Who Owns the Customer Experience?

November 15, 2016


Marketing? Sales? Customer Service? Who is best equipped to manage-as Forrester Research calls it-“closing the customer-employee Gap”? Who’s in charge of your customer experience, and is it the right person? Let’s explore the options of who owns this as part of their areas of accountability…

I use the phrase customer experience, but you may have heard the concept from the stand point of advocacy marketing or even just brand reputation. By looking at it from the perspective of the experience as opposed to the larger ideas of advocacy or reputation management, you have the opportunity to explore both the positive and negative touch points customers have with your company.


A lot of companies want to nurture and speak to only the customers who like them (aka their advocates). But there is a big opportunity to expand from the insights from people who want to give you the chance to have them speak positively about you to others to make strategic innovations at your company; routinely these chances to impress come when people don’t have the best experience from you or your product. At the end of the day, customer experience influences your advocacy marketing and brand reputation.


No matter what you call it, the goal is the same: to get current customers to put in a good word for you when they talk (and they do talk) with potential buyers. In both B2B and B2C, people trust the opinions of their peers and friends who have experienced the product or service first hand more than any other piece of marketing your team can come up with. You could have the best ad out there, but if someone asks their friend about it and their recommendation is to run-not walk-away from you based on their experience, well guess what, you have two detractors out in the world talking to more prospective clientele. The morale here: you don’t have to buy a product to have an experience with it. I call it the ‘I heard’ effect, and it’s on you to be responsible for what people hear & how they respond.

We all interact with a multitude of brands each and every day. By being proactive about managing the advocacy process, you can help move passives and detractors into people who will go out of their way to positively advocate for your brand. This is what I call recruiting advocates. It’s so important to stay top of mind for your customers in a good way, and these are relationships that take time to develop. Think of it this way: would you want to be friends with someone who barely talks to you and never listens when you do talk? Of course not! 


We know that customer-listening happens in silos. From web analytics and online surveys to deploying social listening, companies use many different tactics to listen to, track and analyze data. Yet the fruits of these various investments often remain hidden within the walls of the sponsoring department (ex. NPS scores in customer service or survey results in marketing).


There are a few departments that continually involved in the experience conversation: marketing, customer service, sales and account management. Of course every department has its area of accountability; marketing analyzes brand reputation while customer service deals with productivity of the call center or the email queue. While working on emails, the service team doesn’t relay message trends or share the customer feedback they hear daily with the marketing team. Let’s take a look to see what department is best suited for the job.




Lead generation is a big goal for this department so they would excel at the part of customer experience that involves customer referrals.


The caveat with marketing departments are that their hands have been historically tied by providing tangible results around return on investment (ROI) on any of their new initiatives. While customer experience does have metrics and analytics, a lot of the brand experience doesn’t have a set number of guidelines for standard key performance indicators (KPIs). This is because your advocates are going to talk about your brand in a variety of ways and even with the most robust advocacy program, it can be hard to track all of the metrics the marketing department is responsible for.


A traditional marketing department can’t really own customer experience efforts because they tend to lack an ongoing relationship with existing customers. Marketing is usually only accountable to drive new business and then move to the next campaign to drive more new business.


Customer Support


The customer service team directly interacts with customers, and they are talking to your buyers on a daily basis. Customers come to their team by default. So does that mean they’re the ones who you should put in charge of these efforts?


While it may seem like they are the best group to own your advocate marketing and experience, they aren’t.  This is because their interaction with customers is mostly reactive and largely limited to product support or a specific part of your service. This team can provide insights to other teams and the business leadership, but they have no control over what happens to the customers before talking to their team.


Account Management


Account managers are the natural owners for relationship building with customers. Sure, Account managers are the original caretakers of the customers, but their roles are highly incentivized to get the customer (and revenue) into your company.


Advocacy is like a relationship remember, and this group would be the love ‘em and leave ‘em type. They have no reason to stay in the relationship with customers. They get rewarded the more they can repeat the cycle and move on to the next account. So unless you plan to overhaul the incentive and bonus structure for this team so they can make money from their efforts, this probably isn’t the best group to lead the customer experience.


In addition to these three departments, some newly developed roles are now involved in the strategic conversation around experience. These are Customer Success Managers, Brand Advocacy Managers, and Chief Customer Officers.

I believe everyone shares in the stake of your Advocacy Marketing efforts, but there should be one person who’s strategically guiding the principles around the customer experience. If possible, it’s best to carve out a new role for someone who is passionate about this type of work. Out of the customer-centric departments, I think it’s best for the marketing team to spearhead the collective effort to drive Advocate Marketing and implement it at your company. At least for now….It will be very interesting to see how the emerging roles of Chief Customer Officer and the newly appointed Brand Advocacy Managers take shape.


The thing that is becoming clearer is that someone needs to take on the responsibility of proactively managing the experience. By doing so, you’ll retain the clients you have and build your pipeline with high quality leads who know you’re the best at what you do, in part due to the premium experience you provide them.

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