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Blake Morgan wrote an opinion piece in Forbes this week arguing that even if they want to boost and improve the customer experience (CX) companies do not need to create a separate CX department. Blake argues that you can’t just define a department in this way – CX is an attitude that comes from the top down and is actually cultural.

As Blake mentions in the Forbes article, Jeff Bezos at Amazon is famous for always including an empty chair at meetings and reminding his team that the customer is there attending meetings. It’s a nice psychological trick to get managers to remember how they might think if the customer was really in the room with them.

The insight in this Forbes article is good. It reflects my own views on working with companies that strive for innovation. When executives set up an innovation team and dedicate a corner of the office to suddenly be “innovative” you know it’s never going to work. When the management team encourages every person in the company to always come forward with ideas for continuous improvement and innovation then you know they have a chance of actually doing something innovative. It’s a cultural change that is required, not a new team.

However, I think there is something else going on in the customer experience area. It’s clearly not possible to create a dedicated customer experience team because the nature of the experience is that it involves any area of the company that might interact with a customer. At any point in the customer journey there might be an interaction and it is not always going to be with a customer service professional.

We need to rethink how companies relate to the outside world. They no longer have sales, advertising, and marketing teams that interact with prospective customers and a customer service team that manages the existing customers. Customers and prospective customers might interact with various parts of a company depending on the type of interaction taking place. Customers are much more likely to engage with companies on an ongoing basis today – they are now building relationships with brands that involve dialogue.

To illustrate, think of a car manufacturer. You might see their marketing materials pushed out to social networks. You might see their ads pop up when you search for information on cars. You might ask the company a question online and receive an answer inside the same online channel. To the customer, it is all the same thing – interactions with a car company – even if all these interactions are managed across multiple internal departments.

This is what will need to change. It’s not that companies need to create a dedicated customer experience department, but they do need to connect and coordinate all the teams that currently interact with customers – whether they are in the customer service team or marketing. It’s possible we will see companies rolling all these teams into one and calling it ‘Customer Relationship Management’, or the ‘Customer Experience Hub’ as Gartner suggested.

Marketing and Customer Service teams will be the first to merge, but I believe that every other corporate function that engages with customers will eventually be merged into this new department. It’s not really a team that is focused on the customer experience alone, but this approach will define (and improve) the experience that customers have. Managing the customer relationship needs to be coordinated and most companies still behave as if the different parts of a customer journey need to be served by different departments. They don’t.

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