55+ haven't received any form of self-improvement or skills training in the two years leading up to the pandemic.
This raises a crucial question of whether today's senior marketers are equipped with the skills needed to keep pace with a fast-evolving sector.
44% of survey respondents were worried that this lack of training is a liability to their companies.
An interesting note from the IBM survey was that while only 19% of CEOs believe their CMOs have a crucial role to play (down from 66% in 2013), many others instead highlighted the importance of CFOs, COOs and CIOs/CTOs.
Is it the digital skills gap keeping CMOs out of the inner circle of the C-suite?
Even before CX became the new buzz word, companies have been investing in tools and tech to help them understand their customers better.
But in reality, as McKinsey discovered, 93% of CX leaders in the US are still relying on survey-based measurement for their CX initiatives.
Don't get me wrong, surveys are a powerful research tool.
But in today's interaction-driven digital experience, surveys not only lag but fall short of delivering a clear link to the financial impact of a good or a bad customer experience.
The promised land for any CX initiative is boosting data and analytics capabilities as well as harnessing predictive insights to:
- closely connect with your customers,
- anticipate their behaviours,
- and addressing their needs in real-time.
It's time to stop fussing about landing pages and press releases – unless you're already intimately familiar with your customer's pain points and jobs-to-be-done.
Having said that, I know that starting a CX initiative can be daunting.
Many of the CMOs and VP-level marketers I've worked with are often branding or comms pros, some even have a background in sales.
My point is: rarely have I run into a CMO who doesn't intimately understand their business, products and customers.
And I think the lack of digital maturity in senior marketing leaders is becoming the Achilles heel for how the role of a CMO is perceived.
The winners pioneering a better approach to CX are taking full advantage of data, machine learning and predictive analytics.
From a distance, it may look like there's no other way to take the lead besides going all the way in.
But thankfully that's not true.
You can't become customer-centric unless you develop a comprehensive view of the full customer journey.
Let's use organic search as an example. Many senior marketers and product owners I've worked with start with paid search when planning new product campaigns.
They often overlook how a prospective customer might realise their need, explore their options and decide what they want to buy.
Understanding when, how and why a customer needs your product is the only way to get the kind of granular insights that are crucial for driving exceptional CX.
Not only do you need to deliver relevant experiences across the customer journey, but you also need to demonstrate that those improvements are driving positive ROI.
Your first obstacle is data.
Your organisation probably has too much of it.
And very little of it is actually useful.
Okay, no sweat, just start with basic customer-level data.
It doesn't need to be perfect as long as you can capture operational and transactional level data.
And most CRM or ERP systems have that much detail.
Now create a detailed customer journey and make sure you include these details:
- Known pain points.
- Known jobs-to-be-done.
- All potential drivers of customer satisfaction.
- All potential pitfalls that sour the experience for the customer.
- Typical touch-points from problem recognition to supplier selection.
These details are essential for hypothesis generation.
The data that you gathered in the first step can now be used to enrich your understanding of the impact of each positive and negative customer interaction on your bottom line.
Now you’re ready to start testing and learning.
Always focus on practical use cases that can drive measurable value. From day one tie your CX initiatives to business value.
Do not delay it or leave it to chance.
Develop customer journeys across specific use-cases that will create a measurable return.
A simple framework considers how major resources – campaign budgets, sales personnel – will be applied to solve specific pain points among new and existing customer journeys.
Set clear KPIs such as:
- direct impact on loyalty,
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV),
- Cost per Acquisition (CPA),
- and cross-sell or up-sell values for each journey and each interaction.
Keep it simple but purposeful.
Modern CX isn't possible without machine learning and AI, but that shouldn't hold you back.
Because you don't need a data science team or an arsenal of martech tools and algorithms to get started.
Start with a customer-centric and business-driven approach and you'll better understand which customer interactions produce value and which don't.
Once you've got your customer journeys and hypothesis in place, you can start making precise business cases for investing in predictive analytics.
The CX programs of the future are holistic, predictive, precise, and clearly tied to business outcomes.
And the role of the CX leader is evolving.
This means that execs will need to reposition themselves within their organisations and learn new skills.
Because CX is as much marketing as it is data science and technology.
As a marketing leader, you can't succeed unless you level up your skills and open yourself to new experiences.
In all my years of working as a marketer, the one tried and tested method of making myself invaluable, has been to integrate myself as a useful component of as many business functions as possible.
The easiest way to do that and without stretching yourself too thin is to find areas where you can add value.
It's inevitable that CX will span sales, operations, data, finance and technology.
So, building those bridges across your organisation is an essential part of providing a direction and strategy for others to follow.