As it appeared in the daily nation of January 27th 2015
Should sales own the customer experience or should it be marketing? Better still, why should customer service not fully own the customer experience? Why not operations, or information Technology, the CEO or even the customer? Does anyone have control over the customer experience or has the customer experience become like a hot potato being tossed from department to department and from person to person sometimes even landing on the customer’s lap. Who must own the customer experience?
For years, organizations have talked about being customer focused or customer centric in the boardroom. Many sales managers have put their full weight behind these conversations. In addition, organizations have in recent years invested heavily in customer care centres, customer service training, customer relationship management and customer feedback systems among other efforts to improve their customer experience. Today, most chief executive officers, sales and marketing directors, human resource managers, IT managers, customer service managers and even finance managers that I interact with have ideas on how the customer experience can be improved. Many constantly remind each other that the customer experience is everyone’s business. The conversations do not stop there; almost every member of staff in any given organization has an opinion on what needs to be done. On one hand are managers who feel that staff should do XYZ and on the other hand are staff who feel that managers should do ABC to improve the customer experience. The customers too want to have their say after all it is their experience. Who really should own the cross-departmental customer experience?
The more I interact with different organizations the more convinced I am that customer experience ownership should be to be looked at with the same keen eye that looks at revenues. I believe that the customer experience is not a mere responsibility that should be left to anyone and everyone. Customer experience is a well thought out company-wide strategic action that requires steering by the chief executive officer. The main purpose of this strategy is at the core of any organization’s existence, it is to acquire new customers through positive word of mouth, retain and grow existing customers as well as create customer advocates and thus impacts financial performance directly. Equally central to this strategy are the departmental level leadership actions that need to be driven by departmental heads both in the front-line and those in support functions. Lastly, customers’ perceptions are dependent on how customers feel they are being treated at every point of interaction. As such, managing personal interactions at the individual level becomes the third equally important element to the customer experience strategy. At this level, both the staff and the customers need to be involved, they must not only have their say but they too must take ownership.
There is no doubt that ownership of the customer experience has changed over time. No one can any longer claim to have full ownership of the experience single-handedly. Whilst everyone must be involved the leadership team must be at the forefront. In addition to the CEO, Smart Companies have identified a senior member of management to steer the customer experience more closely. Such companies know too well that the customer experience is critical to their success and needs a safe place.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on email@example.com/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy