Who Owns The Customer Experience?

Whether it is a Chief Customer Officer, Chief Omnichannel Officer or another C-level executive, retailers are debating the advantages and disadvantages of assigning an owner of the customer experience.

A group of high-level retail executives from a variety of industry segments discussed this and other omnichannel and marketing issues during the Retail TouchPoints RoundTable event in New York City in September 2013.

Following the success of this RoundTable, Retail TouchPoints is hosting two additional events in November:

  • Nov. 14th in New York at the Breslin Bar & Dining Room. Topic: Converting Loyalty to Sales, sponsored by CGSClick here to register for New York.
  • Nov. 21st in San Francisco at the Fairmont Hotel. Topic: Mobile Innovation, sponsored by Junction SolutionsClick here to register for San Francisco.


A Director of Marketing for a women’s specialty apparel company questioned the benefit of having a C-level customer experience executive. “That person could be rendered ineffective because they don’t really have financial accountability. They have a position in name but they are not held accountable for profitability. It should be part of everyone’s job description.”

To further dissect this issue, Steve Rowen from Retail Systems Research (RSR) presented results from the firm’s recent Marketing Study.  RSR found that retailers are all over the map when it comes to the owner, or owners, of the customer experience.

Close to half (43%) of retailers give the Chief Marketing Executive responsibility for the customer experience, along with the CEO (38%) and the VP of Stores (35%). As many as 25% of retailers now have a title called Chief Customer Experience Officer, up from 8% in 2012; and 35% said they have no explicit owner.

In his assessment of the topic, Rowen asserted: “What you end up with is this sort-of mishmash of people who kind-of have a toe in the water…but the left hand doesn’t always know what the right hand is doing. If you don’t have someone who has this catch-all title, that is familiar with what it’s like to shop you as a customer, then that’s when you have problematic inter-channel issues.”

Releasing The Silos; Fulfilling The New Role Of IT

The bottom line is that retailers must be able to understand and respond to today’s demanding connected consumers. In order to accomplish that, all team members must be looking at the same data points.

“If you want to reorganize around the customer, you have to get out of your silos,” noted a retail CIO.

But to release dependence on data silos, Rowen noted, “you’re talking about a foundational and fundamental shift in not only how the IT organization is set up, but how the entire organization is set up.” As many as 55% of retailers cite “Difficulty getting IT resources for marketing projects” as the No. 1 organizational inhibitor, up from 38% in 2012.

In an energetic exchange, roundtable participants confirmed that fulfilling the goal of incorporating IT into business processes is a struggle for many retail organizations. “IT now needs to be a strategic partner integrated with the business, fully functioning alongside the business owner,” noted a retail CIO.  “That’s what’s hard to find.  You can find programmers. I can go outsource programming — that’s not an issue.  But it’s that level of engagement you need from IT now to help bring in the innovative conversation to fully anticipate and understand the needs of the business.”

During the event, attendees also shared insights on:

  • Integrating social channels into the experience mix, including the new role of Yelp;
  • Personalization; and
  • Privacy issues.


To read the full report, click here to download a complimentary pdf.



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