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How businesses can break down barriers for better customer service


A business more concerned with functions instead of outcomes will never truly meet, let alone exceed, its customers’ expectations.

Yet, how many times have we, as consumers, been passed from one company’s department to another, as they expose to us their internal structures and fragmented approach to customer experience?

Whether in the B2B or B2C arena, customers frankly don’t care that a business has a marketing team, a sales team, and a customer support team. All they know is that they need assistance with something — completing a purchase, making an enquiry, or understanding which product is right for them. Who solves this problem for them is of little to no importance. They simply want their problem resolved, and quickly.

In spite of this, too many businesses take a siloed approach between marketing, sales and customer experience teams — an approach that ensures each function remains ‘in its lane’, working towards their particular KPIs, with little priority given to how the customer experiences the three. The result is an organisation focused on functions instead of outcomes or impact to customers, and lacks accountability, which doesn’t bode well for driving business growth. Worse yet, it leaves the customer with the same problem they had at the beginning.

The growing irrelevance of traditional marketing skills to the needs of modern business

Marketing as a standalone function – whether in a B2C, B2B or B2C2B perspective – has lost relevance in recent years. With the advent of data, including automated data, and the increasing importance of data-driven marketing, many CMOs are finding that their practised verses in marketing principles are turning old-hat in the wake of the deep analytical and technical skills necessary to effectively leverage data insights and translate them into actionable insights for other business units.

As data-driven marketing increasingly permeates all aspects of the marketing team, from building and understanding customer profiles, to optimising campaigns, and measuring return on investment, marketers who have lagged behind in upskilling or reskilling in technical areas may find their value eclipsed. It’s my prediction that the need for standalone CMO roles will increasingly diminish in favour of more integrated approaches – ones that encompass sales, product, technology, and even finance, in order to drive true business growth. A marketer’s toolkit, while important, is now not sufficient for the demands of the modern, tech-enabled business.

Already, we are seeing a continually evolving C-Suite where roles encapsulate more holistic and cross-functional approaches, and the CMO’s traditional marketing-focused role is no different. The rise in marketing-adjacent titles, such as Chief Brand Officers, Chief Experience Officers and so forth, also don’t aid the CMO’s quest for relevancy, as it makes it clear that change is necessary. A recent McKinsey survey tracking the relationship between CEOs and CMOs found only 22 per cent of marketing executives say their job is well-defined and understood by other C-Suite executives, down from 31 per cent in 2019. With customers having no clear point of contact, this is unsurprising.

Thinking beyond silos will put the customer at the fore 

Businesses need to think about customer success and, with that, end-to-end growth. This will come down to introducing a culture of alignment and cohesion. While many brands talk about being customer-obsessed, how do they know if they are actually delivering on this promise? How do you measure or keep teams accountable for being customer-obsessed?

Most traditional marketing roles are mapped on a plot; they go up and down the funnel, but we need to recognise that growth, and growing the customer base, and improving the customer experience is more of a continuous circle, and will require an approach that takes a more bird’s eye and more collaborative view of growth impact within a business.Allocating growth as a primary success measurement for CMOs is disingenuous because business growth doesn’t merely come from marketing. Marketing is just one growth output, and boards and leadership teams that pile pressure onto a CMO to be solely tasked with growth – either in customer, subscription or sales numbers – are not only doing a disservice to the CMO, but the organisation as a whole. Instead, leveraging product-led or sales-led growth and pulling these components together with marketing-led growth will be the key to successful and sustainable growth.

Marketing plays only one role in shaping and delivering exceptional customer experiences. It’s an important puzzle piece, yes, but increasingly we will see other C-Suite roles such as Chief Customer Officers, Chief Experience Officers, or Chief Growth Officers emerge to lead a more comprehensive view of the end-to-end customer journey.

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