Study: Who is best fit to manage "voice of the customer"?

Organizations placing priority on understanding and engaging with customer

Over the next three years, global organizations will make understanding and interacting with the customer their top priority. So says a new study from The Economist Intelligence Unit Voice of the customer: Whose job is it, anyway? Yet only 56 percent of respondents to the survey, sponsored by SAS, believe their companies clearly understand the customer today.

Worryingly, many companies find it challenging to restructure their businesses around the customer, having been organized traditionally around products or geographies. Only six in ten viewed their companies as customer-centric and just over half report a clear understanding of customers' tastes and needs.

So whose responsibility will it be to champion the voice of the customer within the organization? And what new skills and capabilities will they need in order to restructure around the customer instead of products? The report reveals a disconnect amongst executives on these questions. Nearly one-quarter of CMOs surveyed want a Chief Customer Officer to take responsibility; another quarter see the onus on themselves. Currently, the CMO is considered the voice of the customer at just 18 percent of organizations, trailing the head of sales (31 percent).

Obstacles for the CMO include the diversity of the CMOs' current obligations, few of which are currently customer-facing functions. Regardless, whoever aspires to serve as the voice of the customer must draw on customer insights to create an exceptional customer experience that spans all physical and digital channels. The key to the CMO delivering on an organizations' evolving customer-centric mandate may lie in the rise of web, social and mobile channels that are poised to take on greater significance in customer engagement.

In the next three years, social and mobile will eclipse e-mail and the corporate website for customer engagement. Few organizations, however, are currently leveraging emerging social and mobile media channels effectively to reach customers. While social media is predicted to become the second most important channel for customer communication, face-to-face interactions will remain the most important customer engagement channel.

"A growing shift to digital marketing also provides a rich foundation for data-driven customer insight," says Wilson Raj, Global Customer Intelligence Director for SAS. "CMOs are in a prime position to be champions for the voice of the customer—if they shore up digital and customer analytics skills across the marketing organization."

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