Imagine you’re getting ready to drive your car, and when you turn on the engine, you get a mobile notification telling you that your oil needs to be changed, and it gives you a link to the nearest dealership with a 10% discount coupon. Is that event classified as a sales, service or marketing interaction? The correct answer is: all of the above.

Marketing is often regarded as the de facto custodian of the customer experience, especially when it comes to digital engagement. Hence it makes sense for it to have the best, most advanced tools for providing the delivering the optimal experience. But in today’s world of  always-connected, always-on experiences, customer experience management is no longer just the responsibility of marketing, or even sales or service. Today, the entire company is responsible for the customer experience. And hence, the technology for customer experience management must allow multiple teams within a company to operate it in a unified, way delivering a seamless customer experience across all touchpoints.

In the last few years, we’ve seen the growth of “marketing clouds,” an integrated suite of tools that allows marketers to coordinate their operations on every digital channel. Enterprise tech giants like IBM, Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle all now offer their own versions of the marketing cloud, each with varying degrees of integration. Although no vendor has yet to fully integrate all marketing functions completely on one single platform, this final vision of unifying all the marketing channels is the right one.

However, companies must think bigger than the “marketing cloud,” and evolve their technology needs to demand a “customer experience cloud.” This means using the channels of email, social media, websites and call-centers to deliver more than just marketing messages, but sales and service interactions as well. All of these interactions must be powered by a single repository of customer data, allowing the customer to be recognized as the same unique individual, across every department.

The seamless customer experience isn’t just a cosmetic enhancement. Not delivering on it means a disjointed brand experience, and frustrated customers whose expectations are now being set by innovative companies such as Amazon and Zappos. Brands today don’t just risk losing to the competition, they risk becoming irrelevant.

Much more than technology, delivering a connected customer experience across all channels requires a major reorganization of how companies are set up today, and ultimately a strong vision from committed leadership. It isn’t easy, but at least we can show you how to get started.

In Altimeter’s  research report “The Customer Experience Cloud: How To Unify The Organization Across A Seamless Customer Experience,” authored by myself and Charlene Li, we provide a organizational, and technological roadmap for brands who want to unify the efforts of all their customer facing channels. The report contains insights and real-world lessons from customer experience leaders at some of today’s top brands, including General Motors, General Electric, Nike and McDonald’s. For digital strategists feeling overwhelmed by the 1000’s of technology solutions available, the report lays guidelines for how to choose the right technology and gives an overview on the strengths and weaknesses of the leading technology vendors.