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Who Owns the Customer?

Organizational structure and process, we have been taught, should flow from strategy. Many companies today have the same organizational design they had at a much earlier time, well before the advent of relationship marketing/CRM. So, what if anything needs to change? We recently addressed a private gathering of some of the largest companies in the USA. One of the issues they explored is the question of customer ownership within pre-existing organizational design. After all, if you are structured functionally or geographically, how do you integrate the customer into your processes? And who would be the process captain? Relationship Marketing/CRM is not simply another layer upon the existing principles of marketing. It replaces them. It is not simply another program - it is the business, the entire business and involves everyone.

Identifying an owner of the customer-integrating processes to decide who owns the customer is a challenging task balancing strategic priorities with operational realities. For example, no financial institution would blow up their legacy structures and systems to create entirely new ones - even for the biggest companies, it is too expensive. Given this operational reality, what is the work-around for relationship marketing.

A starting point it to identify the processes that touch the customer, including customer identification, acquisition, engagement, maintenance, new value creation and governance, feedback and restitution. Which divisions, functions and regions presently map to these processes? For each process, create a team. Have the team appoint a process captain. After integrating the team, establishing a plan for progression, metrics for assessment of key result areas, and links to compensation, invite in corresponding individuals from the customer, and invite them to do likewise with their supplier-facing processes. So who owns the customer? No-one owns the customer, but the processes are jointly shared and captained by one person on the supplier side and one on the customer side.