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Telecom Convergence: Changing the Conversation

Customer Centricity Starts at the C-Level

Xerox's customer base is advancing rapidly, with new technology needs and business challenges always on the horizon. Xerox changes with them by focusing on innovation and keeping a finger on the pulse of its customers. The company even operationalized how it listens to customers in the boardroom to help develop long-term customer relationships while shedding its legacy perceptions as a copy machine manufacturer.

Chief Marketing Officer Christa Carone shares the executive perspective when it comes to interacting with and taking actions based on what customers want and need.

Customer Strategist: What do you think is the CMO's role in creating and facilitating customer centricity?

Christa Carone: In many cases, and especially in Xerox's case, the CMO is the steward of the brand. My role is in ensuring that the customers are front and center in everything we do, that they're relevant in our brand communications. The way that you make the brand relevant to your customers plays a significant role in the whole sense of creating customer centricity. Everything that my organization is doing and how we're supporting the company is to ensure that the Xerox brand is relevant for our customers and for our prospects.

The way we're doing that is to understand our individual customers' needs a lot better and to be marketing against those needs. Sometimes it's harder to do than the rhetoric behind it.

CS: How do you balance that with other C-level priorities?

CC: I don't see it as a balance. It's truly embedded in everything we do from a marketing perspective across all of the different levels of the marketing mix. We always talk about the importance of integrated marketing. At Xerox we also talk about the importance of integrated and relevant marketing for our customers and prospects. So it's not a matter of doing one thing over another. It needs to be top of mind in everything that we're doing.

CS:We have seen Xerox evolve from a printer manufacturer to a marketing services firm. How has the CMO position evolved with it?

CC: I come from a communications background. I had run public relations and communications at the company for some time. There are a few new CMOs at other companies with similar backgrounds, and we're at a place where we're seeing more of a trend of combining the communications role with the traditional marketing role. That, I think, is a realization of the importance of the integration between these different functions. Marketing is a form of communication and the stories that we're telling through public relations and the way we're articulating messaging to our employees has to be consistent with the more traditional marketing channels.

The way that the CMO role has evolved in Xerox is that we have made a much more conscious effort to ensure that all of the lines of communication are working off of similar messaging, personalized and customized based on the stakeholder. We're emphasizing the value of all the different lines of communication, whether it's paid communication in the form of advertising, branding, and digital media support, whether it's earned media through public relations, or whether it's influential media through our analyst relations and other areas. That's relatively new to Xerox—to have the communications organization closely involved with the traditional marketing organization.

CS: How do you define customer loyalty at Xerox?

CC: I do believe in the Net Promoter aspect of customer loyalty, that our clients are the ones who would be recommending us and promoting our business to others. That's a good sign of loyalty. Retention and customer renewals speak very strongly to our customer loyalty. As far as metrics, I'm not sure that I would say there is a really clear-cut definition for us, but we do closely track retention and renewals. On the technology side of our business we talk a lot about "machines in the field," meaning the actual products sitting in our customers' locations. That's a valuable revenue stream for us. In our services business, renewals or contract extensions on service deals speak very much to our customer loyalty, as well. And again, at the end of the day, are these customers the ones who would be willing to promote us or refer us to other clients?

CS: Xerox CEO Ursula Burns has spoken about the notion of considering customers as partners. Can you talk about Xerox's strategy of working with customers to solve problems instead of just trying to sell a product or service?

CC: It's the way that we work now and live in this B2B environment. Our customers have consistently said to us, "Don't come and sell me a box. Don't come and sell me a technology. Come and sell me a solution to my problem and we can have the discussion." That is how we start every sales engagement at Xerox. We want to understand the pain points and we want to understand ways that we might be able to alleviate some of them.

"Dreaming sessions" with our customers is something that our chief technology officer started several years ago. People are always fascinated with Xerox's research and development activities. It's a bit famed and fabled in our company. We wanted to try to unleash some of the magic there and bring ourresearchers out to our customers. Our researchers have made a lot of progress on workplace collaboration. Many of us work in offices or virtual offices. How do we get our jobs done? We're able to bring our researchers in to study the office environment and to ask, "What would make your day easier, what would make your work processes simpler, less bureaucratic, faster?" We end up having some pretty fascinating dialogue.

Our work with Procter & Gamble is a really good example of that. We've collaborated with P&G to develop a mobile print system for them because so many of their employees are on the road frequently and wanted access to be able to print documents. We'll be bringing it to market later this year for other clients. Those dreaming sessions have become a part of the way we do business.

CS: In what other ways does Xerox's senior management work to understand customer needs?