When The CMO Owns Customer Experience: 10 Top CMOs Share Their POV

Every CMO today is now in a continuous conversation with customers. Due to digital disruption, changing consumer behavior, and integrated technology, the role of the chief marketing officer is experiencing a renaissance. Instead of creating big-picture marketing campaigns, CMOs are now responsible for the entire customer experience. The CMO often owns customer experience from start to finish. This is more than just overseeing customer service and putting out fires when they arise — it involves managing the contact center, understanding customer intentions, applying new technologies like AI and machine learning, and creating a cohesive customer experience. CMOs must understand every single place their brand touches the customer and the journey the customer goes on before, during, and after they interact with the company and make a purchase. CMOs no longer have the option of sitting back to see what happens after their marketing programs go live — they must be actively involved in all aspects of the business that effect the customer experience. Today’s customer experiences must align with business strategy — and the CMO is the best candidate to drive these programs across the company.

Today, organizations don’t just face competition from within their own industry and geographic region, they can be disrupted by anyone at any time. Thanks to new technology, companies outside of their industry or startups can take on your brand overnight. Companies are taking more risks — focusing on transformational growth — where they enter a completely new industry overnight. The only way you can protect your brand is through a compelling customer experiences. Providing personalized experiences to meet customers’ needs means more than having a cheaper product or service. In order to build that customer experience and break through the noise, CMOs need to use data-driven insights and analysis to truly understand their customers — what are customers’ struggles, what are customers looking for, what do they think about your company, etc. — and then communicate with them in places where they are already talking.

The modern CMO owns all aspects of the customer experience. It isn’t limited to one area or department of the company — it’s everywhere! No matter if a customer is stepping into your store, visiting your website, or talking with a representative on the phone, they should have a consistent experience with every interaction they have with the brand. In order to make that happen, the CMO has to be intricately aware of every touchpoint customers have and how every area of the company affects and connects with the customers. From identifying potential customers to analyzing post-purchase data, the CMO oversees it all.

One area where many CMOs struggle is with the contact center. Being familiar with the contact center is key for a modern CMO. Part of being a customer-savvy CMO involves shaping the metrics of departments the CMO isn’t generally as involved in. For example every CMO should be familiar with the contact center. Employee metrics should match the customer experience. If you want customers to be able to have their questions answered quickly and their issues solved, consider how you train and track contact center employees and how aware they are of the company’s culture, mission, and values. Having a strong relationship with the contact center comes down to a CMO’s new omnichannel responsibilities of bringing together the entire organization. Customer experience doesn’t depend solely on the CMO or the marketing team, but the CMO is often the one who sets the tone and leads the way for all other departments. From finance to customer service to manufacturing, every employee should see how their role plays a part in the customer experience, and it’s up to the CMO in many cases to share the vision and make that happen.

I talked with 10 top CMOs from a number of industries to get their insights into the changing role of the CMO, how they build relationships with customers, how they stay on top of changes in today’s omnichannel world, and more. Here are some of their thoughts:

10 CMOs Share Their View On How Their Approach To Customer Experience Has Evolved:

Enhancing the customer experience drives all of us here at Marriott. Marketing is one catalyst in bringing this to life for our guests, which is evident by the experiences our guests have on property, the fluidity of our digital platforms, and the benefits we offer members of our loyalty programs. M Live is Marriott’s modern day, always-on, global marketing command center and brand newsroom. It’s our secret weapon in creating opportunities to be relevant in the lives of our guests. It is helping us drive brand awareness and affinity through two-way engagement with our guests — such as surprise and delight moments — that turn them into advocates and raving brand fans.”

Karin Timpone, Global Marketing Officer, Marriott International

“CMO plays a critical role in shaping the customer experience because it is part of the brand-building process. At large companies, such as Verizon, almost every part of the business touches on the customer experience. The Chief Customer Experience Officer role in my organization partners with all the key stakeholders across the company to ensure a unified experience across the mobile app, website, and retail stores. Getting the brand and customer experience right is truly a team effort across the board.”

Diego Scotti, CMO, Verizon

“Customer experience can no longer be the domain of any one department; it’s everybody’s job. Whether it’s hosting company-wide hackathons to ensure our software is ship-worthy, streamlining our purchase processes, posting top customer issues on our intranet so employees have the opportunity to help resolve them, or aligning our company-wide rewards structure around customer success metrics, we’ve built a customer-centric culture at Adobe in which every employee feels accountable and empowered to shape and improve the customer experience. Within marketing, we’re focused on developing engaging and personalized experiences across all digital channels and live events, creating helpful learning content that enables customers to get the most value out of our products, and responding to customer needs around the clock, in every region, and across every customer touchpoint. This is the experience era and customer expectations have never been higher. Businesses who don’t step up will be left behind.”

Ann Lewnes, Executive Vice President and CMO, Adobe

“How we as a company go to market is dependent on our ability to understand the customer’s experience with our products and services, and our ability to anticipate their future needs. It is important that the CMO function be intimately involved in defining the customer experience as we develop our marketing strategy and determine how to effectively market and sell our current products, while also engineering innovative new ones. How we measure and gauge that comes at every touchpoint — from social to inbound customer service, in-store experiences, and product performance. If those feedback loops were siloed entirely by operational function, it would be difficult to maintain a holistic view.”

