CMOs Don't Get Customer Service, Council Finds

Donovan Neale-MayNew research by the CMO Council suggests that marketers don't know how to use customer input to improve operations, products and processes.

The council, whose study, "Giving Customer Voice More Volume," surveyed around 500 senior marketers at major corporations, found that only 33% of survey respondents said their companies claim to be good at handling customer complaints.

Of the executives who responded to the survey, only 23% said their companies track or measure customer emails, and only 17% use that feedback to identify potential customer advocates.

And 59% of marketing officers surveyed by the council said their companies do not compensate any employees or executives based on customer loyalty, satisfaction improvements or analytics.

Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, says the results are troubling because the "customer custodian" function "is one of the most critical--in fact, the most critical role a CMO can play in an organization: to own every facet of listening, learning, interacting, engaging, and optimizing the relationship with the customer, and understanding where the attrition, pain and aggravation is, and doing this in real time. It is mind-boggling to me that the level of attention to this is not what it should be, and fragmented in terms of who owns it."



The report also says the majority of respondents' companies have no programs in place to track or propagate positive word of mouth among customers. And only a third of respondents said their companies rate highly their ability to handle and resolve customer problems or complaints. The report says only 16% of those surveyed monitor online message boards and social networking sites.

"The chief customer officer should be the CMO; if the CMO gives someone the role of the chief customer officer, they aren't doing their job," argues Neale-May.

He says his main concern is fragmentation of ownership of responsibility and of actual consumer data within companies. "Most companies don't even have systems in place to monitor feedback or engage consumers," he says. "Especially when these large companies are so siloed that there is ... a lack of access to data and integration of data."

Neale-May argues that the study shows that marketers tend to view customer services reactively, as a function for resolving a problem, not enough as an opportunity to engage or interact. Only about 37% of companies surveyed gather customer insight from customer engagement situations, per the firm. Only 15% use such situations to identify and cultivate potential customer champions and advocates. Only a third reported that they look for ways to turn problems into new sales opportunities, and only 16% introduce new products or services to further monetize the relationship.

Per Neale-May, the council is undertaking a global study focusing on providers of commodity services like cable, phone, Internet service, and landlines that are being forced into improving customer service because of digital convergence. "You never need to use your phone now," he says. "All interactions and socializing--things that were done via phone--are done across the Web now, so service providers are paying more attention to customers, from back end to new service. The question is, what are these service providers doing to be more competitive as new emerging digital models and infrastructures start to suck business away from them?" he says.

Neale-May says DirecTV is an example of a service provider focusing on customer data, so call center reps have a better idea of what their relationship with a customer should be, and what TV viewing habits they have. "It's all about leveraging the touchpoints, or engagement with customers--more than just taking an order and introducing another offer," he says.

8 comments about "CMOs Don't Get Customer Service, Council Finds ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Brian Lunde from Sana Tyo Marketing, January 26, 2009 at 11:12 a.m.

    I would argue most CMOs have to emphasize growth via new customer acquisition because that's what their CEOs and Boards want to see (because that's what near-sighted Wall Street wants to see). Promotion--in the form of advertising and other marketing communications--accounts for the majority of their budgets and therefore the majority of their attention. And let's face it--ad campaigns are way cooler to work on than analyzing customer feedback and herding cross-functional cats to achieve visible improvements in customer experience.

    CMOs who also want to be the chief customer officer are going to need solid and sustained CEO endorsement, and the entire top management team will need to bring customer equity into the core of the business strategy.

  2. Randy Ellison from Targoz Strategic Marketing, January 26, 2009 at 11:19 a.m.

    I wonder if sales management plays a role in this? It could be sales management is less than enthusiastic about marketing measuring customer service and focusing on retention at the perceived expense of new business or cross-selling opportunities.

    The never ending battle between marketing and sales and/or long term vs. short term goals probably plays a role here. It is all a matter of comp plans (i.e. goals) and how they are constructed. That’s usually what drives most marketing and sales behavior. If it is growth based, then management will focus resources on growth and not retention.

