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This is the third in a series of article on voice of the customer (VOC). The first is "How Voice of the Customer Got Its Groove Back (and How to Stay in Tune)"; the second is "Making Marketing a Relevant VOC Leader."

It may be bold. It may be controversial. But I'm convinced the following will prove true: Without customer-centricity, or a role in gathering and interpreting the voice of the customer, Marketing will become nothing more than the execution arm of companies.

I see signs of this everywhere. If you're on a functional fault-line, you've probably noticed the signs as well: shrinking budgets, constant shuffling of programs, discontented sales constituents, and results that require increasingly more money and effort to sustain. Not only that, but your last few CMOs have operated differently. And the scrutiny you're under has grown steadily more intense.

So you have two choices—one of which is a grand opportunity: change, or remain the same. The obvious, and best, response to the shifting plates is to shift with them... to embrace the opportunity for change.

But note that this is a perishable opportunity; it won't last long. CEOs view the lack of meaningful and actionable customer intelligence and productive systems for capturing and responding to customer issues as a top-three challenge. CFOs want to understand why the churn rate is so high and affecting revenue growth and cash flow. Services can't figure out why a certain group is always unhappy. Engineering can't build a better product.

Guess what? These issues are not only affecting the efficacy of critical teams within your company, they're also impacting the very metrics that line your CEO's scorecard—sales cycle times, conversion rates, market penetration, and share of wallet, among others. What's going to happen very soon is that CEOs, desperate to better understand the customer landscape and how to use it to make smarter decisions, will figure out—with or without marketing—that what's missing is voice of the customer (VOC).

You're in the right place to provide it. You're there at just the right time. And if you don't do it—if you don't see to it that marketing is the driving force of VOC within your company—if you don't transform marketing into a microcosm of what a customer-centric organization looks like—then you'll soon find yourself handling increasingly more tactical initiatives launched by whichever groups do wind up driving voice of the customer at your company.

That's the bad news. The good news is that you're well placed to do something about it.

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Promise Phelon is president and CEO of UpMo and founder of the Phelon Group.

Twitter: @PromisePhelon

LinkedIn: Promise Phelon