Making the customer the center of the universe is a battle cry across virtually every industry. And CMOs -- working in concert with CIOs and business-unit heads -- are leading that charge. This battle is not business-as-usual, for the following reasons:
- Traditional loyalty structures are eroding, causing companies to have to work harder to retain customers or risk driving up churn.
- Customers expect high levels of personalization, forcing companies to design experiences as close to the individual level as possible.
- Agile digital companies are seeking to disintermediate the relationship between both traditional digital and brick-and-mortar companies and their customers.
- Companies must now differentiate on the experiences they deliver to customers.
Each of these forces creates challenges; more importantly, the additive impact of these forces mandates deep-rooted changes in a company's strategy and operations. To state the obvious, customers neither understand nor care about how hard it is to deliver consistent, quality and personalized experiences. That is the privilege of having market power.
Taking stock, the CMO's agenda now looks more and more like the CEO's or COO's agenda.
The CMO's agenda can be separated by a line of visibility: some pieces customers can see, and some they cannot. Key initiatives such as strategic positioning, brand and loyalty programs are traditional CMO agenda items.
The new and most important item is designing consistent, high-quality, and personalized experiences across both human and digital touchpoints. The need to differentiate on the basis of experience is really what drives the deep-rooted operational changes below the visibility line.
In most cases, delivering differentiated experiences is not business-as-usual; it will require more severe structural and operational changes such that a company looks and operates differently than it does today. The CMO agenda now consists of:
1. Making organizational changes to better align capabilities and ensure a seamless delivery of experiences across human and digital touchpoints.
2. Transitioning process design from being efficiency-focused to customer-focused.
3. Making hard changes in people and culture, including leadership, new roles, competencies and a customer-focused culture that fuels the business.
4. Putting in place an analytics capability to enable data-driven, personalized journeys.
5. Initiating or accelerating the business technology agenda to improve technologies that deliver customer value and drive growth.
Combined, these efforts tell us that companies, and CMOs specifically, need to think hard about making a fundamental shift in their operating model. To add to the complexity, changes to the operations across the company need to be sufficiently cohesive to ensure they don't damage or create uneven customer experiences.
For better or worse, this is what is in front of many CMOs today -- to lead the charge to truly become a customer-obsessed organization. This isn't veneer or some clever tagline. It is the hard work to differentiate and win in the Age of the Customer.