Will the Rightful Customer Experience Owner Please Stand Up?

Experts sound off: Where should customer strategy live within an organization?
Customer Experience

Despite the varied infrastructures of companies across industries, one entity must drive all decisions-the consumer. No matter the challenge or the objective, every organization must focus strategy development processes around customer experience and satisfaction. Yet, while many businesses recognize that overall experience remains the essential differentiator in today's increasingly competitive landscape, most are still perplexed as to who within the enterprise should own responsibility for this crucial element.

While many leaders appear to believe that the customer experience should lie in the hands of one person or department within the organization, experts agree that said strategies cannot exist within a vacuum. Instead, the C-Suite must advocate for the customer, creating a top-down culture that involves employees from every area of the organization.

"If you're looking for one specific owner for customer experience, then you've got it wrong," says Gary Magenta, senior vice president at Root Inc. "Customer experience isn't about a single owner. It's about an entire corporate culture. It's a daily practice supported by all people within an organization. It's about everyone owning it."

One specific person or department, overall, cannot own the customer experience. The CEO and his or her leadership team, however, can bring the customer-centric culture to life by communicating its importance throughout the organization. Leaders must empower every employee to deliver superior customer service by providing the knowledge necessary to make real-time decisions, if necessary, and go beyond consumer expectations to drive advocacy and loyalty. This culture must put the customer first, as these important players must motivate all strategic decisions across the enterprise.

Once the C-Suite has declared its support, senior executives must determine which department should be responsible for coordinating efforts throughout the company to ensure all areas of the business are on board and prepared to pursue this optimal customer experience strategy.

"My father-in-law says the same thing every time we go into a restaurant: Get me a table close to the waiter," says Nancy Porte, vice president of global customer experience at Verint. "He has a point. Look for a department close to the executive sponsor-the advocate for the customer experience program-and start there when it comes to deciding ownership. Executive advocacy is key because that's going to help guide the program through the politics of the organization and get other executives on board, which is vital to its success. If your executive isn't a big supporter or good communicator, it's going to be tough to grow the program."

Though this method remains exclusive to each given company, all must seek an area that's already advocating for the customer and working cross-functionally to improve processes and prevent problems. Team members in these areas are most likely to already understand the end-to-end customer journey and can keep extending said journey by breaking down internal silos. Ultimately, however, everyone within the organization must be on board with becoming a customer-first culture, for success depends upon organizational alignment from the C-Suite to the frontline because all departments are responsible for executing said focus.

No matter who resides at the helm, Porte emphasizes that all companies must factor in these three considerations as they work to develop their customer experience strategies:

  1. Empower the team. Those responsible for coordinating efforts across the enterprise need help when developing an appropriate strategy. Be sure to focus on relevancy as it pertains to the company's mission and provide the resources and tools necessary to achieve customer goals.
  2. Be patient. In most scenarios, customer experience strategies are multi-year programs that require hard work and refinement across all stages of development. Encourage team members to remain positive, as they may not see distinct results for a year or more after implementation.
  3. Support the team. Because such strategies often take quite some time to roll out and establish, team members need constant support. Leverage people and experts already within the company by creating cross-functional teams that aid one another and champion the overall objectives.

Mistakes are bound to happen along the way, says Graeme Grant, president and COO of CQuotient, hence why companies must implement monitoring processes that allow teams to assess what's working and what's not so they may adjust their strategies to reflect these findings as quickly as possible. There will likely be bumps along the road, as with any new strategy, but leaders must remember that customer experience isn't an initiative or project; it's something that needs to be sustained long-term. Teams must simply remain proactive as they work to establish the proper path for their organization.

Hampton Hotels Highlights Great Customer Experiences via Video Storytelling

Hamptonality, as coined by Hampton Hotels, refers to the proactive, friendly service that defines every employee's role within the organization. Team members are consistently committed to fulfilling guests' needs, thereby going above and beyond expectations to deliver the best customer experience possible. Yet, while this term has become synonymous with the brand's internal culture, Hampton Hotels recognized the need to generate awareness, thereby leading marketers to tap into the heartfelt stories and experiences fans of Hampton Hotels were actively sharing online.

Now known as Hamptonality Moments, this external campaign was designed to impart knowledge of the brand's internal mindset to guests all over the country. Thus, Hampton associates and their accompanying production crew set out to create video testimonials featuring guests across America. These videos were derived from experiences guests shared with the brand directly, as well as those discovered online. Hampton Hotels not only wanted to celebrate its own essential differentiators, but also those guests that truly validate how amazing the Hampton experience can be.

Because this campaign grew from the inside out, Hampton Hotels employees were already on board as they've lived this culture for 10 years. Guests were also eager to share their experiences, as they're already highly engaged, loyal fans of the brand overall. For instance, one video (below) highlights the adventures of TJ Elevator Fan, a young boy who travels with his parents to Hampton Hotels properties all across the U.S., fueling his love for the brand and elevators simultaneously. In each instance, Hampton associates go out of their way to provide TJ and his family with an exceptional experience that makes them feel like they're part of the family.

Since its inception, Hampton Hotels has seen a 180 percent increase in Facebook fans, as well as a 90 percent share rate among viewers of its YouTube playlist. Through video storytelling, Hampton Hotels has put faces to the name-both employees and guests-demonstrating the symbiotic relationship between its internal focus on customer centricity and the smiles that emphasize their success.