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Who's Best To Manage 'Voice of the Customer'?

By Jennifer LeClaire
May 23, 2013 9:37AM

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Businesses of all sizes need to proactively understand and manage their customers' experience. That means somebody needs to step up. Some suggest a Chief Customer Officer should take charge. Currently, the CMO is considered to represent the voice of the customer at 18 percent of organizations, trailing the head of sales at 31 percent.
 



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. (continued...)

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