Who owns customer experience in a company?

In many organisations there is an ongoing debate, and power struggle, about who should own the customer experience – is it marketing, operations, or does it sit with the CEO? There are advantages and drawbacks to it being owned by a specific function, and many people have started to question if only one function should be leading this. Knowing its importance, this article looks at what the best approach is for owning the customer experience and the implications it has on customers.

Owning the customer experience: current state of play

Most organisations don’t have a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) who is responsible for delivering a great customer experience. Instead, they are set up in silos, each with its own view of the customer and often not joined up.  This is why it is so difficult to deliver a seamless customer experience across all phases of the customer lifecycle and across all touchpoints and channels.


One thing is clear: in order for any customer experience initiative to succeed it must be championed at the board level to drive through the changes to the business and culture that are necessary to deliver the vision.  

The CEO is ultimately accountable for the customer experience a business delivers, but they have too many other responsibilities to take the lead for its strategy, so it often falls to the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or to a lesser extent the COO (Chief Operating Officer).  According to the Salesforce 6th edition State of Marketing Report released last year, 79% of marketers lead customer experience initiatives across an organisation, up from 45% in 2018. 


An Outside-In Perspective

If we approach the leadership question by looking at the entire customer lifecycle, it can help organisations determine which functions are involved in each specific stage to ensure that customer’s interactions are as easy, frictionless, and as pleasant as possible.  

There is no doubt that Marketing is responsible for customer awareness, acquisition and retention. However, it falls to Operations to deliver on the marketing promise post purchase across the rest of the customer lifecycle from onboarding to ownership/usage and support, all of which will largely determine if a customer re-engages with a brand or leaves to go to a competitor.  


A better approach

If you have to ask the question, who owns CX? – then perhaps you’re asking the wrong question. Because it shouldn’t sit in any one specific function. The activities that are designed by Marketing and the interactions customers have with Operations; both determine how a customer perceives their experience. 

Ideally the best solution is to set up cross-functional teams comprising Marketing, Operations, Sales and others across the business from IT, Procurement, QA, Finance and HR and have these teams responsible for owning their relevant area of customer experience. You could even have different departments leading the team for different customer journeys. For example, Sales leading a buying journey, Operations leading a support journey, Marketing leading an awareness journey, etc.  


Summary: When it comes to CX, we’re all in this together

At the end of the day, everyone in an organisation owns and is responsible for delivering a great customer experience. For this to actually happen there needs to be a customer centric culture, which is a long term and ongoing project to change the behaviours and mindsets of all employees.


If you can build this culture where everyone is accountable, several things will happen: customer experiences will improve, customer retention will increase, failure demand and your cost to serve will decrease, and it will help your business to thrive.



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