Driving customer experience efforts across functional teams.
By Joakim Abeleen, Director, KPMG in Denmark
This is the era of the CXO!
Increasingly more organisations are introducing new roles to drive customer experience; LinkedIn is full of job ads for Customer Experience Directors, Customer Transformation Officers, Customer Loyalty Managers and many other fancy titles. These jobs are often exciting, inspiring and important but at the same time very frustrating. Why is that? Almost all companies of today are organised by different departments, just like they have been over the last century. However, customers often interact across departments. They do not, and should not, care about whether a service delivery failure during a certain touch-point was caused by the Finance or Operations department. A healthy exercise is to map which departments are in control of each touch-point along your customer journey and you will quickly realise that the traditional silo based department mentality is a big road block for customer experience improvements.
Ownership without mandate
This is obviously a key reason for why new customer experience roles are introduced in many organisations. However, when speaking to leaders in these roles, we often hear two key challenges surfacing. Either they are confused as to what their exact role is or they have a clear understanding of their role but are struggling with delivering on expectations due to a lacking mandate. We recently spoke to a frustrated Customer Experience Officer who mentioned that she owns the customer journey but has no impact on any of the individual touchpoints. Imagine telling a COO that he owns production but that he can not influence any of the manufacturing steps…
These issues all seem rather familiar from the days of end-to-end process ownership discussions. Even if these roles were primarily internally focused, they did require collaboration across teams and departments as well as an outcome based focus. Same is applicable for managing customer experience but with the big difference that the outcome has a direct impact on your ability to stay in business. Few people are questioning whether there is a link between customer experience and harder measures like loyalty and advocacy, and ultimately financial impact and long term survival. But many people still seem to question the importance of dedicated customer experience roles. This is a natural reaction as it is difficult to accept new roles. Even though we all claim to be creative and open-minded, we often resort to structures we are familiar with.
The CXO role defined
But let us for a moment remain open-minded and analyse what truly makes sense. If we agree that customers are our most important asset and that we need to manage this asset in order to stay in business, we definitely need these roles. This does not mean that we need to create a super function which owns all interactions with all our customers. In fact, that role already exists; embodied by the CEO. What we need is a role who is allowed to focus on the customer journey, both in terms of design as well as daily performance follow up. This role should understand the link between overall metrics, such as NPS, CSAT, and retention rate and the effort put into individual touch-points. This role should have a clear view on the moments of truth and continuously identify ways to improve customer experience. And most importantly, this role should have the mandate to drive improvements across functions. This does not mean that the CXO is owning marketing, sales, operations, supply chain or finance. In fact, if that were the case the customer focus would be diluted. But it does mean that the CXO has both the mandate and the accountability to influence the customer journey, and that the functional heads see the CXO as the party who understands what is best from a customer perspective. Since we have already agreed that customers are our most important asset, we can hopefully also agree that the role which best represents our customers is a pretty important asset as well.
So let us conclude that the CXO is here to stay. At least if we want to keep our customers.