Customer service is considered a priority for many companies. But who's responsible?
With the global customer experience management market expected to grow 17.5% from 2021 to 2028, the position of Chief Experience Officer, or CXO, is becoming a necessity, not just a 'nice to have'.
Now, I know a Chief Experience Officer sounds like a fun way to say 'party planner'. But a CXO has far more responsibilities than putting together a solid charcuterie board.
A Chief Experience Officer is a C-suite business executive responsible for a company's overall experience and interactions with customers. They help the company drive the entire CX, from products to services, end-to-end.
According to an article in CEO Monthly, “the scope of the CXO extends beyond a Customer Service Manager: as the spokesperson for the customer experience they are tasked with ensuring each aspect of the business contributes towards a positive engagement between the brand and the consumer.”
CXOs also drive company culture, orienting them towards customer needs in a number of different teams, including marketing, values, digital experience, and social media presence. This means the CXO becomes an internal representation of the customer.
But that's not all they represent. Oh no. They also promote and guide employee experience, too. That's a lot of people to keep happy. So, to create the best environment for both groups, the customers and the employees, the CXO must have a deep understanding of both CX and EX needs. This also includes tracking how EX and CX affect company KPIs, and how they overlap, contrast, or collaborate with each other.
Already we're seeing a number of big companies hire for the role, in order to have an individual take responsibility for the new focus on CX within the C-Suite. For example, toy company Hasbro brought a CXO on board in April 2019, while Mastercard hired its first CXO in January.
Some have even suggested that, due to the changing nature of customer behaviour, there should be a move away from the CMO position to a CXO.
Shep Hyken recently reported in Forbes that PwC’s Global Chief Experience Officer (CXO) David Clarke thinks it’s time for CMOs to replace the M with an X in their title. He was hired specifically in order to “evolve the firm’s approach to business transformation by bringing in experience strategy, design, and user experience (UX) capabilities.”
“Enlightened companies genuinely understand that experience trumps all, and that sales, marketing, and customer engagement are co-dependent,” he continued.
“Experience is the endgame, not marketing.”
Basically, it's a case of "our customers have changed, and so should we". Unhappy customers are more willing and able than ever to tell people about their inadequate brand experiences. In fact, having individuals take ownership of customer experiences has been a trait of successful companies for many years. Think how easily a bad review on Twitter can be spread, and you'll see the necessity of quenching the flame before it burns too hot.
So, the necessity of the task means it needs to be done well and done without friction.
A good number of teams have customer experience as their main focus; sales, marketing, support, and design. But what's a horse designed by a committee? That's right, a camel. So, having everyone involved inevitably means facing a lack of coordination. By introducing a senior figure into the structure, and allowing them to take overall responsibility, this confusion can be removed, and replaced by collaboration and consistency.
So, the CXO might take the feedback from customers, and use that information to inform design changes and initiatives. They can also help the company learn from the sales teams the customer's viewpoints and pain points, and make sure this is communicated to marketing. Keeping their finger on the pulse will help streamline the experience, and keep everything running.
In terms of where the CXO sits in the C-suite: being a top-level position, the CXO will report to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Operating Officer (COO), or Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).
Responsibilities of a Chief Experience Officer
The CXO's responsibilities can be wide-ranging and complex and tend to involve both technical and personnel-based skills. These may include:
- Being involved in the corporate leadership, in terms of UX strategy
- Identifying buyer personas and ideal customer profiles
- Mapping the customer journey across all touchpoints and channels
- Keeping a close watch on current strategies in progress
- Working with internal stakeholders to identify gaps in the customer experience
- Management of software and hardware design
- Development of reviews and concepts
- Protection and positioning of intellectual property
- Working with IT teams to ensure the company is investing in the right technologies for future strategy.
Writing for UX magazine, Lis Hubert suggested that the reason for having a CXO is "to have someone responsible for curating and maintaining a holistic user-, business-, and technology-appropriate experience" at the C-level. Authors Claudia Fisher and Christine Vallaster state that a CXO or chief marketing officer is a good idea when "the brand is seen as a strategic driver of the organisation."
