Across the marketing industry, the customer experience is more of a focus than ever before. Thanks to companies like Amazon, Netflix and Spotify establishing themselves as market leaders by creating a seemingly effortless customer experience – personalised, tailored and intuitive – the bar (and customers’ expectations) has been set for any other company that wants to do business in 2020.

But marketing alone shouldn’t hold the responsibility for delivering on the customer experience – and indeed, it can’t carry out that delivery as an isolated unit.

A new report, ‘Thriving in the Experience Economy: Priorities of a CMO‘ has shed light on the extent to which the marketing function needs to be able to work with other functions across the business to deliver on the customer experience – and the difference this alignment makes to whether a company falls short of, meets, or exceeds its performance goals.

No marketer is an island

The report, which surveyed more than 500 senior client-side marketers across every major business sector, compared the responses from top performing companies (those whose performance exceeded their primary business goals) with those of mainstream companies (those whose performance met or fell short of their primary business goals).

It found that only 42% of mainstream company respondents gave positive scores to marketing’s alignment with other company functions. By contrast, 66% of top performing companies gave positive scores to the alignment between marketing and other company functions.

Top performing companies reported the highest alignment with ecommerce and merchandising, with 76% reporting positive alignment with this function; next came sales, at 72%. However, even among top performing companies, marketers scored lower on their alignment with two functions crucial to the customer experience: customer service (68%) and product or service development (51%).

The scores for alignment with these functions among marketers from mainstream companies were even poorer: less than two fifths (38%) reported they were aligned with the customer service function, and less than a third (31%) reported they were aligned with product or service development.

The keys to cross-functional success

Sixteen marketing leaders from elite UK brands, ranging from Birds Eye and Virgin UK to BT and Fortnum & Mason were interviewed in depth for the report. The report summarises and distils some of the key advice that they offered for how to achieve cross-functional success. Here are just a few of their tips:

Map dependencies. Customer experience products should begin by mapping dependencies within marketing, as well as within the wider organisation and any external partners. A good dependency map will include as much specificity as possible, including identifying individuals – and any data or technical capability requirements.

Communicate. Create a communications plan as you would for a product launch or another public project. The goals are to reward support, to reinforce commitments to the project and to keep the project in the spotlight. Additionally, as partners are assembled, work with them to understand where KPIs overlap, and where there might be conflict.

Look further afield for inspiration. Executives caution against limiting the focus to key competitors or one’s primary sector – inspiration should come from as many sectors as possible. Look particularly to those that are under stress from changes in consumer habits, such as retail or travel, to generate ideas that challenge conventional wisdom and open the door to big wins.

Download the ‘Thriving in the Experience Economy: Priorities of a CMO’ report for more detailed insight into how top performing companies are leading on customer experience – and advice from senior marketers at major brands on how to take your customer experience to the next level.