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

May 15, 2011

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.

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.

Topics: Customer Experience , Hiring and Retention

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