The CMOs Role in Delivering Omnichannel Customer Experiences

omnichannel
The CMOs Role in Delivering Omnichannel Customer Experiences

This article was originally posted on Argyle CMO Journal and is re-posted here with permission.

According to a new global study from SDL, 90% of consumers expect a consistent customer experience across channels and devices when they interact with brands. However, according to these survey results, Gartner Survey Finds Importance of Customer Experience on the Rise — Marketing is on the Hook, fewer than half of the companies surveyed rank their customer experience as exceptional today. The good news is that two-thirds expect it to be exceptional in two years. In fact, 89% plan to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience by 2016.

So, what role do CMOs play in delivering omnichannel customer experiences?

According to a recent report, Gartner’s Executive Summary for Leadership Accountability and Credibility within the C-Suite, a high percentage of CEOs expect CMOs to lead the integrated cross-functional customer experience. Also, customer experience is one of the top three areas of investment for CMOs in the next two years.

I had the pleasure of participating on a panel discussion at the Argyle CMO Forum in Dallas a few months ago. It focused on the emergence of omnichannel and the need to deliver seamless, integrated and consistent customer experiences across channels.

Lisa Zoellner, Chief Marketing Officer of Golfsmith International, was the dynamic moderator, kept the conversation lively, and the audience engaged. I was a panelist alongside:

Lisa Zoellner, CMO, Golfsmith International opened the panel with a statistic.

Fifty-five percent of marketers surveyed feel they are playing catch up to customer expectations. But in that gap is a big opportunity.

What is your definition of omnichannel?

There was consensus among the group that omnichannel is about seeing your business through the eyes of your customer and delivering seamless, integrated and consistent customer experiences across channels.

Customers don’t think in terms of channels and touch points; they just expect seamless, integrated and consistent customer experiences. It’s one brand to the customer. But there is a gap between customer expectations and what most businesses can deliver today.

In fact, executives at most organizations I’ve spoken with, including the panelists, believe they are in the very beginning stages of their journey towards delivering omnichannel customer experiences. The majority are still struggling to get a single view of customers, products and inventory across channels.

Customers don’t think in terms of channels and touch points; they just expect seamless, integrated and consistent customer experiences.

What are some of the core challenges standing in your way?

A key takeaway was that omnichannel requires organizations to fundamentally change how they do business. In particular, it requires changing existing business practices and processes. It cannot be done without cross-functional collaboration.

I think Chris Berg, VP, Store Operations at The Home Depot said it well, “One of the core challenges is the annual capital allocation cycle, which makes it difficult for organizations to be nimble. Most companies set strategies and commitments 12-24 months out and approach these strategies in silos. Marketing, operations, and merchandising teams typically ask for capital separately. Rarely does this process start with asking the question, ‘What is the core strategy we want to align ourselves around over the next 24 months?’ If you begin there and make a single capital allocation request to pursue that strategy, you remove one of the largest obstacles standing in the way.”

Chip Burgard, Senior Vice President of Marketing at CitiMortgage focused on two big barriers. “The first one is a systems barrier. I know a lot of companies struggle with this problem. We’re operating with a channel-centric rather than a customer-centric view. Now that we need to deliver omnichannel customer experiences, we realize we’re not as customer-centric as we thought we were. We need to understand what products our customers have across lines-of-business such as, credit cards, banking, investments and mortgage. But, our systems weren’t providing a total customer relationship view across products and channels. Now, we’re making progress on that. The second barrier is compensation. We have a commission-based sales force. How do you compensate the loan officers if a customer starts the transaction with the call center but completes it in the branch? That’s another issue we’re working on.”

Lisa Zoellner, CMO at Golfsmith International added, “I agree that compensation is a big barrier. Companies need to rethink their compensation plans. The sticky question is ‘Who gets credit for the sale?’ It’s easy to say that you’re channel-agnostic, but when someone’s paycheck is tied to the performance of a particular channel, it makes it difficult to drive that type of culture change.”

