Think the CMO is in charge of new customer communications channels, such as social media and mobile? Think again. More than half (58 percent) of C-level executives believe the CEO is responsible, while only 16 percent believe it's the marketing director, according to a new study of nearly 800 senior executives worldwide (PDF) by customer-experience management company Genesys and The Economist Intelligence Unit.
Some 38 percent of non C-level respondents, however, believe the marketing director has ultimate responsibility for overseeing how customer channels are managed, while 28 percent of middle-management executives place the burden on the CEO. The surprising findings are “a reflection that social is something that is touching all departments … so people have a reluctance to single out a single department,” said Nicolas de Kouchkovsky, CMO of Genesys, in an interview with CMO.com. "[Companies] are wrestling with new challenges, in general, and social, in particular, and don’t know how to deal with it, so when you ask the question, people say the CEO because they can’t single out the CMO.”
Additionally, he said, “The provocative nature of those results is that a lot of companies don’t exactly know how to handle the multidepartment, enterprisewide nature of the new communication challenges. In many cases, the formal responsibilities are not well-established, and for lack of a better person, they are pointing out the CEO.”
The confusion may also indicate that C-level executives have not yet placed enough emphasis on the importance of new communication channels to organize a strategic response, according to the study. For example, only 30 percent of respondents said they are using SMS, while 22 percent are using instant messaging and 20 percent are using company-branded mobile applications. This may suggest that many companies haven’t yet made the necessary changes to cater for the rapid growth and expansion of the mobile market, according to the study. “The onus is now on the C-suite to provide the clear direction that has to date often been lacking,” the study states. The best way to improve customer communication for the future, according to the study, is for top management to appreciate the need to react to changing modes of communication.
The CMO is next in line as the point person, de Kouchkovsky said, especially when the respondents were asked about their primary concerns about social media. Their main concern? The customer criticizing the brand in the social sphere. The CMO is seen as the person “responsible for defining the brand presence in the social sphere, monitoring what’s going on and how to handle a crisis.”
In addition, respondent companies are placing greater importance on social media than other communication channels. According to de Kouchkovsky, this is “almost worrisome,” and said the focus on social media seems to come at the expense of mobile technologies. “Our interpretation is that there is a lot of fear around social media, and this ties back to the fact that the primary concern expressed about social is the fear of customers criticizing the brand in the social sphere.”
De Kouchkovsky said companies need to recognize they are in a state of confusion when it comes to thinking about the other new communication channels. “It’s a pretty significant call to action to not look at those new communications” from a global, enterprise perspective, he noted. “We also see that what is going to be critical for enterprises is the ability to harness social, mobile, and the new emerging ways of communicating as part of one conversation.”
That means looking at all the different ways the consumer is going to interact with a brand. For example, if the customer is on a company’s Web site to research how to resolve an issue and asks for assistance via a Web chat, that information needs to be aggregated and passed along so if the customer then calls the company, it will know how to “apply some intelligence … behind the scene” and pick the right person to respond to a query.
The study findings are “a recognition we live in a consumer-driven economy, and what we see is that on one side of the spectrum, we have a lot of focus from the enterprise about the consumer experience,” de Kouchkovsky said. A company comes up with a strategy and then typically asks marketing to define the expectations through the branding that consumers should expect from their brand, he says. On the other side, “We see a big gap between the amount of focus given to setting the expectation for the branding and advertising, and the amount of focus put on defining the experience when the enterprise interacts with consumers,” he says. “That’s a big issue a lot of enterprises are wrestling with.”
At the end of the day, de Kouchkovsky said, consumers want to be connected to the enterprise using any form of communications, and they want their experiences to be tied together through those different channels. They also want to be helped by the right person with the right knowledge, they want to be remembered, and they expect their experiences will be personalized accordingly.
A final surprise finding of the study was that “marketing dominates the response to social media, and customer service, although critical in defining the experience of consumers, is actually not seen as a key player.” Only 6 percent of survey respondents singled out customer service as the main purpose of social media, while 60 percent selected marketing and PR, de Kouchkovsky said.
“CMOs need to stretch out to the customer service department to make sure the response from the company to the new channel is not limited to representing the brand in the social sphere and other channels and monitoring it, but [also] … getting involved with customer service in how the enterprise responds to consumers and defines their experience,” he said.