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CX: A Strategic Debate on Its Place in the Organization

In today's corporate landscape, a crucial question arises: should Customer Experience (CX) reside under Marketing, or should it stand as an autonomous entity? This debate was recently tackled at the CMA Cafe discussion, led by Stephan Sigaud, CMO at Phase 5. Insights from industry leaders like Diana Brink-Gourlay, VP of Marketing at Aviva Canada, Steve Muscat, VP of Strategic Partnerships at Active International, Sandra Greene, President & Chief Strategist at SG Consulting, and entrepreneur Ali Arslanyuregi, offered diverse perspectives on this matter.

 

The Complexity of CX Integration

Diana Brink-Gourlay set the stage by emphasizing the impact of the insurance industry’s regulatory landscape on CX management. "Regulators across the country are increasingly focused on fair treatment of customers, including the management of complaints appropriately and quickly," she explains. This dual mandate has exponentially expanded, increasing the reporting burden and shifting attention from direct customer engagement.

This regulatory pressure sparked an internal debate: should the reporting aspect of CX justify a move to Finance? Despite the pros and cons, Diana notes that at Aviva, “a few years ago, CX was moved to Marketing after having lived within the business lines. And this new structure has functioned well.”

 

The Intersection of Brand, Experience, and Operations

Stephan Sigaud emphasizes the integral role of CX in fulfilling the brand promise. "Your CX is how that promise is being delivered," he notes, stressing the importance of a unified vision that spans from brand marketing to operational execution. This perspective aligns with the view that CX transcends traditional departmental boundaries, touching every facet of the customer journey.

Sandra supports this view, noting that “the most important aspect is influence. Ideally, the Department Lead has a seat at the C-Suite table. They’re passionate about customer-centricity and thrive on helping executives make better decisions that incorporate customer interests and their effect on business objectives. Some Senior Marketers effectively do this. However, if the Marketing leader’s primary focus is customer acquisition or the latest shiny object, CX risks being underrepresented at the C-Suite table – “just another item on Marketing’s agenda.” They may report stats like Net Promoter Score or C-Sat to the C-Suite, but not have the expertise, influence, or bandwidth to effect change across departments and touchpoints that demonstrably improve customer experiences.”

 

Autonomy and Cross-Functional Influence

Ali Arslanyuregi shares his experience from the medical tourism industry, where he led both sales and operations. His hybrid role allowed him to ensure promises made during the sales process were delivered, reinforcing his belief that CX should have a cross-functional mandate. "For me, it's about delivering what we promised," he says, advocating for CX's alignment with both Marketing and other departments like Sales and Finance.

Steve Muscat brings an interesting analogy to the table, comparing the customer journey to a relay race. "It's the promise and the promise fulfilled," he says, emphasizing the need for seamless handoffs between departments to avoid dropping the baton. This metaphor highlights the necessity for CX to have broad oversight, ensuring continuity and consistency.

 

The Case for a Standalone Function

Despite the consensus on the need for CX to have cross-functional influence, Diana Brink-Gourlay highlights practical challenges. "In an ideal world, it would be a standalone function, but we generally don't live in an ideal world," she admits. Her pragmatic approach acknowledges the organizational constraints many face, advocating for a model where CX, while potentially under Marketing, retains significant autonomy and cross-functional authority.

 

Conclusion

The discussion underscores that while there is no one-size-fits-all answer, the importance of CX in delivering on brand promises and ensuring customer satisfaction at the point of transaction cannot be overstated. Whether it sits under Marketing or alongside it, CX must be empowered to influence across the organization, ensuring that every department upholds the brand's commitment to its customers. As Stephan concludes, "At the end of the day, CX transcends everything, starting in marketing but ending in operations." This holistic approach is crucial for delivering consistent, high-quality customer experiences and reaping the business benefits of customer loyalty.

Written by Andreas Noe

Andreas H. Noe, MBA, BComm Marketing, is a founding partner of Phase 5 and has more than 30 years of experience in marketing research and consulting. Andreas leads Phase 5’s Customer Experience and Market Insights teams.