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It is hardly a trade secret — nor can it be overstated — that the need to deliver the best possible customer experience is paramount for success for any brand in any industry. The statistics are overwhelming: 54% of customers have higher expectations for customer service today compared to one year ago, companies lost $75 billion in 2017 from customers switching to competitors due to bad customer service, and on and on.
The question as to who should oversee CX for a given brand is an ongoing topic of debate, however. Maggie Chan Jones, former CMO of SAP told me earlier this year that “it depends” adding that she believes “everyone in a company has a responsibility in contributing to a superb customer experience.”
I recently had the chance to speak with M. Kathleen Donald, who was named CMO of Laser Spine Institute this past April. Donald brought with her a diverse set of experiences including stops at Dassault Systemes, Campbell Ewald and Ogilvy & Mather.
I was curious to pick her brain on a variety of topics including getting her answer to the question of just who should be leading the overall CX for a given brand.
Steve Olenski: What from your previous experiences do you think will benefit you the most as a CMO?
M. Kathleen Donald: Prior to joining Laser Spine Institute, I worked across a broad range of industries in both the public and private sectors, including big box, automotive and packaged goods. And I’m able to recognize the basic dynamics that are driving the marketplace and understand consumer behaviors across different generational groups. What may work for millennials, for example, won’t always resonate with Generation X, baby boomers or even the silent generation.
Because I’ve studied all those different cohorts, I’m able to understand their needs within the healthcare industry and customize a plan to demonstrate how Laser Spine Institute can help. My expertise as a general manager within the software industry gave me the insight necessary to address the complexities within an organization like this one to better serve the consumer. I am also very familiar with the state of technology as it relates to marketing support, so I know where to look and what levers to pull.
Olenski: While understanding you are still very new to the role, what are some of the bigger things that have stood out in terms of the expectations and perceptions you had prior to starting vs. reality?
Donald: When I look at what I saw in the work that was done before I joined the team, both online and in the advertising, there was a basic foundation already in place. But I discovered it wasn’t as robust as it could be. While we’ve got some good fundamental thinking, the deeper data foundation I was seeking didn’t exist yet and that is something we are working very hard on developing.
In addition to that, as our business model is growing and evolving, we need to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the consumer’s aspirations, their wants and needs, and not just for surgical care, but conservative care, too.

I believe that marketers need to view our efforts as a collaboration with our prospects.
— M. Kathleen Donald, CMO, Laser Spine Institute

Olenski: Looking at marketing holistically, what are some of the bigger challenges you see facing marketers in general?
Donald:  Marketers are still searching for significance in an already cluttered world. Even when you’re addressing an important topic like spine care or back surgery, it can be difficult to break through. As a result, I believe that marketers need to view our efforts as a collaboration with our prospects.
The pace of technology makes it both easier to have a conversation and more difficult to interrupt your target audience so you can start that dialogue. So, finding innovative ways to tell your story to the consumer as well as to put trust in your target is a challenge.
Olenski: In your opinion, should the CMO lead/oversee customer experience for a brand?
Donald: I think the CMO needs to be intimately engaged in the customer experience, but I don’t believe marketing can drive or deliver that responsibility alone. Marketing’s role is to facilitate the conversation with the consumer, provide an understanding of each prospective patient’s aspirations, identify their necessities and find out how they like to be approached.
That way, the entire organization can deliver against that experience, beginning with our clinicians who will determine the best course of treatment for each patient’s medical condition.
This, I believe, needs to be something that the entire organization is focused on. Fundamentally, the patients must be able to speak to a variety of stakeholders throughout our organization to recognize the viability of our solution for their unique condition.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.

By Greg Ricciardi

Greg founded the company in 2002. He’s a graphic designer by trade, as well as a seasoned strategist.

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