  3. Wendy Fein from fein features, January 26, 2009 at 12:32 p.m.

    It is about time customer service is seeing the light of day…I’ve been on a lonely soapbox for years! On the VP level, I have been responsible for managing the dreaded moneypit of customer service / consumer affairs while simultaneously launching consumer products and brands and teeing up B2B sales folks. As a result of integrating customer service operations with marketing, I reduce backend costs and in the process build brand loyalty and increase sales. Contact for assistance.

    Re Randy Ellison’s comment: Salespersons recognize the value of the information received from customers in both the consumer affairs arena and B2B customer service area. My experience has been that salespersons beg marketers to listen to their frontline information and the voice of their customer as well as the voice of the end-user. Listening has enabled improved packaging and more sales, better product design resulting in common parts and reduced parts inventory, brand-building usage manuals that result in fewer liability claims and recalls…the benefits are enormous and proven!

    Customer Service / Consumer Affairs is not a position for the CMO and is best handled by a hybrid reporting in to the CMO. Service Excellence (which INCLUDES the extraction of pertinent marketing information), requires a Systems Thinker with Organization Development expertise and deep understanding of customer service operations coupled with marketing experience developing customer touchpoints from email to packaging to website to billing. The hybrid is a communicator that bridges marketing, service, and technology and ensures consistent language, image, and policy that enables customer service to be a profit center that contributes to customer lifetime value. Yes, I do all this.

  4. Randy Ellison from Targoz Strategic Marketing, January 26, 2009 at 2:07 p.m.

    Wendy, I agree that successful organizations have strong lines of communication from the customer, to the sales force and to marketing. However, it is quite common for many organizations, especially sales driven organizations, to be quite fragmented. Often times, information is never shared across the organization. It is not the preferred situation, but it is all too common. It is the bane of many marketers’ existence.

  5. Bob Livingston, January 28, 2009 at 2:01 p.m.

    These survey results were produced while 58% of the CMO's believe "the Internet and social media changed the level of influence and expectations of their customers ." Not being compensated for customer satisfaction, no sense of ownership and lack of authority to influence customer-centric decisions that influence the customer relationship are some reasons cited to support their responses. ( Silo thinking). In customer centered organizations doesn't everyone own the customer relationship?

    In today's very troubling economic times, when customers and clients are fleeing their traditional relationships for alternatives, to read survey results like this, come from marketing leaders in companies, is horrific. With the enormous information about customer relationships at their finger tips, to do little or nothing with it, is in my opinion corporate malpractice.

    Today's times call for proactive behavior, More than most behavior traits, proactive behavior makes an almost immediate impact and generates visible results. When customers observe proactive behavior, they know it. When they experience it, they feel it. When someone is proactive on their behalf, they are gratified. Clearly, this is an important trait in the pursuit of Service Excellence and in today's environment perhaps never more important. To sit idly by and do little or nothing is a disgrace.

  6. Robert Blau, January 29, 2009 at 1:33 p.m.

    I had the privilege of working for Vidal Sassoon, Inc, when it was still owned by the founders. As a Customer Service Representative, it was my job to field calls from brokers, sales managers, national and regional retail accounts and consumers. The company measured itself internally and externally by their tag line “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good” which included making sure that all of their employees and customers were well taken care of.

    We had the most people of any department in the company, but the inbound calls and inquiries were handled by four reps and a supervisor, who also resolved all accounts receivable claims for co-op, shortages, returns, damages, etc. The rule for the department was simple…no call ever leaves this department…the buck stops here and we resolve every issue to complete customer satisfaction, whether B2B or B2C.

    We had a stellar reputation in the HBA industry even though we were a totally sales-centric organization, particularly leading up to our sale to Richardson-Vicks and subsequently to P&G.
    We were paid a competitive salary with excellent benefits including profit sharing that doubled in price both times that the company was acquired. We were treated like professionals and expected to perform at this level.

