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Thought leadership

Emerging from a recession, with masses of technology at our fingertips, most organizations are not wanting for ways to gather the data that will help define and engage the suddenly confident consumer. But it is what we do with that data once it is collected that matters most. And, unfortunately, many companies still don't fully understand how to use those consumer insights profitably and responsibly, often with damaging results to performance, reputation or both.

Enter the new CMO: Hired to get customer engagement back on track, though no two people in the C-suite connect on how to get there. Each is looking through a slightly different lens—the CFO is charged with improving top- and bottom-line growth, the COO is responsible for day-to-day procedures and making sure the trains run on time, and the CEO is concerned with the overall company vision and what to tell the investment community.

 

How to influence change

In an increasingly competitive landscape, where technology is a field leveller and the consumer has more power than ever, the organization has a clear mandate – a return to profitable growth and solid shareholder return. But as a new CMO, your experience tells you to start with a deep understanding of your customer. But how can you use insights from customer data to reach the rest of the C-suite and influence change throughout the organization?

Here are five ways to influence change across all facets of the organization.

 

Invite the C-suite to develop joint ownership of the vision: If a company wants to build customer engagement, then its leaders first have to make sure everyone at the table agrees how to leverage customer to create real financial and operational gains. Spending time as an executive group will enable the team to create meaningful opportunities that not only ensure buy-in, but also allow the group to consensually define the metrics of success. It takes work – there are costs to budget, goals to set and reliable performance measures to be established.

Every executive plays a key role, so together they must define the level of engagement to strive for, chart the course and specify the deliverables to which each is accountable. Then, it is up to the C-suite to communicate the vision consistently to ensure each of their stakeholders is supportive of the key tasks required to make the vision come to life.

 

Become customer-committed: Many companies are product-obsessed; they operate with complete focus on creating, developing and enhancing their products to meet an existing need. Others are opportunists—they obsess on product, but also use their data occasionally to solve issues involving service, sales dips or shrinking baskets.

Both of these types of companies operate every day. But in times of dramatically shifting technologies or fickle consumer demands, it is the customer-committed company that stands apart. These organizations place the customer at the center of their business equation, commit to two-way dialogues, and use a deft balance of data and innovation to design a relevant customer experience. So how do you put the data to work in this way?

 

Share the customer data with all divisions of the organization: Incorporating customer data into your core operations does not mean tearing up the playbook—it just requires writing a new introduction. It involves releasing the customer data from the marketing department, where organizations tend to hoard it, and sharing it across all departments, from finance to store planning and even with the legal department.

Then, everyone can align their priorities against high-value, high-potential customers, identify the critical customer encounters that define your brand’s unique value, and change their activities with the express purpose of better serving those customers. The goal is not merely to improve the customer experience, but to transform it so that you get an emotional connection. A starting point is to map out all of the organization’s customer touch points and then prioritize them.

 

Link performance incentives to customer metrics: For your peers to buy into your vision, they must see a direct connection between your department and the bottom line. To stay motivated and continually prove the business case, make sure your dashboard is tied back to the overall goal of achieving higher customer engagement. For example, measurable satisfaction ratings for the top 20% of your critical customer touch points should connect to compensation and rewards across all departments, including logistics, merchandising and PR.

 

Don’t forget the quick wins: Identify three to five ways the company can make fast progress. A series of “quick wins” will help build commitment and excitement during the change-management process and help rally support for embracing the pursuit of customer intimacy. You’ll find the old 80/20 rule in effect here, in that 20% of the activities will generate 80% of the gain. Identify the priority areas, narrow them down to the easy and impactful items, and you will see quick gains.

Bryan Pearson is president and CEO of LoyaltyOne

 

 

 

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