“There is nothing permanent except change.” When the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus uttered these sage words, it’s unlikely he had the world of customer experience in mind.
However, this universal wisdom has specific resonance for businesses around the globe who are trying to navigate the rapid consumer shifts brought about by the pandemic. Expectations have soared, and consumers are more demanding than ever before. They expect seamless, personalised interactions from brands that can quickly respond to ever-changing market conditions.
At the same time, customers are calling on brands to demonstrate corporate change.
Customers want to see demonstrative action on sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and social responsibility. As consumer demands grow and evolve, businesses must reinvent internally, not just respond externally. And, as marketers, it’s not enough that we simply respond to and accept this change. We must drive it.
As marketers, we are change-makers, at our best, creating real impact based on real insight
This means the CMO of today is more than just a marketer. They are also a Chief Customer Officer. Today, successful marketing teams are not simply lead generation machines; they are customer experience experts relentlessly focused on uncovering and understanding new customer needs and expectations. The goal for marketers is to be the champion of the customer. We are the customer’s voice into the business.
The worlds of marketing and customer experience are now one, and marketers must embrace our role as agents of change and be willing to bring the wider organisation with us.
While change can be exciting, enlivening, and invigorating, it’s not always easy and can be uncomfortable, especially when we are called on to respond to such a broad spectrum of factors – not least the rollercoaster that is the ongoing Covid crisis.
The starting point for any marketer seeking to drive customer-focused change is to begin within your organisation. Get out of your comfort zone and explore experiences in a function outside of marketing. Join sales, spend time with support teams or engineering. Take the opportunity to deepen your diversity of thought and gain different perspectives that will give you the tools and understanding to move from a ‘service’ marketing model to one that drives purpose, fostering relationships that make change happen.
As Forrester analyst Katy Tynan recently wrote, marketers “must embrace continuous transformation on their way to becoming customer-obsessed and be ready with the resources and recognition to sustain the energy required to drive successful change.”
Communication is the word
So how can marketers help lead collaborative change in a way that inspires enthusiastic buy-in? The simply titled ‘Get Stuff Done’ process, outlined by Kim Scott in her bestselling book, Radical Candor, could prove a helpful starting point.
Essentially, this process puts communication – listening, debate, discussion, story-telling, and honest learning – at the heart of change management. As Tynan advises, “The number one obstacle to business transformation and change in most organisations is resistance. Anticipate employees not agreeing to get on board, challenge yourself to develop the best case for change, anticipate where resistance might emerge and why and then address it.”
As marketers, this focus on anticipating resistance and understanding our ‘customer’, coupled with a focus on communication should play to our strengths. It is just one of the reasons why we are a vital asset in driving forward any change focused on the customer – and really, shouldn’t customers be at the centre of all decisions?
Of course, for marketing leaders, there is a fine balance of moving fast and bringing people along on the journey. The fast-flowing current of external uncertainty may lead even the most resilient teams feeling tossed around by the rapids. That’s why I am a passionate believer in the model of aligning, amplifying, and accelerating. It’s a simple model that can be applied to any marketing strategy but is especially relevant when dealing with change. Our mission as marketers is to align our colleagues and stakeholders within a customer-focused mission, amplify impact through innovation and accelerate transformation by showing demonstrable impact.
True leaders don’t dictate. They influence, inspire, and motivate. The same characteristics are found in great marketing teams and marketers. No matter if you are starting your journey in marketing, or are stepping up to lead the marketing function, now is the perfect time to harness change to prove yourself as a leader. Not only will this lead to personal career satisfaction; it will also ensure success in your most important mission: serving your customers.
Genefa Murphy is the Chief Marketing Officer for Cloud Contact Center Software provider, Five9. With over 15 years of global experience in the field of technology from consulting to product management, strategy, and marketing, she is an accomplished leader and has led worldwide teams in creating and executing compelling and effective go-to-market strategies.