In the coming weeks Forrester will publish its annual set of predictions for our major roles, industries, and research themes — more than 35 in total. These predictions for 2016 will feature our calls on how firms will execute in the Age of the Customer, a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers.
In 2016, the gap between customer-obsessed leaders and laggards will widen. Leaders will tackle the hard work of shifting to a customer-obsessed operating model; laggards will aimlessly push forward with flawed digital priorities and disjointed operations. It will require strong leadership to win, and we believe that in 2016 CMOs will step up to lead customer experience efforts. They face a massive challenge: Years of uncoordinated technology adoption across call centers, marketing teams, and product lines make a single view of the customer an expensive and near-impossible endeavor. As a result, in 2016 companies will be limited to fixing their customer journeys.
CMOs will have good partners, though. As they continue to break free of IT gravity and invest in business technology, CIOs will be at their sides. 2016 is the year that a new breed of customer-obsessed CIOs will become the norm. Fast-cycle strategy and governance will be more common throughout technology management and CIOs will push hard on departmental leaders to let go of their confined systems to make room for a simpler, unified, agile portfolio.
I’m not alone. Creating a superior and differentiated customer experience is a core strategy for most companies — a pillar of who you want to be. It’s likely in your mission statement, annual report, 10-K, strategy deck, or company culture declaration. In a Forrester survey, “improving the customer experience” was tied with “growing revenue” as the No. 1 business priority over the coming year. Great CX is the big ambition in the sky.
For many, it remains an ambition.
The feedback I get from executives is consistent with my own thinking and Forrester’s body of research in this area. CX can’t be an attitude, tagline, or one-time corporate initiative. It has to be a different way of doing business, a new kind of operating model.
That means addressing the complex areas like people, process, and culture.
At Forrester, I keep returning to the basics to help us take simple but important steps forward. Here are five observations from the frontlines:
Change your perspective. We have a sense of how customers are supposed to traverse different touchpoints and a sense of the experiences we want them to have. But that’s not the starting point. CX is about the customers, on their terms and in their voice. Sounds basic, but that fundamental reorientation requires a surprising level of tenacity and discipline.
CMOs historically focused narrowly on marketing and promotion. That’s not enough in the age of the customer. The CMO of 2015 must own the most important driver of business success -- the customer experience -- and represent the customer’s perspective in corporate strategy. Andy Childs at Paychex is a great example -- he owns not only traditional marketing but strategic planning and M&A.
Digital channels, online social activity, and mobile technology give business buyers unprecedented purchasing power. Just look around your next sales or customer meeting, count the number of smartphones and tablets, and see if you disagree.
To capture the attention of the perpetually-connected business buyer, we see B2B CMOs taking on significantly broader, and often unfamiliar, responsibilities. To learn exactly how top marketers respond to these new world challenges, Forrester teamed with the BMA to conduct a joint study about the pace of change, skills required, and degree of collaboration needed to deliver the always-on experiences business buyers now expect.
"Hello, I'm Laura Ramos, and I write for chief marketing officers."
That's the standard line around here. It'll take a little gettting used to saying it. Heck, I still find myself saying "Xerox" instead of "Forrester" from time to time, but I hope to get out of that habit soon.
Luckily, I won't have to break my habit of thinking and writing about the issues that face large companies that sell highly-considered products and services to other businesses through a direct sales force or channel partners. I've always been a business-to-business (B2B) girl, and I'll stick to that focus here at Forrester.