Have You Thanked Your Female Customer Experience Leaders This Week?

If you’re in the marketing and advertising sphere, then you know it’s time for one of the biggest industry events of the year, the Cannes Lions Festival. For those of you familiar with Cannes, you may be thinking that the event’s guiding principal is “rosé all day.”

However, drinks and yachts aside, the week is all about the marketing and advertising campaigns that push the limits of our imaginations and emotions.

To help recognize women’s contributions to the industry, SAP has partnered with The Female Quotient and their Girls’ Lounge to host a cocktail reception at the event. You can follow the conversations and track event highlights via the hashtag #CX4HER. Why this hashtag? Well, the customer experience (CX) profession has a long and challenging history – and women have remained at the forefront of the customer revolution. Seems unfamiliar? Let’s take a trip back over the last decade or so.

Starting from a Place of Empathy

Customer experience may not have become an industry if not for female leaders. Back in 2006, no one believed it was a real concern. That was until social media began gaining traction and consumers understood the power of their voice. “Voice of the Customer” programs were created and led by individuals who showed empathy and understood the value of social media. This movement’s leaders were largely female, and their influence grew quickly. Before long, they had captured the attention of chief marketing officers (CMOs).

Industry leaders started to realize that if they didn’t want customer complaints littering their public channels, they needed to proactively manage social media networks to catch small issues before they snowballed into something bigger. CMOs became concerned with net promoter scores, and began caring not only about whether their customers were buying their company’s products, but if customers respected the company itself.

In the evolution from brand to demand within marketing, female leaders were running social media campaigns for CMOs. The data-driven revolution was initiated by women. By 2010, we were seeing people thinking more broadly. The industry at large realized that demand centers must be more comprehensive than just data gathered from email marketing. Instead, there was greater awareness placed on the end-to-end customer journey and an imperative for marketers to listen to customer needs to guide them through the decision-making process. Leading brands established the concept of “journey maps” to better understand this process. Once again, the pioneers leading these efforts were primarily female.

But Still She Persisted

The advent of customer experience wasn’t all smooth sailing. Multi-year program offices, sponsored by CMOs, were working to define the experience without clear mandates or resources. They were promoting something radical with inadequate support. Siloes remained an issue, as data was stored across disparate locations which resulted in an unclear understanding of who the actual customer was. It was at this point that marketers determined they had to re-invent the entire business and re-think their efforts from the perspective of the customer. But with this came continued backlash, and traditional industry leaders stayed laser focused on digital marketing efforts.

However, female leaders didn’t give up and led efforts to bridge the priorities of CMOs and CEOs. They were dedicated to delivering the message that the humanization of a brand is essential to success. While the process is ongoing and education remains a priority in many verticals, the conversation has certainly accelerated. We’re at a point now where most organizations are on board.

As such, we are presented with an opportunity to take a step back and recognize the leadership roles women have played over the entire customer experience trajectory. If it weren’t for female leadership – infused with empathy and collaboration – we wouldn’t be where we are today.

As we promote SAP’s Cannes Lions activity this week with #CX4HER, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you that female leaders deserve to be nurtured, celebrated and promoted. We need to thank female customer experience leaders for getting us to this point and continue to follow them as they lead the charge for the next era of customer experience. We should profile them, interview them, add them to our individual influencer networks, hear their voices, and understand and share their history.

We have an opportunity to do something different, at SAP – and beyond.

Kevin Cochrane is chief marketing officer of SAP Customer Experience.