Are CMOs Really in Charge? Should They Be?

If a CEO is responsible for overall company management and fiscal health, isn’t a CMO responsible for overall brand value and the health of their customer relationships? And if not the CMO, then who?

If a CEO is responsible for overall company management and fiscal health, isn’t a CMO responsible for overall brand value and the health of their customer relationships? And if not the CMO, then who?

Two recent blog posts hit this point home, and left me wondering if CMOs have the breadth and depth of experience, knowledge and expertise to accept responsibility for the total customer experience. Read on, and tell me what you think.

The first blog — on arstechnica.com — was titled “Best Buy has spammed me more than all of Nigeria’s princes combined.” The post from author Jon Brodkin should not only make Best Buy cringe, but generate an immediate response from Best Buy’s CMO, Greg Revelle.

It seems that during Jon’s purchase at Best Buy he unwittingly opted-in to a Best Buy email barrage. Within days, his inbox was stuffed with one or two emails a day from the ubiquitous retail store with subject lines like “4-HOUR SALE: Starts now,” “You’d be crazy to pass on this,” “Amazing deals end soon,” and “Jon, save 15% on ink and toner.”

Of course Jon did what any of us would do — he wanted it to go away so he unsubscribed. But when the emails didn’t stop, he went further: He complained on Twitter. He complained directly to Best Buy (and was told the emails would stop). But they didn’t. So he reported Best Buy to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for violation of the CAN-SPAM rules.

As a marketer, my first reaction is “Why isn’t someone managing the Best Buy CRM system to create a set of rules that will ensure any single customer will NEVER receive more than X emails from us in a given week or month?”

I can’t imagine a situation where anyone would agree to that many emails from a single brand — so for all the investment Best Buy has made in technology and automated CRM systems, they’re only as good as the humans controlling those technologies. And who controls those humans? In Best Buy’s case, it should be CMO Revelle. It should be his team that manages the CRM system. It should be his staff who sets up and manages email rules. And it should be his team who monitors customer satisfaction with email — looking at open rates, clickthrough rates, conversion rates and unsubscribe rates.

The other example was a LinkedIn post by one of my colleagues, Denise Williams. Titled “Can’t control it? Don’t promise it. [Branding 101].” In it, she complained about an unnamed telecom who offered a rebate on a phone upgrade via a direct mail offer, with the OE teaser “You’re more than our customer. You’re our top priority. Thank you for choosing [our company].”

She took them up on the offer, upgraded and received her gift card/rebate. But, like most of us, forgot she had it in her wallet. So a few months later, when she finally went to activate the card, it was too late — the card had expired.

As she notes, the card act governs how long rebate cards need to be active, and she understands that, but it’s how the organization handled her when she complained that’s the real issue.
After being transferred around and around the call center and asking customer service agents who the President of the company was (they were clueless!), she finally went online, researched the Executive Team and decided to reach out to the CMO by email. Her faith in her ability to have a peer-to-peer discussion about a system failure was encapsulated in this comment: “surely the CMO would understand something this important: that the flawed promotional offer with the expired rebate left me feeling less than a customer who is ‘Top Priority.'”

But the CMO failed her by merely forwarding her inquiry to the executive resolution team — a group from whom Denise had originally tried to contact, but from whom she was shielded. Of course they saw the error in their ways and quickly credited her account the amount of the gift card.

But shame on that CMO. This is customer relationship management 101. Get your telemarketing team up to speed on your brand values. Empower them to solve problems. Teach them how to listen to the customer and help them reach a satisfactory conclusion, because it shouldn’t be this hard to get one little expired gift card reactivated or give the customer a credit.

I’m sure many CMO’s reading this will tell me that they are NOT responsible for the email CRM system, or they’re NOT responsible for the customer service team. But as a C-suite executive responsible for creating positive brand impressions that will ultimately result in sales and happy customers, shouldn’t these customer contact divisions be part of their strategic management team?

Yes, that sounds like the CMO has taken on a much bigger job, but not one that should scare people like the Best Buy’s Greg Revelle. With a BA from Princeton and an MBA from Harvard, I’m sure he’s more than capable.

Author: Carolyn Goodman

A blog that challenges B-to-B marketers to learn, share, question, and focus on getting it right—the first time. Carolyn Goodman is President/Creative Director of Goodman Marketing Partners. An award-winning creative director, writer and in-demand speaker, Carolyn has spent her 30-year career helping both B-to-B and B-to-C clients cut through business challenges in order to deliver strategically sound, creatively brilliant marketing solutions that deliver on program objectives. To keep her mind sharp, Carolyn can be found most evenings in the boxing ring, practicing various combinations. You can find her at the Goodman Marketing website, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @CarolynGoodman.

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