Home > Call Center, Customer Service, Social CRM, SocialCRM Data > Is the Office of the CMO the Right Place to Drive Customer Engagement?

Is the Office of the CMO the Right Place to Drive Customer Engagement?

Primary sourced research is valuable, adding one’s own interpretations (which I will) is the added benefit of blogging. The most recent IBM research “From Stretched to Strengthened – Insights from the Global Chief Marketing Officer Study” (URL) is a good read. Research based on CMO conversations is arguably meant for a CMOs. As usual, I found myself considering this from a different perspective. The question which kept popping into my head was whether the office of the CMO is the right place to drive the call to action suggested by the report. I am not it sure is, there, I said it. The CMO should be part of the team, but not the leader of the team. I believe that the research needs to be read by others within the organization as well.

The three imperatives identified by the report, in no particular order:

  • Deliver value to empowered customers;
  • Foster lasting connections;
  • Capture value, measure results.

Being brutally honest, I agree with the first, not so sure about the second; at least not in the way the company will make it happen. Finally, while I agree results need to be measured, I am not sure what “capturing value” is about (in this context). The message that keeps hitting the reader over the head is that CMOs are more than a bit nervous regarding the new, cool ‘socially’, stuff and are now concerned about the amount of data coming their way; because of all this new stuff. There is a bit of parroting going on as well, talking about engagement, but, in my opinion, not a clue how to actually do it.

Seasoned marketers are having a tough time understanding social media and are concerned with multi-channel initiatives (called channel choice,  just wait until they try to solve cross-channel) and are unprepared for shifting customer communication preferences. I suppose that I should not be too surprised by some of the findings, as the areas of concern are relatively new (3-5 years) and were not top down initiatives; they came either from the bottom up, or from customers themselves.

Some issues and concerns

While I do agree, strongly, with the following sentiment, this is going to be a struggle of monumental proportions to execute solely within the marketing organization:

“The most effective CMOs focus on getting to know individuals, not just markets. They mine new digital information sources. And they use customer analytics to turn data into insights on which their organizations can act.”

Traditionally, marketers look at markets, while Customer Service talk to customers (Figure 6 in the report proves the point). How do you convince a CMO who has “Data explosion” at the top of the list of concerns to speak with and listen to individual customers? Without a doubt, the more customers you connect with, the more insights that can be gleaned. But, that does of course mean a whole lot of data, no? Please, do not get me wrong this is critically important, but hard. The CMO cannot do it alone, nor should they try.

In the ‘Tough questions to consider’ area, I cannot help but to think that these are the exact same questions that customer service and multi-channel contact centers have been working to solve for the past 5-10 years (not that we are there yet):

  • How are you gearing your ‘teams’, programs and processes to understand individuals and not just markets?
  • Which tools and processes are you investing in to better understand and respond to what individual customers are saying and doing?
  • How do you safeguard your customers’ data and privacy in a multichannel, multi-device world?

Yes, the intersection of business process, CRM and contact centers is the future of customer experience. The umbrella term is Business Technology. These core elements are the center-piece of the contact center, now and in the future. The companies who get it will be sharing the responsibility of delivery, and there will be a person accountable for the results – not likely to be the CMO.

Does this map to earlier research?

An earlier IBM report, which I also wrote a post about (The Perception Gap), shows that many organizations are missing the point. “Customers do not want a relationship with your business, they want the benefits a relationship can offer to them”. It is clear to most people that talking is not the same as engaging. Here is what I think is not so clear, listening is NOT the same as engaging. Active listening maybe, proving you heard what was said (by actions and words), now that is engagement.

It begs the question: are the CMOs really the ones who are going to engage? If the objective is really about helping customers to enjoy the products and services they have just purchased and your desire is to collaborate and to co-create new products and services, is the CMO the right person (office) to lead this charge? I would say “No” because marketers are used to looking at markets, not engaging with individual customers. I am sure I will get a lot of flack for the blasphemous comments, but I ask you to consider it for a moment.

In the image to the right, the report suggests “Outperforming” organizations “invest more effort in capturing and using data to foster customer relationships”. Yes, the data does suggest that to be the case. However, they also invest more effort in Segmentation/targeting as well as Action/buy and I am hard pressed to see conclusive evidence suggesting which one of the investments is driving the success. Given what I like to talk about, write about and analyze, I would like nothing more than for the chart to prove a causal relationship. However, it does not answer to the needs of the customer either (this is an inside-out versus outside-in perspective).

