Who Is Your Chief Customer Experience Officer?

About a year ago I had an engaging conversation with the CMO and the CIO of large bank. I was struck by two things during the conversation. The first was that they were aligned on the need for a consistent customer experience across all touch-points, a rare phenomenon between a CMO and a CIO. In fact, Lisa Arthur’s article, Are CIOs from Mars? If So, It’s Time for CMOs to Visit, highlights just how rare a phenomenon CMO and CIO alignment can be. The second thing that became obvious was how the bank was not organized to manage consistent customer experiences. This is not an indictment of the bank, just another example of how few companies have a structure that puts the customer’s experience at the center of all their decisions. Later the same week I had a similar conversation with a large retailer for whom the same issue was a challenge.

For banks and many other companies, much of the customer experience is delivered via Web-based applications. These apps are often developed by internal IT teams or implemented through third-party software. They frequently are not integrated nor reflect a common user interface. They may not be optimized for access from a smartphone or tablet or, if so, were implemented using other vendors who compound the user interface fragmentation. The “brand stewards” in marketing may have little or no involvement in the process. Customers can get frustrated and the brand is negatively impacted.

We live in a converged world. A customer’s experience spans marketing and IT functions and includes sales, operations, customer service and product management. Marketing leaders are used to the idea of being brand champions. But in today’s world, the customer’s experience is the biggest factor in brand preference and advocacy. Can a marketing change agent truly transform a brand without impacting every customer touch-point, including those originating from IT? Should the CMO also assume the role of Chief Customer Experience Officer? If not the CMO, then who? If it is to be the CMO, then how does that redefine this crucial role? Your comments are welcome.

This post previously appeared on Forbes.com. nFusion CEO John Ellett is a regular contributor to the Forbes blog. You can follow his insights for marketing change agents at http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnellett.