Who is responsible for your customer experience?


With the rise of subscription business models, more and more executives are woke to the importance of customer experience. The customer experience is one of those classic “everyone’s responsibility” issues because the tentacles of customer experience reach into every part of the organization. Unfortunately, when *everyone* is supposed to own a problem, that often means that *nobody” does.

This is another classic case where the CMO jumps (or is thrown) into the void to solve the problem.

I had the opportunity to sit down with about a dozen CMOs from Boston companies today to discuss these issues at the MassTLC CMO group, hosted at the beautiful new headquarters of PTC in the Boston Seaport.

The discussion was lively and wide-ranging, but some clear themes jumped out:

CX is an increasingly important topic (Duh.)

OK, so that isn’t so surprising, but it confirmed what we all knew. Every CMO at this event had an initiative underway to improve and/or measure customer experience. Every one. There could have been some audience bias there (it was a CX discussion…), and it could be related to the fact that all the companies were innovative ones, but it is clear that CX matters to most CMOs. The other interesting point was that 100% of the companies had some kind of subscription-based element to their business, including companies like PTC that have been around with traditional perpetual license models for decades.

B2B vs. B2C doesn’t really matter.

Another no-brainer – we all agreed that it doesn’t matter whether you sell to businesses or consumers, the customer experience still matters. People are still people. The world gets more complex in a B2B marketing world because the decision makers and implementers are not always the users of the system. And in some cases, the users are not the direct beneficiaries of the solution value, but they need to have the right experience.

Instrumentation isn’t often there.

We can all nod our heads and say that CX matters, but in many cases, we can’t really measure what is happening with our experience. If you have a SaaS product, have you instrumented the product to illuminate usage patterns? Can you track each touch point and map it to your customers, or customer segments? That gets challenging when you have lots of support options, including social support.

Channels add complexity, but you still need to figure it out.

If you thought it wasn’t hard enough, what happens when you introduce an indirect channel? Some CMOs have a strong focus on channel tools and enablement to make sure that their channel has the right information and training to deliver and appropriate experience. This gets even harder when your business model isn’t aligned with the new subscription economy. For example, if you sell a $100,000 BMW, you do that through a dealer channel and you recognize all that revenue up front – so what can you do to deliver ongoing value to the customer and how do you adapt your business model to accommodate?

From buyer journey to customer journey.

Many of the CMOs in the room just got done documenting their buyer journey – and that was hard enough. Now they need to extend their analysis through the entire customer lifecycle. While some in the room had some efforts underway, many had work to do in this area.

Dealing with physical products.

There were some great examples in the room of companies who had to deal with physical products. Companies like Owl Labs makes an innovative collaboration device, but they have to deal with the realities of physical products and customer experience. Our hosts, PTC, had a lot to offer here given their strength in IoT technologies. Eric Snow, the SVP of corporate marketing for PTC talked about the transition from humans being the sensors for products (when there is an issue, they call support), to products being sensors for human behavior.

Expanding the “corporate briefing center” into the rest of your customer experience.

Another topic that was well illustrated from our setting was the idea of extending that corporate experience to a distributed organization. We were sitting in the gleaming PTC Tower in the Boston Seaport in their customer briefing center – which delivered an amazing experience. But how do we extend that experience into the rest of our customer interactions?

How much of this should marketing own?

A central discussion what the role of marketing – and the CMO – in customer experience. Clearly, the CMO should advocate for the customer, but how do the “own” the CX issue? The reality is that they can’t own all of it, but they can define the brand and support the company values in a way that makes everyone understand the importance of the customer experience. And they can play a major role in the measurement of experience. (Quick aside: there was general agreement that NPS has “jumped the shark” and we really don’t need to ask customers how likely they are to recommend their $7 Amazon purchase.)

A new marketing system – beyond the demand waterfall.

The group had to re-calibrate at one point because we got stuck in the mode of pre-sales discussions. As marketers have focused more on measurability, they have built out detailed metrics to understand their demand waterfall, but if they are not careful, they will focus too much on customer acquisition and miss the larger point (and opportunity) to optimize the entire customer experience. I wrote about this last year and need to expand my thinking even further after the discussion we had today.

How do you get started?

As you can tell, there is a lot inside the CX topic, and it can be overwhelming. So where should a CMO start? I would recommend that, if you haven’t done so, you start by measuring. Do an audit of your customer experience – even at a high level to start – and share the findings with the rest of the management team. Engage your peers in the topic – you don’t need to do a land grab and declare ownership, but instead enlist your colleagues in the topic and play the role of chief customer experience advocate.


Latest Posts


Interviews, tips, guides, industry best practices, and news.

Get Started with Planful

  • LinkedIn
    How much time will you save?
  • LinkedIn
    How will your finance team evolve?
  • LinkedIn
    Where will technology support you?