Keith Dawson's Analyst Perspectives

Customer Experience Needs Accountability with Executive Leadership

Posted by Keith Dawson on Jan 10, 2022 3:00:00 AM

The contact center is where much of customer experience management happens, but it is by no means the beginning or end of the CX story. Other departments, notably marketing and revenue, have a stake in what happens during the customer’s lifecycle. Whether it’s developing offers, orchestrating interactions or assessing behavior and intent, handling the complexity of the relationship requires a broad set of participants who are not always in alignment.

In any situation where interests conflict, there will be a competition for resources and control. The disconnect between departments is an opportunity for leadership to emerge that can apply an organization-wide lens to the problems around CX management. In many cases, a new type of C-level executive has been tasked with arbitrating between competing needs and determining what makes sense for the organization as a whole, not just the contact center or the marketing department.

These new execs are often called chief customer officers, chief experience officers or, in some specialized cases, chief data officers. The emergence of this category of executive raises some issues for how CX is governed and how it will evolve over time. It also suggests that organizations are increasingly aware of the importance of formalizing the processes involved in experience management.

VR_2022_CX_Assertion_5_SquareVentana Research asserts that by 2025, one-half of large enterprises will have assigned a dedicated, accountable executive to oversee customer experience, in the form of a Chief Customer Officer or Chief Experience Officer.

While the ranks of these executives are growing, there is still limited consensus about what the roles entail and what experience qualifies someone for the position. People are being brought into these roles from a variety of backgrounds — some from contact center or marketing operations management, or from higher roles related to marketing, revenue, finance or even IT. This makes it difficult for someone entering the position to start with a clear sense of priorities or direction that encompasses the variation in processes that fall under his or her purview.

Wherever they start their careers, CCOs and their executive colleagues are now in the hot seat, responsible for creating and maintaining strategies for customer experience that balance the cost-control ethos of the contact center with revenue-generation goals elsewhere in the organization. These folks are accountable for outcomes, and accountable for representing the combined needs of the entire CX team to senior leadership.

Anyone coming into these positions must be prepared to adjudicate between competing visions of customer experience. CX begins in the contact center, so there is a great deal of focus there on labor issues: turnover, cost control, skills and training. There is also an inherent conservatism in the contact center that makes many managers risk averse when it comes to deploying new technology or adopting new methodologies. At the same time, sales and marketing teams measure success very differently, through the framework of the outcomes of interactions: revenue generated, customer value enhanced, readiness of customers to recommend, and similar metrics.

The key responsibility for leadership is the accountability with executives to reconcile the different success criteria across CX teams and ensure they are not working at cross-purposes. It is also the responsibility of these managers to coordinate the competing technology needs and establish processes that better integrate existing tools. For example, the CCO or CXO should be working with their IT peers to ensure that customer data silos are reduced, and that analytics are widely available and based on a common set of data but made relevant to each user persona.

As organizations wrestle with the many changes affecting the delivery of customer experiences, accountable executives can establish the practice of long-term planning, something that customer experience teams (including contact centers) are not especially adept at. Treating customers has, so far, been a much more reactive than proactive process.

The risk for the executive is that the organization gives the person accountability for the outcomes of the CX process without the responsibility to make necessary changes. When it comes to purchasing and deploying technology, organizations are facing some excruciating decisions in the next several years: moving software to the cloud, adopting artificial intelligence and workflow automation across departments, and transitioning from a voice-centric call-handling posture to one that is primarily digital. Each of these decisions comes with complex trade-offs to balance the competing needs of the component CX departments.

It is possible that the presence of an executive with accountability will force compromises and collective decision-making that ultimately avoids expensive technology duplication and the creation of even more silos. Though it is early in the process for many of these organizations, it appears that these execs are also useful figures within leadership who can articulate the benefits of focusing on CX, including the impact better CX has on revenue and customer value.

Software vendors are already adapting to this executive change. We are seeing shifts in multiple market segments in how vendors approach buying teams that are cross-departmental — becoming more aware of the need to articulate selling points to different personas. Contact center vendors especially need to refocus messaging to express the value of technologies in broader contexts, like articulating the value of contact center data to marketers creating segmented audiences, for example. As the software market overall shifts from point solutions to suites with broader functionality, it is more important than ever for vendors and buyers alike to work more collaboratively. The presence — or absence — of a central authority with responsibility over the CX process may be the key factor influencing the success of transformation efforts that will take place over the next two to three years.

For further reading, see The Opportunity for CX is Beyond Your Contact Center and other resources available in Ventana Research’s Customer Experience expertise area.

Regards,

Keith Dawson

Topics: Customer Experience, Voice of the Customer, Contact Center, Field Service

Keith Dawson

Written by Keith Dawson

Keith leads the expertise in Customer Experience (CX), covering applications and technology that facilitate engagement to optimize customer-facing processes. His focus areas include: agent management, contact center and voice of the customer and technology in marketing, sales, field service and applications such as digital commerce and subscription management. Keith’s specialization is in natural language and speech tools with intelligent virtual assistants, multichannel routing and journey management, and the wide array of customer analytics. He is focused on how businesses can break down technology and operational silos to provide more efficient processes for two-way engagement with customers. Keith has been an industry analyst for more than a decade and prior was the editorial director of Call Center Magazine. There he pioneered coverage of cloud-based contact centers, speech recognition and processing, and the shift from voice to multichannel communications. He is a graduate of Amherst College.