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Too Many Chiefs, Not Enough Vision

I was intrigued to recently hear the 80-20 rule applied to customer experience: while 80% of CMOs say they are focused on a differentiated experience, only 20% of consumers say they actually feel "surprise and delight." As I reflect on my own recent experience — both as a professional and as a consumer — this certainly seems to hold true.  

How is this the case? We’ve all been talking about "surprising and delighting" the customer since at least the '90s. Companies now support all manner of new roles to better mobilize around the customer: Chief Marketing Technologist, Chief Customer Officer, Chief Privacy Officer, Chief Digital Officer, Chief Experience Officer. Yet companies still struggle to deliver a relevant and differentiated experience. Here’s why only 20% of customers may be feeling the impact.

  1. Lack of customer vision. Businesses must align around a single vision and then organize to support that vision. The traditional planning process involves corporate goals being translated into product and brand objectives, with little to no regard for the customer strategy. These goals are further broken down to channel/media goals, and then at the different touch points, customer treatments are defined ... in silos.

  2. Lack of CEO sponsorship and gumption to truly challenge the KPIs, structure, and culture of yesterday. Historically, organizations were focused on marketing a single product and/or a single channel. For these companies of yesteryear, a simple structure sufficed. In fact, you can argue that historical businesses were highly customer-centric, because that initial single channel involved point-of-sale (POS) transactions between merchants and consumers who typically knew each other personally. Today, organizations evolve over time; functions are bolted onto the existing organization, often with little evaluation of the entire customer ecosystem. In this method, adding more chiefs may actually perpetuate the problem. It creates more silos and additional, conflicting goals to an organization that is not ready to really change.  So, when customer visioning currently occurs, is it often gratuitous.

This is a subject about which businesses should care. CEOs, specifically, should care. The brick and mortars that can’t evolve will perish, being replaced by those businesses that can meet and exceed consumers’ motivations and emotional needs. Evolving isn’t easy, but here’s what should be done:

  1. Understand customer experience. Experience is the perception of a brand based on the sum of interactions with that brand. Interactions are comprised of touchpoints.

  2. Stop optimizing touchpoints without having an overarching vision for the entire customer experience. Instead, start with the customer objectives and the journey to achieve those objectives. Translate corporate goals into a consumer vision.

  3. Dare to change. Once the journey is defined, major transformation may be needed, including the KPIs by which the organization is evaluated, the decisioning and authority around the customer experience, and the underlying capabilities to support that experience. This means businesses must stop hiring new roles, implementing new technology and redesigning point processes as the solution for the massive challenge of delivering a relevant, differentiated customer experience. Instead, businesses must hire, implement and redesign based on a single unifying vision. 

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