“We have a complicated business. More than 500 Hyatt hotels and resorts span multiple brands and regions,” said Chris Brogan, SVP of Strategy and Analytics at Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. “But, customers want a seamless experience no matter where they travel. They expect that the preference they shared during their Hyatt stay at a hotel in Singapore is understood by the person working at the next hotel in Dallas. So, we’re bridging those traditional silos all the way down to the hotel. A guest doesn’t care if the person they’re interacting with is from the building engineering department, from the food and beverage department, or the rooms department. It’s all part of the same customer experience. So we’re looking at how we share the information that’s important to guests to keep the customer the focus of our operations.”

We’re working together collectively to meet our customers’ needs across the channels they are using to engage with us.

How are companies powering great customer experiences with great customer data?

Chris Brogan, SVP of Strategy and Analytics at Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, said, “We’re going through a transformation to unleash our colleagues to deliver great customer experiences at every stage of the guest journey. Our competitive differentiation comes from knowing our customers better than our competitors. We manage our customer data like a strategic asset so we can use that information to serve customers better and build loyalty for our brand.”

Hyatt connects the fragmented customer data from numerous applications including sales, marketing, ecommerce, customer service and finance. They bring the core customer profiles together into a single, trusted location, where they are continually managed. Now their customer profiles are clean, de-duplicated, enriched, and validated. They can see the members of a household as well as the connections between corporate hierarchies. Business and analytics applications are fueled with this clean, consistent and connected information so customer-facing teams can do their jobs more effectively and hotel teams can extend simple, meaningful gestures that drive guest loyalty.

When he first joined Hyatt, Chris did a search for his name in the central customer database and found 13 different versions of himself. This included the single Chris Brogan who lived across the street from Wrigley Field with his buddies in his 20s and the Chris Brogan who lives in the suburbs with his wife and two children. “I can guarantee those two guys want something very different from a hotel stay. Mostly just sleep now,” he joked. Those guest profiles have now been successfully consolidated.

This solid customer data foundation means Hyatt colleagues can more easily personalize a guest’s experience. For example, colleagues at the front desk are now able to use the limited check-in time to congratulate a new Diamond member on just achieving the highest loyalty program tier or offer a better room to those guests most likely to take them up on the offer and appreciate it.

According to Chris, “Successful marketing, sales and customer experience initiatives need to be built on a solid customer data foundation. It’s much harder to execute effectively and continually improve if your customer data is not in order.”

How are you shifting from channel-centric to customer-centric?

Chip Burgard, SVP of Marketing at CitiMortgage answered, “In the beginning of our omnichannel journey, we were trying to allow customer choice through multi-channel. Our whole organization was designed around people managing different channels. But, we quickly realized that allowing separate experiences that a customer can choose from is not being customer-centric.

Now we have new sales leadership that understands the importance of delivering seamless, integrated and consistent customer experiences across channels. And they are changing incentives to drive that customer-centric behavior. We’re no longer holding people accountable specifically for activity in their channels. We’re working together collectively to meet our customers’ needs across the channels they are using to engage with us.”

Chris Berg, VP of Store Operations at The Home Depot, explained, “For us, it’s about transitioning from a store-centric to customer-centric approach. It’s a cultural change. The managers of our 2,000 stores have traditionally been compensated based on their own store’s performance. But we are one brand. For example in the future, a store may be fulfilling an order, however because of the geography of where the order originated they may not receive credit for the sale. We’re in the process of working through how to better reward that collaboration. Also, we’re making investments in our systems so they support an omnichannel, or what we call interconnected, business. We have 40,000 products in store and over 1,000,000 products online. Now that we’re on the interconnected journey, we’re rethinking how we manage our product information so we can better manage inventory across channels more effectively and efficiently.”

Summary

Omnichannel is all about shifting from channel-centric to customer-centric – much more customer-centric than you are today. Knowing who your customers are and having a view of products and inventory across channels are the basic requirements to delivering exceptional customer experiences across channels and touch points.

This is not a project. A business transformation is required to empower people to deliver omnichannel customer experiences. The executive team needs to drive it and align compensation and incentives around it. A collaborative cross-functional approach is needed to achieve it.

Omnichannel depends on customer-facing teams such as marketing, sales and call centers to have access to a total customer relationship view based on clean, consistent and connected customer, product and inventory information. This is the basic foundation needed to deliver seamless, integrated and consistent customer experiences across channels and touch points and improve their effectiveness.

Are you customer ready? Check out our Customer Ready website for more valuable resources, including an eBook  to help you master the chaos of customer experience.