Over the course of a generation, the world went from horse-and-carts being the main mode of transport to watching people land on the moon. Such massive technological evolution was bewildering to those who lived through it. Customer communications is going through a similar upheaval today, as single-channel communication, traditionally undertaken almost exclusively by marketers, has given way to engagement through multiple touch points and a need for a company-wide focus on the customer.
And for a customer-centric approach to work in this brave new world, collaboration between the C-suite is vital. For example, optimised workflows (CIOs’ responsibility) are essential to provide CMOs with the ability to create both a closed-loop dialogue with the customer and truly targeted marketing campaigns.
The good news is that the C-suite is frequently populated by executives who have spent years in an open-plan environment and, as such, appreciate the value of the collaborative approach that it engenders. But removing physical walls is not enough and one more key ingredient is needed: awareness. Going back to the optimised workflows example, CIOs themselves need to be aware that they should be placing greater emphasis on opening up channels of communication and customer touch-points.
How else can they help? As many larger firms are global and smaller companies are invariably looking at an international export market, the removal of trade barriers and the expansion of services sectors like finance mean that the new market is anyone, anywhere. To be able to leverage this opportunity, marketers need accurate data in order to target potential customers. Information flow (CIOs’ responsibility, again) from big data and analytics enables customer communicators to make smarter decisions, by understanding not only their customers, but also their own value proposition and areas for improvement. By comparing strengths against demand, companies can acquire new customers and up-sell to existing customers.
But usage of customer data brings further challenges and risks for the C-suite. Data breaches have been much in the headlines recently and many organisations have learnt the hard way how damaging this can be to a customer relationship. Communicating this priority to the CIO, who is ultimately responsible for the safeguarding of customer data, is vital to CMOs being able to keep customers onboard.
CFOs have an equally vital role to play in this ‘customer communication team’ approach. They must define and successfully implement rules which put the customer at the centre of decision making, in addition to resourcing the sort of automation and business process management which can speed up positive outcomes – and all this while managing costs.
Clearly customer communication has changed unrecognisably in recent years and is now not only multi-channelled, but it’s everyone’s business. Everyone has a role to play and the C-suite must set an example to the rest of their organisation in achieving growth by close collaboration.