The CXO: Why the time is now for customer experience officers

Does your organization have a single executive in charge of your customers' experience? If not, you are not alone. However, this concept is growing in popularity, with many category-leading organizations like USAA, Allstate, Dunkin Donuts, Cigna, and Oracle are already implementing such roles.

With so many organizations struggling to effectively manage all of the customer touch points and the resulting experiences in today's multi-channel, multi-device, multi-national world, this is a smart move by USAA, Allstate and others. These companies, and others like them, will likely gain a competitive advantage by creating an executive position solely dedicated to delivering a superior customer experience.

In fact, most companies lack a defined customer experience strategy and building one often requires integrating across traditionally stand-alone departments. While organizational silos have been developed over the years that foster operational efficiency, this has unfortunately come at a cost to the customer experience. Organizations today cannot build channel-specific customer experiences. Customers expect engaging user experiences across any channel or any device. Smartphones are already multichannel devices that allow customers to phone, email, chat, browse, text, and in some cases, videoconference.

To overcome this, a new type of executive is evolving to define and execute on new end-user focused strategies: the Chief Experience Officer (CXO). This individual has a c-level title with c-level responsibilities.

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A case scenario

Retailers can learn from the direct-to-consumer approach the insurance companies are taking with customer experience strategies. For instance, imagine the operations inside a typical auto insurer. They will most likely have an agency organization, a policy administration group, a claims team, and so forth. Each of those internal organizations need to touch the same customer, but in different ways. From an operational view, when a customer gets into an accident, the agent is dispatched, the claim needs to be reported and processed, and the policy needs to get reviewed and updated. The customer is touched three different times from three different organizations. There is an agent experience, a claims experience and a policy experience.

Now imagine the same scenario from the perspective of a customer who has just gotten into an accident. They are probably anxious and uncertain about next steps — especially if this is their first accident. This is where a Customer Experience Officer would step in to the picture, ensuring the customer's needs and expectations are met and their interaction with the auto insurer is seamless and they have all their questions answered in a timely manner.

How a CXO allows a company to stand apart

As industries and markets mature, companies are looking to build greater differentiation, encourage brand loyalty and invest in new, engaging user experiences.

Successful customer experience officers will start with their firms' overall strategies, which define competitive positions and set customer expectations of the brand. Using that foundation, it is critical to understand each customer touch point, the organizational department accountable, and the experience delivered.

To build this strategy, there are five primary steps to consider:

  1. Analyze your customers' journeys as they interact with your organization
  2. Identify moments of truth for each interaction
  3. Assess the customer opportunities, trends and risks
  4. Develop a list of initiatives that address the scenarios
  5. Kick off a pilot program to build momentum and capture a quick win

Customer experience investments are building momentum as the power to decide how and when a consumer interacts with a company has shifted to the consumer. Companies need to adapt and change their view from the inside out, to outside in. This will likely pose a daunting challenge to organizations; appointing a CXO is simply the first step.

Rick Nash is vice president of digital marketing firm Acquity Group.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • William Carlson
    While there's no question in my mind that a company should be looking at the overall customer experience, not sure that adding another full-time position to work on it is the answer...

    Marketing should be driving a fair portion of this and if organizations would actually position and respect Marketing as a leadership role, that would move the needle on this.

    Creating a separate overseer would add "noise" -- and inevitable tugs of war with Marketing or Operations or Product Development -- the question of who is actually in charge comes to mind, who dictates final strategies and tactics.

    While I'm not big on having a consultant come in to do what should be achievable on the inside, this might be one time when a facilitator can help an organization self-assess their experience quotient and work collaboratively across departments to improve it.

    And to finish the thought -- quarterly. This should be a rhyyhm thing, something to be looked at over time. We are quick to look for "silver bullet" solutions to everything, do them once, and be disappointed that they didn't seem to help -- we need to be more committed to a process of recurring initiatives, make the proper investment in them, track them, and judge longer-term.

    The "X factor" would seem to be a good example of that!
  • Wytze Rijpkema
    Creating a customer advocate at executive level is important exactly because in so many companies there already exists so much "noise" within the triad of Marketing, HR and Operations (incl. customer service). Or worse, no sound at all, with Marketing not carefully, if at all, considering the impact on customer service, and whether HR is able to deliver the right personnel who are able and empowered to deliver upon the brand promise.

    A CXO fills in the missing role of facilitator within the triad, forming the glue that that brings and holds the parties together with the needs and expectations of the customer in mind. And in this day and age, who dictates final strategies if not the customer?
  • William Carlson

    Marketing is too often pushed down to a tactical support level and not provided the authority (and held accountable) to be the leadership role it should be. Are you suggesting Marketing doesn't want or fails to accept responsibility to do these things or are you actually acknowledging the fact that they aren't allowed and respected to reach beyond creating ads and sell-sheets?

    Adding yet another voice further complicates communication, relationship dynamics and decision-making, all way too complicated already in most organizations. Again I ask, who reports to who in that structure? And this would even further diminish the influence, responsibilities and importantly, the accountability Marketing SHOULD have...

    As a practical reality, this is a philsophical debate at best... Maybe big companies can afford to have such a role but the majority of companies, all much smaller, won't add the salary... so on their behalf, perhaps the more creative discussion is how to accomplish the well-intentioned mission of such a role without adding to operating costs? Can we assign this higher-level "customer experience" accountability to the Marketing function if so, what do they need in order to get there?
  • Bob Phibbs
    Rick is right on. The reason customer service is so bad is that no one "owns" it or is rewarded/reprimanded other than the clerk who gets a bad mystery shop. Until money is spend on exceeding customer expectations - especially at the high end - more retailers will jump on mobile teaching their customers to go online in their stores. And then they will be sitting with a lot of real estate as showrooms for someone else who's cheaper. A disaster for retailers!
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