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Should Senior Marketers Be the 'Voice of the Customer'?

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Only six in ten senior business leaders view their companies as customer-centric, and just over half (56%) report a clear understanding of customers' tastes and needs, according to a recent report from The Economist Intelligence Unit and SAS.

The report, which was based on a survey of 389 global marketing and nonmarketing executives conducted last year, also highlights a disconnect among leaders regarding whose responsibility it is to make understanding and interacting with the customer their top priority.

Nearly one-quarter of chief marketing officers (CMOs) surveyed want a chief customer officer to take responsibility for being the voice of the customer, whereas another quarter see the task as their own. Currently, the CMO is considered the voice of the customer at just 18% of organizations, trailing the head of sales (31%).

Below, additional key findings from the report, Voice of the Customer: Whose Job Is It, Anyway?


CMOs: A Lot on Their Plates

According to the report, CMOs may be struggling to champion the customer in part because they already have a large set of responsibilities, including overseeing traditional marketing functions such as advertising, brand marketing, product marketing, and communications.

CMOs are also broadly expected by C-suite leaders to increase revenue, add new customers, and improve their organizations' reputations.

Changing Demands and Skills

The rise of the Web, big data, social media, and mobile have added complexity to the already challenging CMO role, but those changes may also be providing senior marketers with the responsibilities and skills needed to deliver on customer-centric mandates, according to the report.

Asked "What areas should marketing focus investments in order to contribute most to your business in three years?" survey respondents listed customer analytics as the most important (41%), followed by customer relationship management (38%) and social media (29%).

In addition, when asked to rank the growing/declining importance of various CMO skills, survey respondents listed customer insight, data-driven analytical capabilities, and social media expertise among those gaining most in value.

About the research: The report was based on a global survey conducted in July 2012 of 389 executives. Respondents include marketing and nonmarketing professionals from 19 industries, including financial services (14%), consumer goods (11%), IT/Technology (8%), and manufacturing (8%).


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Ayaz Nanji is an independent digital strategist and the co-founder of Inbound ContentWorks, a marketing agency that specializes in content creation for businesses and brands. He is also a research writer for MarketingProfs. His past experience includes working for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, AOL, and the New York Times.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji

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  • by Doug Tue Jun 11, 2013 via web

    I realize you are just producing the research results, but it is a somewhat scary thought that a majority of people polled believe that Sales should be the voice of the customer. Any tech company that puts that responsibility within sales is not going to be in business very long! Sales by definition is paid to make quota, not gather and prioritize customer input for product design and feature considerations. They are a stakeholder with input just like other roles such as support, marketing, business development, etc.

    For a group that has history and authority on this topic, refer to Pragmatic Marketing's content discussing voice of the customer: http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/resources/assuring-voice-of-the-customer-...

  • by Mike Camplin Tue Jun 11, 2013 via web

    I'm with Doug. Surprised to see that a third of executives believe Sales should be the voice of the customer. It is a a shared responsibility because the customer (current and potential) impacts every executive role. The idea that CMOs are too busy with other tasks sounds like marketers are focused on tactics and taking their eyes off of strategy and alignment. Thanks for sharing the research.

  • by Brian Bennington Tue Jun 11, 2013 via web

    I'm sorry, but I don't quite get your post. In the second paragraph, it states "...whose responsibility it is to make understanding and interacting with the customer their top priority." Then, you refer to "...want a chief customer officer to take responsibility for being the voice of the customer." Do you mean the voice "to" the customer? Is it "to" or "of"? Big difference.

    Your making this way too complicated. Might I suggest you google "relationship-centered marketing." There, you'll find several Archer-Profit Associates posts linked to their new website on the first page, and they fully explain how to effectively (and productively) maintain and build your relationships with existing customers.

    How do I know this? I've operated APA 20+ years for a select number of clients after spending the previous 20 years developing "CRM" for myself, and I wrote the website.

    Please know I'm not "advertising" my business. Don't need to. But, I'd like to help others learn from what I've learned.

    Of note, my experience has taught me the best person to maintain customer contact is the representative who made the sale, if it was a sale and not an "order taken." As to what's needed to do it, you hire a ghostwriter to write for the representative. That's it. Also, that word "anagement" in the title copy for your seminar has me buffaloed. First, I thought it was a typo, then I googled it and found references about it, but no definition. Is it some new way of referring to "management.?

  • by Vahe, MarketingProfs Wed Jun 12, 2013 via web

    Hi, Brian.

    Regarding "voice of the customer," please see the following articles:

    http://www.marketingprofs.com/6/phelon4.asp
    http://www.marketingprofs.com/6/phelon5.asp
    http://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2011/4866/grow-the-bottom-line-with-voice-of-the-customer-research
    http://www.marketingprofs.com/articles/2012/9230/voice-of-the-customer-trick-or-treat-for-your-product-launch

    As for "anagement," I'm not sure what you're referring to... Would you happen to have a URL for it?

  • by brian@archer-profit.com Wed Jun 12, 2013 via web

    Hey Vahe, Thanks for your quick response. In future, you can email me directly. As to the "anagement" word,
    it was on this post highlighted about your "Free Seminar" when I responded yesterday, but I notice it has now been removed. On today's post referring to the seminar, the word was corrected to "management." That handles my confusion about it. Really, it's kind of surprising you'd let a typo like that actually get published, but I know how easily they can be missed. Except for responses like this, everything I write is proofed and signed-off by at least two of my staff. (I know my weaknesses, and they are many.)

  • by Gracious store Wed Jun 12, 2013 via web

    T'm just wondering what sense it makes to say that sales dept should be the voice of the customer

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