Customer Experience must be coordinated across silos and vertical divisions of organisations; but where should ownership for the Customer Experience really lie?
There are some who believe that one functional group e.g. marketing should own the customer experience. If it’s to be one individual from one part of the organisation, will the issue of an inconsistent, fragmented customer experience be resolved? Will those leaders take ownership for the whole customer journey, across all touch points including call centres and digital?
In my view, this is more a question about the person as much as their job title. What counts is their passion and obsession for the customer, their analytical yet open mind and the way that they can harness the business around the customer. The difference will come from the values that they instill; the way that they can broker, facilitate, steer, collaborate, empower, enthuse and lead the business to be ruthlessly and single-mindedly customer oriented.
Others credit the entire business with ownership of the Customer Experience rather than one person. That has its drawbacks too. If Customer Experience is more of a philosophy without a tangible focal point, you may find that everyone is ‘responsible’ but no one really has ownership.
If we take a look at leaders in Customer Experience; the likes of first direct, John Lewis, Emirates, Amazon, giff gaff, Amazon, Richer Sounds – they don’t all have Customer Experience Directors or Officers as such. Some do, but most don’t. What’s common is that they have a C-Suite level person responsible for the customer and critically that the CEO is committed to customer experience.
The point is less about a title or a name and more about clarification of ownership, accountability and responsibility for the customer and engagement of the wider organisation.
Ownership should ultimately be with the CEO. CEO’s are equipped to horizontally bridge the vertical divides of the whole organisation and have influence over all moving parts of the customer’s journey. The customer (and experience) must be championed from the very top of the organisation if it is to be successful.
One of the most often but still best examples is first direct. It’s no accident that they are ranked no. 1 for their customer experience in the UK. Their CEO, Joe Gordon, comes from a customer service background. He is committed to the customer and drives that pledge from the top to bottom of the organisation.
Accountability does need to be placed on a day to day basis with a senior person who has the capability, passion and respect to deliver the customer experience strategy and ensure that what customers want and most need is delivered. Choose whichever title works for your organisation.
Key elements of that role should be:
Engaging with digital and technology to ensure that solutions are developed with the customer in mind
Collaborating with HR to ensure that the employee experience is lined up with that of the customer
Enabling the organisation through the collation and sharing of customer data
Responsibility should be placed across the entire organisation – whether employees interact directly with the customer or not. For customer experience to be effective everyone needs to be aligned. People need to support each other in cross functional initiatives and efforts. Individuals must have a voice and feel that they are empowered to take responsibility for the customer experience within their sphere of influence. These people are likely to be the owners or team members for customer experience change initiatives.
Customer Experience success will depend on:
A committed CEO
An engaged and collaborative C-Suite
A clearly articulated customer experience vision and strategy
Does your C-Suite champion the Customer Experience? Is your CEO committed to Customer Experience success? The protagonists in your customer experience need to be shrewdly put in place.
We use our Customer Alignment™ model to baseline where companies are today and how well positioned they are to be successful in customer experience. This highlights where to focus and where to make changes. At the end of the day, strategy, design, structure, processes, capability, people and measurement need to be aligned to deliver value for both the customer and the organisation.
As is often quoted, Customer Experience is not a department; it is a culture, a mindset and a way of doing business. CEO’s need to lead from the top, instilling this philosophy whilst harnessing their employees to deliver a consistent and valuable experience for customers over the long-term.
After all. as Forrester’s Kate Leggett said: “In the age of the customer, executives don’t decide how customer-centric their companies are — customers do.”
would suggest that companies should not focus exclusively on efficiency, simplicity and optimisation of the rational and functional elements of the customer journey; they alone do not make up the whole customer experience.
Sometimes, change and customer experience optimisation is about baby steps. Sometimes, small steps can result in bigger leaps, or compounded marginal gains. For some organisations, this is a more realistic and successful approach than the implementation of a big CX transformation programme with a well-constructed business case, where the results may be similar in the end.
first direct have recognised that what set them apart for many years – their superior customer service, is not enough to stay ahead. first direct are constantly seeking to improve the basics and at the same time invest in innovation centred on the customer. Customer work, at first direct, is never done.
Taking a value based approach to CX and designing customer research that can identify the value within each journey, will help provide the business with a graded shortlist of things to focus on, fix and improve. It can also use it as a framework by which to judge existing initiatives around the business that impact on the customer experience.
The airline industry is a highly competitive one. Technology, hand in hand with a human touch, will deliver better experiences for customers. The challenge is in the alignment of the culture, processes, systems and capability of the organisation, with the needs of customers in a way that employees are empowered and engaged to deliver. That goes for at any point in their customer experience, but is even more of a priority in times or disruption.
Customers need their experiences to be seamless and without friction. Importantly, they also hope that any problem will be proactively owned and resolved quickly and satisfactorily by the company or organisation with whom they are interacting.
When talking about touch points and channels, we refer most often to those within our control e.g. the call centre, email, the physical store, social media. We don’t often consider those which are delivered by another organisation for example a business partner. Companies seem only too ready to hand over responsibility for the customer to their partner. Yet some seem quick to blame them when things go wrong and act as judge and jury when their NPS scores, say, are not up to scratch. Delegating companies often seem to want it
What Alamo have done is they have not only managed to improve the customer journey and eradicate pain points or friction but have succeeded in elevating the customer experience and at the same time, become more operationally efficient. Smiles all round.
If we were to compare the energy sector to that of aviation, Richard Branson summed it up very well: “Look, I think that when we started Virgin Atlantic 30 years ago, we had one 747 competing with the airlines that had an average of 300 planes each. Every single one of those have gone bankrupt because they didn’t have customer service. They had might, but they didn’t have customer service, so customer service is everything in the end.” What will the energy sector look like in 10, 20 or 30 years if things don’t change?
AI in its current form is only part of the solution. AI requires a deeper understanding of customer needs so that it is an enabler rather than the answer for its own sake. The balance of AI vs. human interactions in the Customer Experience needs to be carefully orchestrated.