Philip Dobbs, CMO, Bridgestone Tires

“It’s a must, in today’s digital reality, to ensure full consumer centricity along the end-to-end brand experience. As a consequence, the need for the CMO to take an integrated, cross-functional approach is non-negotiable. When it comes to building a unique brand experience where digital and traditional media intertwine, every facet from all communication channels, packaging design, point of sale materials, public relations, and events needs to be tailored to the specific consumer target. It is the CMO’s responsibility to ensure that each consumer enjoys a brand experience as personalized as possible. Consumer is the boss: we need to be ready to cater for how they would like the brand to be a companion in their life. To enable this business transformation, it is critical for the CEO to support and empower the CMO role as the orchestrator of a company’s effort to think consumer-first on everything they do across all functions and businesses.”

Antonio Sciuto, EVP Brands and CMO, Nestlé Waters North America

“Success is determined by my ability to attract and retain guests. Pretty simple, right? Not really. The guest journey itself is no longer a simple linear process. Our guests today experience our brand at dozens of touch points involving every department in our company — from guest services and housekeeping to hotel operations and food and beverage to call centers and IT. That means, to successfully ensure happy, loyal guests I must champion their needs and interests with every associate in our company. Fortunately, the personalized service for which Omni Hotels & Resorts is known, combined with our analytics capabilities, arms me with the data I need to do that effectively. And it’s paying off. Omni is constantly recognized by different organizations for the high level of service we provide guests.”

Peter Strebel, CMO, Omni Hotels

Chief marketing officers are experiencing a renaissance. Digital disruption has flipped the tables on customer relationships, introducing a glut of new channels and competitors that are making it harder to break through the “noise”. Future growth hinges on a differentiated customer experience and tighter client relationships that connect the entire organization. Looking ahead, CMOs must have a deep understanding of customers, behaviors and market trends — and, ultimately, become the “glue” to drive needed transformation through all parts of their organizations. They must also prioritize data-driven insights to fuel growth. The CMO is no longer just the chief client evangelist or head of digital. They have evolved and must go beyond their “traditional” role and responsibilities to drive revenue growth that brings tangible ROI. Marketing is a critical business function in this environment of rapid disruption. The payoff: an opportunity to outperform peers and potentially achieve 2–3X greater revenue growth.”

Roxanne Taylor, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Accenture

“Call it customer evangelism, customer advocacy, customer experience, or VoC, today’s modern CMO owns it! The modern CMO has the responsibility and ability to listen and understand, as well as articulate to the greater organization what customers are saying and how they are behaving. They have the duty to understand what their customers are thinking, how they want to be spoken to, and how the services and products you provide align with THEIR needs. Today’s modern CMO connects with customers at every level and touch point, providing an unparalleled understanding to systematically compile and evaluate customer data. Subsequently, the modern CMO has the unique ability to put these insights into actionable activities. Although customer behaviors may fall under a number of generalized trends or predictable models, every customer buying experience or journey is unique. The modern CMO must be able to link to each of those journeys through data and science to be relevant to each and every customer. Use your data, apply the science, and understand not just how or when your customers are interacting”

Sally Jenkins, CMO, Informatica

“I believe CMOs play an essential role in building and maintaining proper customer focus. At Zebra, we center our innovation around the needs of the businesses we serve, and then marketing strives to articulate the unique value our company facilitates. We do this primarily with storytelling both inside and outside our organization. We’re a channel-centric business, so most of our solutions involve other partners and our stories reflect innovation success at the edge of the enterprise’s operations, where the most meaningful customer interactions occur.”

Jeff Schmitz, CMO, Zebra Technologies

“I came to Dun & Bradstreet as the CMO to drive growth by leading our marketing organization and collaborating with the rest of the organization. Almost immediately, we reoriented the company from a tech- and product-first focus to a customer-first focus. Tactically, this meant thinking not in terms of what we sold, but to whom we sold. We asked: What problems do customers face? How do we address them? What solutions will help? We created marketing tiger teams, or groups of experts brought together from different specialties (analytics, demand gen, sales enablement, etc.) to work in service of a single persona with joint metrics. With this approach we are able to drive a great, integrated customer experience for each persona. It’s worked! We’ve grown, our Net Promoter Scores are way up, and our employees are more engaged.”

Rishi Dave, CMO, Dun & Bradstreet

In Conclusion

Although every brand and company will have a different customer experience, every organization can focus on coordinating efforts to offer customers a personalized and cohesive experience. Today’s CMO plays a pivotal role in every aspect of the customer experience and has to own it from start to finish. Their responsibilities are wide and all-encompassing, from using data to drive progress to breaking down internal company silos and uniting employees under a unified experience. As a leader of all employees, the CMO sets the stage for a strong customer experience that can make all the difference in the ever-changing and increasingly competitive business world.

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, author of More Is More and keynote speaker. Sign up for her newsletter here.