The Customer Owns Your Brand. Who Owns the Customer?

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Natasha Oxenburgh Product Marketing Manager, Bluewolf

Posted on February 8th 2013

The Customer Owns Your Brand. Who Owns the Customer?

With the proliferation of online platforms, power has shifted to the customer—and the customer is better informed and more demanding everyday. They express and share their experiences, appreciation, curses, and questions online about a product or service. With the social phenomena, it’s like high school gossip on steroids.

That makes customers the drivers of your brand. They control your message. Your business has to live up to their expectations. Smart CMOs have recognized this shift. Smarter CMOs have aligned their goals around the customer experience. And the best CMOs sit with their call centers to gather feedback.

In 2013, the C-suite is focused on customer obsession and delivering a customer experience that is as efficient and frictionless as possible. Most businesses capture only a fraction of their opportunities for customer engagement—they need to do a MUCH better job at seizing and optimizing every customer touch point. Necessarily, nearly 90% of CEOs cite customer engagement as their primary initiative in the next five years.

Of course, every employee must be enabled to own any customer interaction. Nobody owns the customer, but someone always owns the moment.

From an operational perspective, who should be stepping up?

The CCO?
There’s been talk of a new role to own the customer experience—the “Chief Customer Officer.” Identifying one owner is important, but will this individual have control over the necessary resources and budget? How will they work with the existing leaders of sales, marketing, and service?

The CMO?
The CMO is another viable option. Marketing started using social media first, as a new channel and extension of their digital platforms. And thinking through the customer experience is really just an amplification of thinking through the brand experience. But, traditionally, Marketing has been less interested in what happens after the sale is made.

The Service Leader?
Service leaders are already tied to the customer experience. Should they be stepping up? If Marketing has been responsible for the “presented” brand, then perhaps customer service is responsible for the “experienced” brand. However, unlike CMOs, Service leaders often do not have ‘a seat at the table.’

What is the correct approach? What is the path to delivering on the customer experience? For one, Marketing and Customer Service will need to kiss and make up—and figure out how to collaborate on the right technologies and processes to impact the end-to-end customer experience. More broadly, it’s about smashing down the departmental silos and getting the entire C-suite to step up. As an enabler of internal and external collaboration, the CIO’s role in driving the customer experience will be critical.

What’s next? To delve more into this discussion around the customer experience, join Bluewolf, salesforce.com, and Bunchball at the Redefining Customer Engagement Forum in Newport Beach on Feb 21st to discover how you can maximize every customer moment.

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Natasha Oxenburgh

Product Marketing Manager, Bluewolf

As a Product Marketing Manager, Natasha Oxenburgh directs marketing strategy for Bluewolf’s customer care, marketing, and social business services. Previously, Natasha led Bluewolf’s social strategy and an internal initiative to drive employee engagement on the social web. Prior to Bluewolf, Natasha worked in the United States Peace Corps as a community health worker in both Madagascar and Mali.

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Comments

Most companies - and especially corporations - only give lip service to what their customers want. Their focus is the bottom line and customer service is an expense they wish they could eliminate. That is why service often does not have a seat at the table; marketing is seen as an income generator while service is seen as a cost they want to make go away. 

There needs to be an entire change of focus and realization of the importance of service to generating new sales. Forward facing employees are the people who keep the customer happy - or don't. If you treat your own people well and with respect and enable them to treat your customers right your business thrives.

For that to happen you have to reward decision making and actually give your employees the power to make your customers happy. No amount of "empowering" speechmaking will turn workers afraid of being disciplined or constrained by control freak managers into great customer advocates. 

Social media is going to make increasingly obvious what many of us already know: that corporations do not care about their customers - they only care about their bottom line. Now is a great time for small businesses to get this right.

Make it easy for customers to provide feedback directly AND anonymously (because many won't otherwise) and LISTEN to them. For every person who complains or makes a suggestion dozens or even 100+ more have the same concerns. Customers want to be heard more than anything else. Do not fear complaints because they mean someone cared enough to say something.

Respond and you will create brand advocates. Ignore or delete complaints - especially online - and you flame the fires. Deleting or blocking is a huge mistake because then the angry person will expand where they complain and others will join them and you end up with a firestorm like the one Applebees has going right now.  Brands have to learn how to do social media right - and the sooner the better. 

Thanks Gail for your feedback! Love your point: "Respond and you will create brand advocates." Very true. 

Natasha you are right in saying that while different types of interactions are the domain of different roles someone needs to own the customer.

When we are speaking to companies interested in customer lifecycle management they do realize that they need to reorganize themselves in a way that the customer is put at the center & other functions get a single view of the customer. Whether it is marketing, sales or service each one is well informed of their customer to better interact and engage them. 

There are emerging roles to fill this gap - Chief Customer Officer as you pointed out; also there is Chief Experience Officer - Forbes talk about this.

Thank you Sid for your response!