    The Director of our department reported to the VP of Sales. Many of our calls resulted in adjustments to the customer’s account, and with A/R we handled it as part of the resolution. We were in constant contact with the divisional and regional managers regarding issues and resolution, and as a result, the sales staff was able to leverage this excellent service as an important sales tool. Because the national chain buyers, distributors, drug and grocery brokers, salon owners and others spoke with us regularly, we became a key element in the relationship-building process.

    As a consumer I am not surprised by the attitude of today’s call center reps that make 10 dollars an hour and have no power to resolve anything. Some things are best not automated, and the person-to-person connection of Customer Service is one of them. Companies who work in this way send a loud and clear message to their customers….”we don’t care about your business, you really are just a number, and it makes no difference to me whether or not you continue to do business with us.” I frequently ask these reps when I am on the phone with them, “Is that the last word from XYZ Corp.? This is really the final answer from your company?” in the dumb hope that someone will listen to this “frequently monitored call” and be moved by the fact that this unhappy, unempowered and underpaid person is really the last word on their company’s involvement with me and many more like me.

    And at that point, does it really matter if they report to the CMO? The system is the issue, along with the unfortunate truth that in a publicly held company, the focus is always on the immediate and never the long run, and in truth, many companies clearly don’t care that much about their customers until they are gone. With so much emphasis on so-called branding, many marketing experts have completely forgotten that the world is still a small place with many choices and the ones that make us feel like we don’t matter are never going to be at the top of our list in either a B2B or B2C situation. And yes, I do work in advertising and marketing, and yes I do advise companies on this very issue. But since we are all humans and consumers, why is it that we need a report to remind us of what we instinctively know as people? I think that this report makes it clear that this issue is a non-issue for many marketers at a time when negative customer retention numbers may do more to undermine positive growth than any ad campaign can ever correct.

  7. David Friedman from Performance Marketing Group, January 30, 2009 at 11:54 a.m.

    I think Brian's point is spot on: that the real key to a CMO's tenuure (short as it may be) is in the bottom line revenue generation activities. Yet, for the long term the success of the CMO depends on two streams- understanding the customer today and insight into the customers' needs in the future. The article by Donovan really focusses on the former as it is based on reaction to customer input based on a problem. And in this regard, many folks- sales, the head of customer service, and particularly the CEO- for whatever reason, don't share the information with the CMO or the systems are not set up to provide the information.

    It isn't relevant frankly why the CMO cannot get the information. The role of the CMO (having been one for a couple of companies) is to own the customer experience and this is particulalrly true in a service business such as cellular, communications and even banking, fincance etc. We call these PPT companies (people, process, and technology companies) While the CMO establishes crediblity to the CEO for delivering results, the CMO has to show a teaming/partnership to the other functional entities that own the data. It is incumbent on the CMO - if that CMO is worthy of the title- to get the data, analyze the data, share the implications and work cooperatively to improve the customer experience. This could be be personally walking the floor of the response centere, listening in to calls, having small group meetings with the response center reps to get their ideas and feedback (feed them with pizza or hot dogs as that usually works), and setting up Customer Advisory Panels or message boards to get input. Better yet, have the CMO take those really hard calls from a customer and address the issue. Politics notwithstanding, those approaches will work and the CMO will benefit as well as the company.

    The CMO that doesn't get customer service or doesn't listen to the customer or doen't use that information in developing their plans is not worthy of the title and in fact give other CMOs a bad name.


  8. Business process Outsourcing from Kensium LLC, May 26, 2011 at 10:06 a.m.

    “I just wonder if a big part of the problem here is that there isn’t an overall strategy steering the ship.” Excellent point. One that has not been raised yet, either.
    “Marketers have all this data, but when it comes to making marketing investments, what is it telling them to do?” Excellent question. I think in this era of slashed budgets, the point is to advise marketers to focus the dollars they do have on making customer service/responsiveness improvements. Wouldn’t that have the greatest impact on business and profitability?
    Thanks for always adding some great insights to these conversations, Kevin. Most appreciated.
    <a href="">Business Process Outsourcing</a>

Next story loading loading..