• March 1, 2005
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Who's Responsible for the Customer Experience?

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Serve your customers what they want, how they want it, and you may curtail the chances of frustrating them by mismanaging their customer experiences. According to the first document in the "State of Customer Experience, 2005" report series by Forrester Research, however, most companies have yet to centralize how they manage the customer experience. In a 2003 survey the firm found that only 22 percent of firms designated ownership of all customer touch points to one person. Findings from "Who's In Charge of Customer Experience," based on interviews with executives from 176 North American companies generating annual revenues of at least $500 million, indicate that the story is pretty much the same. Just 24 percent of respondents report having a single person responsible for customer experience. Additionally, about one third of services firms have a single exec responsible for customer experience, while a mere 7 percent of retail and wholesalers say they have a single customer experience exec. Yet Bruce Temkin, vice president and research director at Forrester and author of the report, is not convinced that in all cases centralization is the right answer. "[I]n retail you have very strong independent organizations," Temkin says. "It may not make sense to bring them together." When polled on which unit within a company is primarily responsible for customer service through different channels, however, 33 percent of firms responded that marketing should bear the responsibility for overall customer experience management, 30 percent contended that it lies with customer service, and 34 percent responded that "N/A or other" is responsible. Only a handful indicated that IT or the e-commerce team is responsible. "I think that marketing people are taking more and more responsibility in terms of some of the customer service efforts...but you still can't have marketing take complete control, because there does remain the need to have a strong operational manager. The right mix is somewhere between the two." Clearly, different channels are being given oversight at different levels within the organization, but is that really a problem? According to Temkin, it's much less of a problem than it was a few years ago. "Customers are looking for a much more blended experience [and] now you're blending together interactions that [cross] organizational boundaries. That's when companies start to say that this distinction between customer service organizations owning email and phone-based [interactions], and the Web group or marketing or whomever owning the Web side of things, doesn't make sense if you're trying to solve a customer's problem that goes across both of those things." Michael Hoffman, president and CEO of consultancy Client X Client, suggests a solution--adding an entity separate from marketing and customer service. "The easy answer is to say add a chief customer officer or a customer experience manager to the mix, but that adds cost and does not provide an implicit benefit without delineating responsibilities. While business structures differ widely based on industry and size, companies can justify an executive position that is responsible for optimizing the measurable value of every customer and every customer contact."
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