7 thoughts on “In B2B, who should own/lead the Customer Experience?”

  1. Hi Maz,

    I agree with everything you say here, until I get to the end of the article. I kept on waiting for the “final answer” re: who should OWN the Customer Experience.

    In some organizations as you point out, “Leading” the customer experience by creating the right organizational culture, can be enough to consistently create the right experience.

    But too many companies have a deep-rooted, internally-focused culture that can prevent the right customer experience from happening. And as we all know, cultures can take a long time to change. In companies like these, I think it’s vitally important to task a Chief Customer Officer with absolutely owning the customer experience.

    This “CCO” must be an executive-level position that has authority over all customer-facing organizations (marketing, sales, delivery, support and account management), in order to command the necessary changes within and between functions, to create the right experience. Without this ultimate authority, there’s no accountability, and therefore, change is less likely to happen – or certainly, not within the appropriate timeframe.

    Based on your experience, where do you see the Chief Customer Officer fitting in?

    Best regards,

    Jim Watson
    Portland, Maine


    1. Hello Jim

      I thank you for making the time to share your perspective. And I totally get your expectation and frustration around ownership. Allow me to share what is my experience.

      When I put you in the circle called “friend” then I have also created a much larger circle called “not friend”. As soon as I create that circle “friend” most of the people in the world shows up in the circle “not friends” and I treat them as such.

      Let’s take marketing. What happens when we make marketing – which is in its fullest sense a business mindset with associated practices – into a function? A bunch of people get busy with marketing stuff and the rest of the organisation divorces itself from marketing as philosophy and practice. It becomes their job, not my job. And now that the Marketing function has been given the marketing territory they safeguard their territory excluding the rest of the organisation. I have yet to see a B2B Marketing function get the people who actually do stuff and know about it to stop doing (what they get rewarded for) and instead write content for marketing led case studies and thought pieces.

      Or consider sales – selling. In a B2B organisation the people who are best placed to sell additional services are the people who are in intimate contact with the customer. Yet, the ‘sales relationships’ is owned by the Sales function. So what happens? The folks who are busy on delivering services just deliver services. Why? They do not see it as their job, it is the job of Sales. Furthermore, they don’t get rewarded for selling, the Sales guy gets the reward.

      Yes, there is value in appointing a CCO or CXO if and only if there is already a listening, a willingness, an eagerness, to rally around and compete on the Customer Experience. That is to say the organisational environment is conducive to the arrival of a CCO.

      No, I see no value in appointing a CCO or CXO if there is no listening for rallying around and competing on the basis of the Customer Experience. In such an environment most CCO’s will fail. They will get frustrated and angry at having to swim in treacle and leave.

      Finally, and most importantly I do not buy into the myth that Customer Experience is some kind of Mount Everest of a technical challenge. I say that one can generate and compete on the basis of the Customer Experience by putting in a small number of rules/practices that everyone in the organisation has to embody. What might these rules be? How about:

      CEO: You will always put the needs/interests of the customer ahead of your need to make the numbers to please the analysts, drive up the share price, and pocket a huge compensation package whilst driving down the long term customer equity. Any decision you make should clearly identify and communicate the impact on the customer experience, and customer equity (lifetime value).

      Product: You must make product that are a delight to desirable, useful and usable. You must focus on the customer experience: what it feels like to own the product and to use it. It must be easy to set-up, easy to use. It must be so desirable that it has a high resale value…. Any costs borne by the company in helping customers deal with product issues will be charged to the Product budget. And the head of Product Design is likely to be asked to find another job.

      Marketing: You must provide accurate, helpful information to the customer. You must not mislead and deceive the customer. Any costs that the company bears e.g. customer service and reputation damage will be charged to the marketing budget and the CMO fired.

      Sales: You must be honest with the customer. You must educate the customer. You must ensure that you help the customer select the right ‘product’ for his needs. You must not lie. You must not mislead/represent. You must not sell products to customers if you know that the product is not right for the customer. Any costs borne by the company as a result of you guys failing to live up to these practices will be charged to the Sales budget. And the Sales Director will be asked to find another job.

      I hope you get the idea. What is missing is not some technical wizard nor some lean genius to redesign processes. What is missing is the willingness to give up making ‘bad profits’: all the taken for granted practices for making money at the expenses of customers. The scandal of the horsemeat scandal is that the UK authorities were warned and the supermarkets knew or had reason to know. They just did nothing. Why? Because it would have hit the short-term profits. It took the guys in the Irish food agency to call it. Then everybody got busy pointing fingers at others. The real scandal of Mid Staff where somewhere around 1,200 old people were killed through cruelty and negligence is that everyone knew – including the people at the very top in government. They choose to put meeting the numbers and their careers ahead of the needs of the customers of the nhs.

      A rotten system will almost always beat a great person. So if you organisation is a rotten system then putting in a CCO or CXO is a futile effort. Who does the CCO report into? The CEO. And what if the CEO only hires the CCO for marketing/PR purposes with no real intent to change anything except shape market perceptions and drive up the share price?

      To end, you and I will have to disagree on this one. And that occurs as fine to me as the world will accommodate an infinity of viewpoints whilst continuing to work the way that it works.

      I wish you the very best Jim. And I thank you for instigating this conversation between us.

      At your service and with my love


  2. Is this not a function of Product Definition / Product Management Team?. After all they own the product and work with Product Development, Sales, Marketing etc at different phases.


    1. Hello Satish

      I thank you for entering into the conversation. It occurs to me that the product people concern themselves with the product. They do not concern themselves with how the phones are answered nor the design of the website nor the bill. And that is the issue. It is like asking who is responsible for the functioning of the Indian Government. Yes, you can make the Prime Minister responsible. And intelligence should show you that this is not the case. The people who play that role come and go, yet to a large degree the Indian Government continues to work as it worked for a long time.



      1. Hi Maz

        Thanks for your response. Lets take an example of a place where is Product Management is done the way it should be. This link explains a bit.


        And I have seen Google Product Managers personally responding to queries in Quora and other places. I would guess, if they need to, they would also be able to work with the support team and give specific instructions on how their product related queries should be handled.



  3. Hi Maz,
    I take a very simplistic approach for all organisations and that is that everyone in the organisation should own, be responsible for and accountable for the customer experience. If there are people in the organisation that don’t care or feel connected to how the customer experiences their firm then that’s a problem or destined to be a problem.

    Who should ultimately be in charge of making that happen…the CEO. To quote Peter Drucker – “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.” That’s the CEOs job, right? Any CEO that is oriented differently, for me, is leading a business that is not interested in the customer experience.



  4. Maz, I don’t think one person can “own” the customer. I say that for two reasons:

    1. As you say, who really can?
    2. If you ask somebody to “own” something then you make it their problem, and not anybody else’s. Making “the customer” somebody else’s problem doesn’t strike me as a wise or clever move



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