Schneider Electric’s Chris Quinn says the focus on customer centricity has blurred the lines separating the CMO and HR Director.
Over the past couple of years, customer-centricity has become a central driver of every department inside every company. The emphasis for truly customer-centric organisations is on creating a positive, cohesive experience at every touchpoint from the awareness stage right through to customer advocacy.
The number of those touchpoints continues to increase, especially for B2B businesses. People interact with companies multiple times in many ways – brands, for instance, can’t consider their bricks-and-mortar experience as any different to that of their online store.
The lines are blurring even between traditional functions. The rise of social media customer service means, at times, little separates the roles of service and marketing.
Schneider Electric’s Chris Quinn
“The reality is that many more people in an organisation have a direct ability to have an impact on the customer experience (CX),” says Chris Quinn, Vice President of Marketing Communications and Digital Customer Experience at Schneider Electric.
“It used to be something that was your front-line team’s responsibility but now your logistics team, for example, could have a massive impact on whether a customer has a good experience or not. Everyone’s a little bit closer to the customer.”
At Schneider Electric, Quinn is embarking on a project to align HR and marketing more closely. The plan is to provide opportunities for the sort of collaboration that ensures that every communication, every brand touchpoint, is part of a frictionless journey.
Earlier collaborations between the two teams brought diverse thinking and forced the teams to look at ideas and opportunities they hadn’t considered previously.
“Social media is playing a role where an employee can be an advocate for a brand or a business,” Quinn says. “But also there are people outside the organisation who may be looking for some insights through social media or your marketing material to try to gauge the values of the business and the culture.”
Quinn also notes that competition for talent has become so fierce that the HR function can be given a marketing twist. “When you’re looking for talent, as everyone is, it’s a marketplace like no other.”
Getting employees to collaborate hasn’t been without its challenges. Quinn says the biggest stumbling block for employees and leadership has been finding the time needed to think “laterally or broadly enough” about what other departments may need.
“If people have the right mindset and you’re promoting collaboration anyway it’s really then just a factor of time,” he says.
Quinn identifies three practical steps to encourage collaboration between HR and marketing:
Quinn says he involved a cross-discipline team early in the process, creating discussions between marketing and HR. These discussions focused on what HR believed marketing should be paying more attention to and marketing’s requirements from HR.
The discussions found a need for a “learning mindset” and responsiveness when receiving feedback from customers. As a result, the teams are starting a process that focuses on social listening to understand what people are saying not just about the brand but employee and recruiting experiences, too.
Collaboration, like most things, starts at the top.
“A lot of [the push for collaboration] has been communication and then consistent repeating, reminding people as necessary, trying to set examples in terms of leader behaviour,” Quinn says.
Integrated communications strategies
In many organisations, HR leads internal comms and marketing leads, well, marketing. The two functions are traditionally siloed, and the customer-facing messaging isn’t necessarily making it to the eyes and ears of the people who represent the brand and own the customer experience.
At Schneider Electric, internal comms now sits between HR and marketing. “Whoever is in that role has a foot in both camps,” Quinn says, “and is able to draw different elements together.”
Overall, the blurred lines between HR director and CMO have had an ongoing impact on the organisation and its communications. It influences every touchpoint with the brand, whether it’s a job ad or a customer-facing video.
“There’s more opportunity to collaborate and share content, and more responsibility to make sure that whatever is being developed and wherever it’s being developed actually is considering both [HR and marketing] all the time.”
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Further reading: How much do you really care about your customers?