Nearly two thirds of C-level executives believe a company's CEO is responsible for new communication channels such as social media and mobile, while less than one third of middle managers think the same, according to a survey of 800 executives worldwide, conducted by customer experience management firm Genesys and The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

The survey report, entitled 'Getting Closer to the Customer', found that 58% of C-level respondents felt the CEO should be responsible for new customer communications channels, while only 28% of middle managers agreed, and another 38% of non C-level executives saying that the marketing department has ultimate responsibility in this area. The difference in opinion between top-level and mid-ranking executives might be explained, the report suggested, by the "novelty factor" of the social media phenomenon.

When it comes to driving the customer conversation, the marketing department, not customer service or the C-suite, is driving the response to new channels with 44% of executives saying the marketing department has dominated the dialogue between company and customer.

The report also found that 43% of companies only began using social media in the last year and only 11% of businesses have been using social media to communicate with customers for three years or more.

Worryingly, customer service has not been widely viewed as a priority with new communications channels. Only 42% of organisations use call centres to communicate with customers and only 6% see customer support/service as the main purpose of new communication channels.

Only 48% of organisations use social media and networking sites to communicate with customers and only 20% use mobile applications, whereas the majority continue to lean on the company website (90%) and email (88%).

The survey also found that 60% of companies that have set up new communication strategies have already put millennials in charge of new media channels. And companies that appoint a single person - rather than a whole team - to manage all communications were more successful at managing new channels. Some 33% of executives within companies that have appointed a team to manage social media and mobile channels felt that there was a disconnect between the team and other functions, while only 9% from organisations that had appointed a single individual to manage new channels perceived the same disconnect.

"Given the ubiquity of both mobile devices and social media like Facebook and Twitter, it is alarming that many companies are late to the party and have not clearly assigned responsibility for these channels," concluded Paul Segre, president and CEO for Genesys. "As companies tackle the demands of delivering a great customer experience across an increasing number of communication channels, their brand is ultimately at stake. Delivering an exceptional customer experience requires a comprehensive strategy for emerging mobile and social channels, including how they align and integrate with existing channels, and spanning both marketing and customer service organisations."