Blog post

Customer Experience is a Team Sport

By Jake Sorofman | January 06, 2015 | 1 Comment

digital marketing

Last year, Gartner for Marketing Leaders made some waves when we said that customer experience was the new competitive battlefield—and that, more often than not, marketing was calling the shots.

Few took issue with the fact that, in the face of rising competition and consumer empowerment, customer experience becomes, perhaps by necessity, the last bastion of durable differentiation.

The marketing part—the claim that it’s the marketing function with the prevailing mandate to lead the charge? That part was more a bit more controversial.

Our primary research supports the assertion:

  • 89% of companies plan to compete primarily on the basis of CX by 2016.
  • 65% of companies have the equivalent of chief customer officer; more than half the time, they report into the marketing function.
  • Marketing funds the majority of CX initiatives in over half of companies.
  • More than any other function, marketing is responsible for CX strategy, design and improvements.

What’s important to note here is that marketing, while perhaps leading many of these CX initiatives, lacks the span of control to oversee (much less execute) each and every customer experience.

In his blog post last week, my Gartner colleague Hank Barnes suggested caution on the customer experience battlefield. He correctly asserted that “CX is not about marketing on its own. Marketing can’t deliver a great customer experience independent of sales, service, and any other part of the organization, and your ecosystem, that impacts how a customer perceives your company and your products (and/or services).”

Said another way, CX leadership requires the broadest of mandates.

That’s why the role of CX leadership—whether it’s undertaken by marketing or another function—requires a very wide aperture and an ability to influence customer experiences prosecuted outside of any one functional span of control and sphere of authority.

This means taking a cross-functional view of experience design, flipping the orientation from a portfolio view—what do we have on the truck to sell?; to a persona view—how do we best serve these audiences at the moments that count? And working to align cross-functional stakeholders to this same view.

It means is breaking down silos of customer data and insight, creating mechanisms for sharing this knowledge with the roles responsible for delivering exceptional experiences. It means closing the loop between insights and action by liberating, federating and operationalizing customer data.

Finally, it means defining the right incentives to get everyone oriented to the same customer-centered goals—and reinforcing this alignment with a customer-centered culture. Incentives and culture are how you activate any strategy at scale. This is particularly true with customer experience.

After all, the best wrought CX strategies are all for naught when the folks on the frontlines aren’t aligned to the same intentions. Customer experience is very much a team sport.

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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1 Comment

  • Bob Daly says:

    Spot on, Jake! Your team sport reference is auite apt, and makes a great complementary piece to my recent CustomerThink article: …It absolutely requires leadership and breaking through silos, without which you’re limited to fixing things around the edges.