Written by Patrick Milan, Creative Destruction Officer, @pmilan

Who owns the “voice” of the customer within your organization?

Don’t worry, the answer to this question inside most organizations is not a good one. Chief executives believe data-driven customer insights are the single most important factor that can drive growth. Yet ownership of this discipline in most companies is vague or completely in doubt.

The Economist Intelligence Unit attacked this question (“Outside Looking In, the CMO struggles to get in sync with the C-suite”) and found that a shockingly low number of chief marketing officers (CMOs) believe they should be the voice of the customer. Further, only 13% of other C-suite executives see the CMO in this role.

If marketing is not the disciple of the customer, then who should be?

Frankly, we don’t think any existing group has the talent set to do it alone. Our recommendation: Tear down and merge the silos that typically reside in marketing and corporate communications to create a multidisciplinary group that will deliver data-driven customer insights.

Building the creative conversation

Let’s face it. Marketing has the historic DNA to understand customer psychology, decision cycles, purchase triggers and — this is really important — the creative chops to make it really interesting. And this creativity is usually limited to outbound messaging and is typically applied to the one-way medium known as advertising.

Corporate communications and public relations experts understand the art of the conversation.

Truth is, they have never had a choice. Their audiences were never willing to sit and listen or watch. Investors, employees, news and trade media talk back and, yes, they call “bullshit” when they hear and see it. The talent pool in the traditional “communications department” is poised and ready to help manage customer engagement, especially on social channels. Marketing and public relations professionals are experts in the business of crafting critical narratives.

Bottom line: We are experiencing a perfect marketing-communications storm. Customers expect to be served through multiple channels with a consistent experience every time in every place. CEOs have lost faith in their organization’s ability to understand their customers’ tastes and needs. CMOs argue they cannot find the right talent to pull it off.

The direction is clear: It’s time to set aside titles and quit protecting budgets, territories and reporting structure to do the right thing for the organization.

Marketing and communications leaders should consider how to re-organize their respective talent pools to surround the customer and actively listen and engage with a sense of interest. Your CEO believes customer insights are the single most important factor driving growth; it’s time for us marketing and communications professionals to create a path to get it right.

What would happen if you crashed the traditional marketing and communications silos in your organization? Are there other silos that need to come down? Join the discussion.

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