The previous IBM research paints a different picture of what the customer wants (or at least what they say they want). Back to my core concern, do you trust the CMO to make the required changes to meet the customers where it will work?  If you are the CEO, are you driving the CMO in the right direction? Or, if you are the CMO, does it make more sense to get a bit closer to the contact center and work together to properly engage with the customers on their terms and offer the real value that they are looking for? (Too harsh?) It is always possible that my comments are also too myopic coming from the other direction, but I am not convinced that is the case.

  1. October 24, 2011 at 5:35 am

    Commenting on your interpretation is another benefit of blogging 🙂

    One of the things that has not been explored in any great detail is how to reconciliate the macro (market) view of customers and the micro (focused) view of the customer. We segment according sometimes arbitrary or non-essential criteria within marketing, in order to offer a service based on what we think these groups are looking for, whilst at the same time responding to individual customer queries based on the flow of the conversation rather than taking into account the previously determined segmentation (be it done well or not).

    The question you ask above begs a further look at the role of Marketing – in the sense that whether you consider the holistic customer experience, including post-sale, to be part of Market/Value Proposition or not. If so,then “Power to the CMO”! If not, then as within most organisations where lead generation and customer service are separated, you should just be aiming for better coordination and collaboration (as you have previously written about) so as to make sure that each understands the impact of the one upon the other.

    So maybe the next thing to study is the causal relationship between the value proposition and how each Department contributes to it, and how the value is created and flows between them. Maybe Verna Allee can help us here? http://www.valuenetworksandcollaboration.com/


    • rotkapchen
      October 26, 2011 at 6:51 am

      Unless and until the CMO has the authority to change operations (permanently solve org design problems), they will not be the right resource. But it then begs the question, who then?

      • Mitch Lieberman
        October 26, 2011 at 11:09 am


        Could you please ask a simpler question? 🙂

        I do believe it needs to be team made up of people with experience in marketing and customer service. I am going to stop short of calling is a cross functional team or a matrixed team as those bring along their own baggage. The owner of the team is a role ‘like’ Chief Customer Officer, with the authority to engage customers, make required changes to the operations, as well well to stop marketing from putting forth programs which are not in line with core objectives.


  2. Mitch Lieberman
    October 24, 2011 at 7:31 am


    I would expect nothing less 🙂

    Excellent point regarding the reconciliation – or lack thereof. I was having very similar thoughts when I saw the recent Nielsen Infographic / Data (US). For example, a slide states that a user of social media is an 18-34 female who lives in New England… Uh, and how does that matter to me and my business (especially if I am selling men’s specialty shoes in Alabama)?

    Nice link as well, something further to help us figure this all out!


  3. dariasteigman
    November 29, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Hi Mitch,

    A friend just pointed me to your post. It’s interesting, because I didn’t read the survey quite so literally to suggest that CMOs need to be talking one-on-one with customers (though once in a while that might be a good idea) or managing the customer service function. Perhaps because I think the silo problem that Paula alludes to is going to persist a while, I looked at this more in terms of the broader issues that marketers are struggling with and having trouble coping with.

    The disconnect between markets and individuals, in particular, stood out to me too; it points to the lack of understanding of what customers want (engagement, solutions).

    Here’s my take, fyi (http://bit.ly/s9byPC), which focused also on the opportunities in here for smaller companies.

  4. Mitch Lieberman
    November 29, 2011 at 5:00 pm


    First off, thanks for taking the time to share thoughts, I do appreciate it and learn a lot from comments. I often look at things with a ‘skewed lens’, if you will, so I am sometimes wrong or just drive too deeply into a topic, often beyond what authors intend.

    Stealing a quick peek at your take, I think we are closer to alignment than not, wishful thinking maybe. You suggest “And, yet, the downside of looking only at aggregate data is that they are forced to make a lot of assumptions about individual behaviors.” This is where the crux of the issue (many issues) sits in my opinion. I actually think we need to get down to the individual, but that will take some hard work.

    I had the opportunity, today as it happens, to speak with someone who I have a lot of respect for on the practitioners side. He is doing some of what we are both suggesting, but he does not sit in customer support nor marketing. He sits in what is now a shared service. Shared services suggest (again, maybe wishful thinking) silo busting capabilities. Or, the dangerous side, another silo (let’s hope not).

    Cheers – Mitch

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