Qualifications for a Chief Experience Officer
When hiring for a CXO, you might consider candidates with skills such as:
- A strong communication style. The CXO has to have an effective communication style. Without this, they'll be unable to get all the stakeholders aligned around a specific strategy. So, they'll need to be able to explain strategies and concepts to a number of different groups, in a way that is tailored to that group.
- A data-driven mentality. On top of strong verbal skills, the CXO also needs technical abilities. They need to know their way around the analytics dashboard and turn these insights into action. They'll ideally be able to work with business leaders to identify which metrics best measure the impact of customer interactions, track performance, and correct the course if needed.
- Cooperation and collaboration. As we've said, the CXO works with a number of different teams. This means they need to play well with others and can adapt to a collaborative and involved approach to management, across the entire operation.
- Agility and adaptability. Nothing goes to plan 100% of the time. Or 90% of the time. Or 80% of the time, for that matter. So, the CXO needs to understand this. As a result, they need to be able to deal with a complaint with grace and effectiveness, resolving issues and restoring trust.
- Embracing the new. Everything changes all the time, and customers' expectations are no exception. A CXO should always be on the lookout for signs of, and opportunities to, change. They should be eager to embrace new strategies, channels, and best practices.
They may also have skills based in:
- Product and Project Management
- Customer Service
- Public Relations
Tools the CXO Needs
Wherever and whenever the customer interacts with the company, the CXO is responsible. So, they're in charge of the whole range of customer touchpoints. This can range from first contact, or initial awareness, all the way to post-sales support.
So, the CXO needs to make sure they have the right tools for the job, in order to supply information and facilitate deliverables across all areas.
But mostly, the CXO needs to be focused on the output of analytics tools, which capture, interpret, and act upon data collected. Once they've got their mitts on the data, the job doesn't stop there. Most marketers have more data than they know what to do with. This is something the CXO needs to prepare for, and be aware of.
Every interaction with a customer can be captured and replayed then analysed to improve upon, and then incorporated into dashboards and reports. Making use of this wealth of data, and acting on it in order to support CX strategies, is a highly important part of the CXO role.
Why Hire a Chief Experience Officer (CXO)?
In a 2020 report, Forrester predicted that the number of CX executives was projected to increase by as much as 25%. This is due to companies across the globe starting to realise the emphasis that needs to be placed on user experience.
Basically, customer experience and employee experience are now the two driving forces of a company. Both areas lead to the development and promotion of valuable relationships separately, but when managed together create a sustainable competitive advantage. So, instead of being two separate forces, a CXO brings both areas together in a nice little package.
So, some people might say that CX has become the new marketing. It influences brand perceptions and impacts business performance, just as much as traditional marketing used to. In fact, Forrester reports that 76% of executives say improving CX is a high or critical priority and many companies have already established a C-suite position to take control of it.
The employee experience, as we've said, is the other half of the equation. The employee experience can impact business significantly and goes way beyond HR functions. So, the CXO needs to be aware of facilities, internal communications, IT and even corporate social responsibility.
Research by Gallup shows that work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity — and they experienced lower employee turnover, absenteeism, and safety incidents.
But you might still be saying "Why do I need one person to cover all bases? I've got a bunch of different teams, doing a bunch of different things!" Well, for one, this isn't sustainable long term.
These teams all have their own priorities, goals, and aims that don't always involve putting the customer experience first. It may often become an afterthought, or a 'nice-to-have'. But having this dedicated focus on customer experience has been proven to be an effective and vital safety net, and is the best defence against churn.
And all this is not easy to run. In fact, the customer experience has turned into a huge, complex strategy that involves people from a bunch of teams, doing a bunch of things, with a bunch of goals. So, it's no longer a question of "are you happy with your experience? Y/N", and instead needs to involve questions on how they used the product, whether it's value for money, what competitors they would consider etc. etc.
This means having one person to oversee the entire process is vital. So, maybe it's time to get that party planned, invitations to customers and employees sent, and charcuterie board crafted. Whatever way you do it, it's important to have your customers and employees as the backbone of strategy, and the CXO is a great place to start.
This post is part of our "What is a..." series, which compiles the top job roles in the martech industry today. Others include: