According to a report by The Economist, 86 percent of CMOs believe they will own the customer experience by 2020. This should come as no surprise to marketers, having long understood the importance of the experience as a driver of customer loyalty and brand equity. The difference now is that boardrooms are seeing the explicit link between the experience and business performance and have tasked CMOs with the job of combining the two.
This broadening role of acting as a true brand steward within a company and mastermind of the customer experience has left many CMOs in need of new tools and approaches. While every company is unique, we have identified four key questions that can get CMOs thinking about how well they are adapting to these new responsibilities, and how they can sharpen their skills.
1. Are you looking for innovation in the right places?
True innovation often requires looking past our own backyard, and tapping into a much deeper understanding of the lives of customers, not just the way they use products.
Disney has been doing this for decades, translating a basic human desire to feel special into all aspects of the customer experience. Employees, from Belle to the housekeeper, are empowered to create personalized experiences. These intimate moments, like a surprise bottle of champagne on an anniversary, ensure customers leave happy and stay loyal to the brand.
2. Do your metrics define your brand, or does your brand define your metrics?
CMOs need to start focusing more on the metrics and incentives that define the brand, as opposed to just the ones that diagnose it. Most companies have regular and rigorous measures of how the brand is doing — attribute scores, performance along the purchase funnel and Net Promoter metrics are all important. Yet these metrics often move glacially, and clients struggle to find the levers that can drive economic change.
The real measurement challenge is to change how you measure inputs, not outputs. Want to see an uptick in how customers perceive your service experience? Then discuss the impact of customer-facing targets, like call disposition time.
3. Do you have a culture that can enable the brand to connect on a human level?
Smart brands are becoming more like people, and less like faceless organizations. They zero in on moments when they can be helpful and solve problems in a way that makes customers feel genuinely helped.
To help with the Flint water crisis, Walmart, Coke, Pepsi and Nestlé joined forces to provide bottled water to kids in Flint, Michigan. And Facebook created the Safety Check feature to alert friends and family that users are safe in an affected disaster area.
Such acts come naturally to people, but are not written in the policy book. They require empowered individuals who are freed to act, often without permission, on behalf of the customer. Progressive CMOs ask themselves if they have an internal culture that can sense what it feels like to be a customer and respond accordingly.
4. Can your profit model endure the power of the customer?
Finally, ask yourself where your profits will come from and what your customers would say if they had this piece of information. A few years ago, what economists called the “natural monopoly” was the envy of all marketers. But as information flows have accelerated the outcry over long-term contracts and hidden fees, your customer has become a lot wiser. It’s no wonder that communications, telecom and banks have the lowest brand scores of any industries in our database.
Tomorrow’s profit models will be anchored in transparency, not just seamless experiences. Leading the charge are companies like Southwest Airlines, with no change fees and free check-in bags. O2, which alerts roamers about excess data charges with a text message when they land in another country. And, of course, Zappos, which might give you a product for free if it arrives late.
Think of these questions as a litmus test for today’s CMO, who is adopting new roles and responsibilities while being bombarded with questions that are both immense and miniscule. It’s about putting a platform in place, not for this year but for the next five. Honest answers can break the cycle of chasing today’s tactics in order to truly move the needle when it comes to the experience, the brand and the business.
 “The Path to 2020: Marketers Seize the Customer Experience,” The Economist Intelligence Unit (April, 2016)