Over the next three years, global organizations will make understanding and interacting with the customer their top priority. So says a recent study conducted by the Intelligence Unit of The Economist newsmagazine.
But the study -- called "Voice of the Customer: Whose Job Is It, Anyway?" -- shows a disconnect. Only 56 percent of respondents to the survey believe their companies clearly understand the customer today.
Here's the issue: Many companies find it challenging to restructure their businesses around the customer because businesses traditionally have been organized around product lines or geographic territories. In fact, only six in 10 people surveyed currently view their companies as customer-centric, and only just over half report a clear understanding of customers' tastes and needs.
Who's Job Is It?
Still, customer experience management is climbing higher on the priority list. So whose responsibility will it be to champion the voice of the customer within the organization? And what new skills and capabilities will they need in order to restructure around the customer instead of products?
Enterprises need to get on the same page in order to move forward effectively. Nearly one quarter of the Chief Marketing Officers surveyed want a Chief Customer Officer to take responsibility. Another quarter of the CMOs see the onus on themselves. Currently, the CMO is considered to represent the voice of the customer at just 18 percent of organizations, trailing the head of sales at 31 percent.
Obstacles for the CMO include the diversity of the CMOs' current obligations, few of which are currently customer-facing functions. Regardless, the survey concludes, whoever aspires to represent the voice of the customer must draw on customer insights to create an exceptional customer experience that spans all physical and digital channels. The key to the CMO delivering on an organizations' evolving customer-centric mandate may lie in the rise of web, social and mobile channels that are poised to take on greater significance in customer engagement.
"A growing shift to digital marketing also provides a rich foundation for data-driven customer insight," says Wilson Raj, who serves as the Global Customer Intelligence Director for SAS, the analytics-software company that sponsored the survey. "CMOs are in a prime position to be champions for the voice of the customer -- if they shore up digital and customer analytics skills across the marketing organization."
Indeed, the survey shows that over the next three years, social media and mobile channels will eclipse e-mail and the corporate Web sites for customer engagement. Few organizations, however, are currently leveraging emerging social and mobile media effectively to reach customers. While social media is predicted to become the second most important channel for customer communication, face-to-face interactions will still remain the most important customer engagement channel.
Somebody Needs To Step Up
We asked Arjun Mitra, executive vice president at Firstsource -- an outsourced customer-service provider -- for his take on customer experience management. Mitra expressed how critical it is for businesses to be on the front line of understanding customer experience in order to stay relevant in today's competitive marketplace. That means somebody needs to step up.
"Differentiated customer experience builds confidence in the brand and strengthens the emotional connects with customers. Hence, customer experience management will only grow in importance and evolve as a significant competitive advantage that is well worth the expense and the effort," Mitra said.
"Companies that make the necessary investment in customer experience management will gain the strategic blueprint they need to help boost their bottom line." If companies implement a voice-of-the-customer approach in the right manner, Mitra explains, it can make a huge difference in terms of retaining the most profitable customers and attracting new customers -- ultimately impacting top-line sales, as well as profitability.