Commentary

Who Knows The Customer Best?

According to a recent report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, reported by Marketing Profs, only six in ten senior business leaders view their companies as customer-centric, and only 56% report a clear understanding of customers' tastes and needs. The report, based on a survey of global marketing and non-marketing executives, highlights a disconnect among leaders regarding whose responsibility it is to make understanding and interacting with the customer their top priority.

The C-suite’s high expectations of the CMO to meet the significant challenges of the new era of marketing and increase revenue, leave the CMO little time to focus on the customer. In fact, only 19% of CMOs play a leading role in connecting customer-facing functions, a key step in the journey to customer-centricity.  21% of the respondents believe it is a shared responsibility across multiple roles. A plurality, however, believe the CMO should represent the “voice of the customer.”

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Nearly one-quarter of chief marketing officers surveyed want a chief customer officer to take responsibility for being the voice of the customer, whereas another quarter see the task as their own. Currently, the CMO is considered the voice of the customer at 18% of organizations, trailing the head of sales.

Executives agree that the CMO is uniquely positioned to drive a customer-led strategy. Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, says... “If the CMO is not at the forefront of the customer experience, where else will you find it inside your organization?... the CMO role brings together the customer, the brand and the product... there is no more essential intersection in any business...”

Current VOC and Who They Think VOC Should Be

 

% of Respondents

Current  Position

Is VOC

Should Be VOC

Head of Sales

31%

17%

Shared across multiple disciplines

21

23

CMO

18

28

Chief Customer Officer

12

13

Board member

8

7

CEO

8

5

Chief Strategy Officer

3

6

Source: SAS/Economist Intelligence Unit, June 2013

According to the report, CMOs may be struggling to champion the customer because they already have a large set of responsibilities, including overseeing traditional marketing functions such as advertising, brand marketing, product marketing, and communications. CMOs are also broadly expected by C-suite leaders to increase revenue, add new customers, and improve their organizations' reputations.

Marketing Top Function Should Be...

Function priority

% of Respondents Say “Should Be...”

Driving revenue growth

30%

Finding new customers

17

Improving organization reputation

16

Creating new products and services

13

Entering new markets

13

Retaining customers

10

Source: SAS/Economist Intelligence Unit, June 2013

The rise of the Web, big data, social media, and mobile have added complexity to the already challenging CMO role, but those changes may also be providing senior marketers with the responsibilities and skills needed to deliver on customer-centric mandates, according to the report.

Asked "What areas should marketing focus investments in order to contribute most to your business in three years?" survey respondents listed customer analytics as the most important, followed by customer relationship management, and social media.

Perceived Need for Marketing Focus Investments For Best 3-Year Contributions

Marketing Area

% of Respondents

Customer analytics

41%

Customer relationship management

38

Social Media

29

Mobile app development

22

Brand advertising

22

Reputation management

21

Training employees

21

Direct marketing

20

Marketing automation tools

19

Collaboration tools

18

New hires

16

Web optimization tools

9

Source: SAS/Economist Intelligence Unit, June 2013

An increasing emphasis on digital marketing requires a broader combination of quantitative and qualitative skills across the entire marketing organization, says the report, from the CMO on down. Customer insight, data-driven analytical capabilities and social media expertise are among the CMO skills that respondents say are becoming increasingly important. These and other technical skills are critical because they help CMOs justify marketing investment based on facts, not assumption, enabling them to build credibility throughout the organization.

When asked to rank the growing/declining importance of various CMO skills, survey respondents listed customer insight, data-driven analytical capabilities, and social media expertise among those gaining most in value.

Importance of Skills Needed By CMO

Skill

Significantly Increasing

Increasing

Decreasing/ Significantly Decreasing

Advertising/Agency Experience

6%

33%

28%

Technical expertise

11

29

20

Team building

22

41

8

Communications  expertise

24

45

4

Creativity

17

40

12

Data-driven analytics capability

25

36

10

Customer insight

28

36

6

Industry expertise

14

38

11

Line of business knowledge

12

36

10

General business acumen

18

36

9

Pattern recognition

10

31

10

Social media experience

16

44

10

Visual/design aesthetics

7

28

19

Source: SAS/Economist Intelligence Unit, June 2013

The report puts forth several observations suggesting steps that might be taken in developing a true customer-centric business organization:

  • Change the process to integrate information gathered from all digital and physical channels.
  • Take steps to track customer engagement across different marketing channels to better understand “the full 360 degrees” of the customer experience
  • Leveraging this guidance requires processes and workflows that provide the workforce needed information to make smarter decisions about all aspects of the business
  • Make a real commitment to infusing a customer-focused mindset across the entire organization, beginning with training and skills for the marketing team, with an emphasis on data-driven analytical capabilities
  • CMOs demonstrating an aptitude for these types of emerging skills will build credibility and will trickle down through the rest of the organization
  • A true customer focus requires everyone in the organization to play the role of customer advocate. CMOs who can translate customer insights into real value for each part of the business gets everyone working towards the same goal

Please visit here for more information from the Economist Intelligence Unit.

 

 

 

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