Why Customer Experience Shouldn't Report to Marketing

Operations May Be a Better Home for Your Top Customer Experience Exec

July 28, 2011

Where should your top Customer Experience executive sit in your organization? No matter what their title—CXO or Sr. VP of Customer Experience, the person in this role should ideally have purview over your entire company’s operations. Most CX execs report to the Chief Marketing Officer. That’s usually a mistake. Your CXO should be your COO, or at least report to your Chief Operation Officer. He or she needs to have the clout and the budget to drive major change across the organization.


Marketing Doesn’t Have Enough Clout to Get Things Done Outside of Marketing

For some time now, I’ve been conscious of the built-in “gotcha” that is diluting the impact of many customer experience initiatives. Your customer experience leader may have a well-designed customer experience and/or customer advocacy program. He or she may have “support” from your CEO. But does he or she actually have the purview to execute? Does she have the budgetary and political clout to actually design and carry out initiatives that will improve the Quality of Customer Experience your firm delivers?

Does she have purview to prioritize and to fund initiatives across interaction touchpoints, distribution channels, internal organizational silos, including IT infrastructure projects? Or does your customer experience “leader” simply gather Voice of the Customer (VOC) insights and oversee customer surveys and then report the results back to anyone who will listen?

Most customer experience executives reside in their company’s marketing organizations. They are supposed to worry about the end-to-end experience customers have when interacting with your brand. If she is really good, and well-respected, she may help drive priorities for some of the business process, policy, and/or IT improvements the company needs to make. But most of the CX leaders I’ve spoken with admit to feeling powerless, discouraged, and underwhelmed by the actual changes anyone in the company is really willing to make. “If only we could take action faster,” they lament. “It takes forever to convince people to make the changes they know we need to make.”

I hate to say it, but in most companies and industries, marketing has no clout. Marketing has a budget that it uses to maintain the Web site, do customer research, generate leads, and build brand awareness. Marketing measures its success based on leads generated, conversion rates, and the strength of the brand. The customer experience group housed within marketing measures its success based on customer loyalty scores and customer survey results, as well as how well the company ranks in various channel-specific customer experience audits.

Operations Does Have Clout!

Who does have clout (and budget) in most organizations? The actual product line P&Ls, of course. They’re each responsible for generating their own revenues and profits. The sales executives within those P&Ls typically have the most clout as the premier revenue generators. Or the people who conceive of, design, develop, and deliver the firm’s products and services may have the most clout. But, besides P&L leaders, who gets to spend money and carry out major initiatives for the company as a whole?

There’s usually a company-wide, or at least region-wide, Operations group, typically headed by a Chief Operating Officer. Recently, we’ve also noticed an increase in the number of “Strategic Planning and Operations” groups within large organizations. These SP&O groups are chartered with executing on strategic intent. These Operations groups are typically led by executives with vision, clout, and budgets that are large enough to tackle company-wide initiatives and/or to sponsor pilot projects within P&Ls that may spread to other groups.
CX Execs Should Migrate to Operations

If you’re a customer experience leader who feels powerless to do anything other than report the news and to try to herd your execs in a more customer-friendly direction, look for a better place to hang your hat. Check out your Operations group. See if that might be a better fit.

CX Execs Should Gain Control of OpEx Spending

What’s the best way to get clout? Control the budget. Don’t ask for more money. You won’t get it. But DO ask to have the ability to PRIORITIZE up to 10% of your company’s operational expen-ditures across product lines, touchpoints, and functional areas. Each P&L might submit items for your consideration, or you could use the funds to sponsor customer-impacting infrastructure im-provements that won’t get done any other way.

CX Execs Should Lead Customer-Impacting Business Process Redesign Efforts

When you streamline customers’ critical scenarios, you discover that your customers’ processes for getting things done inevitably cross your organization’s internal and external boundaries. Who better to lead both the customer co-design and the prioritized execution of customer-adaptive busi-ness processes than you, the CX leader?

CX Execs Should Set Operational Metrics for Customer-Impacting Issues

A lot of the levers that a CX executive should have include customers’ success metrics that can be translated into internal operational metrics—e.g., reduce the time and the number of steps it takes for a customer to be productive with your software, or to be enjoying driving her new car, or to be making money from her reallocated financial portfolio.

So, if you are a frustrated (or a wannabe) Customer Experience executive, or if you’re part of a company that seems to be struggling to deliver on customer experience priorities, take a closer look at what a CX executive’s role should be. Think about the role and the person assigned to it. Look at how your organizational structure helps or hinders your collective efforts to make it easy for your customers to get things done and to do business with you.

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