Marketers' priorities: customer experience up, influencing board down

Customer relationships have become almost as important to marketers as brand building, but the importance of company leadership and improving the influence of marketing on the board has slipped, according to the latest study in to marketing directors’ priorities by the Cranfield School of Management.

Boardroom CMO

The top three tactical priorities listed by marketers are strengthening the brand, measuring and improving customers’ experience, and improving customer insight and data analytics.

Taking advantage of new technologies is identified as marketers’ top functional priority for the second year running, followed by developing skills and competencies and improving measurement and accountability of marketing.

Improving marketing’s ability to work across disciplines within the organisation and influence board level directors emerged as the lowest priorities for marketing leaders in Europe, the UK and North America, despite ongoing debate within the industry that marketing does not have enough sway at the top of organisations.

The “worrying” slide in importance placed on influencing the c-suite creates a “leadership challenge” for marketers, according to the Cranfield report.

European marketers put CRM, customer insight and experience ahead of the brand, while North America marketers are more focused on measuring the impact of marketing.

Cranfield also identified that British marketing leaders are more ambitious than their European or US counterparts.

Dr Stan Maklan, director of the marketing directors programme at Cranfield, says: “Executing a customer experience strategy and providing a seamless experience across channels and partners requires marketing to build influence at the board, to secure investment and create cross-functional customer solutions. Marketing leaders will not be effective in achieving their long-term priorities if they fail to focus on their internal leadership roles.” 

The study, now in its second year, asks marketers to identify their strategic, functional and tactical priorities. It surveyed 300 marketers in the UK and internationally in December 2012 and January 2013.

The report comes as a separate study by Forrester shows an increasing number of executives accountable for customer experience and a growing number of dedicated chief customer officer positions. More than half chief customer officers report directly to the CEO, according to Forrester.

Readers' comments (2)

  • It was very interesting to read the results of this survey, though I wonder why marketers see the customer experience as a tactical, rather than strategic goal. The opportunities provided by measuring and improving on the customer experience can certainly be both tactical and strategic if a solid, multi-channel Voice of the Customer programme is put in place. Tactical wins include the ability to resolve issues for individual customers which retains customers and prevents negative word of mouth, and to streamline and improve simple processes that frustrate customers – both of which are great short-term wins. In the longer-term though, by conducting root-cause analysis of recurring customer issues, and by integrating the Voice of the Customer with other data such as customer value and employee data, it’s possible to re-engineer a business so that the customer experience is at the heart of what the company does – which is a real competitive advantage!

    Karine Del Moro, Senior Director, Confirmit

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  • Other research with which I am involved says the answer to your opening question is both! My colleagues and I find that there is a spread of practice from tactical, through an transforming stage to a strategic phase we are terming "vanguard". I think that customer experience (CX) involves so many aspects of the business that once a firm embarks on a CX programme, it is hard to restrain it to the tactical - but I don't have the data to support that yet.

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