To Be or Not to Be The Customer Experience Officer (CXO)

To Be or Not to Be The Customer Experience Officer (CXO)
This week I thought I would take some time to look at the role of the Customer Experience Officer (CXO). It’s not exactly a new role – I could find information about it going back a number of years – but it’s certainly a position that has garnered much more attention as organizations spend more time and effort developing customer experience strategies.

What exactly is this role, how is it positioned within organizations and who is leading the charge?

Defining the Chief Experience Officer

Simply put, the CXO is the link between the customer and the organization. Wikipedia’s definition is the best I found:

“A chief experience officer (CXO) is the officer responsible for the overall user experience (UX) of an organization. This executive is ultimately responsible for the strategy behind and user interface design of the organization’s products and services, and may further oversee marketing communications, community relations, internal relations, HR relations, investor relations, and other interactions between the organization and its various audiences.”

Isn’t the CEO the CXO

Dharmesh Shah, Founder and CTO of Hubspot makes a good point in this LinkedIn article: A Great CEO is the Chief Experience Officer. He says the CEO should be the CXO because the ultimate focus for the organization is all about how the customer “experiences” the organization.

If you are looking for examples of CEOs that exude the CXO role, look to Steve Jobs from Apple, Elon Musk from Tesla Motors (these are the two I found mentioned over and over again).

Shah points out a number of different types of “experiences” that need to be done well including:

  • The Product Experience
  • The Purchase Experience
  • The Brand Experience
  • The Support Experience
  • The Exit Experience (yes, it is even important how a customer views leaving the company)
  • The Employee Experience

These experiences together encompass the entire customer experience. And while in some organizations it may make sense that the CEO is the CXO, I suspect that for most, it’s also a role that needs to stand alongside the CEO, the CMO, the CIO, etc.. because this person needs total focus on ensuring that the organization not only talks about customer experience, but actually lives it. And that is not an easy job.

Do you Need a CXO?

Maybe you think it’s just another fancy “C” title and it will eventually wane away like so many before it. The reality is, it has become harder than ever to not only win customers, but keep them. It requires a deep sense of relationship, strong collaboration internally, and much more.

In a presentation on why you should hire a CXO, experience agency Jack Morton Worldwide gives us five really good reasons:

1. A better experience will give you a competitive advantage.

2. You need a leader to champion “doing” vs “saying.

3. Operationalizing your brand as a verb requires a heck of a lot of collaboration between the different groups in your organization.

4. You need to really take advantage of all the big data you collect.

5. Building a brand experience culture takes time.

The customer experience is not owned by any individual group – not marketing, not sales, not support. It’s owned by all of them. So you need a CXO to lead the collaboration between these groups to ensure it’s a holistic experience. Otherwise, each group defines and creates what it sees as the customer experience, implements and manages it differently, and results in simply put – no real experience.

Reuben Steiger from Method has a different perspective on the need for a CXO. He says that expecting a CXO to swoop in and fix all the experience challenges an organization has is unrealistic.

“Imagine the challenge of creating an officer level role is that is cross-functional & operational but also tactical. Then there are a slew of issues ranging from budget and authority that such a role would carry.”

Instead he believes that everyone is responsible and has to think about the customer all the time: “Rather than waiting to be invited or appointed, try this thought experiment: if CXO were your title, what would you do first?”

Who’s Leading the CXO Charge?

The role of Chief Experience Officer is discussed regularly, and I’m sure there are people out there in this position. But a search on LinkedIn for this Job title brings back nothing specific to CXO, which tells us a few things.

It could be that people are in the role, but simply don’t carry the title. Maybe the organization isn’t ready to define the position quite so literally. I suspect this is very much the case in many situations.

Or maybe it’s called something else. The Chief Customer Officer (CCO) is a similar title, it’s been around a lot longer and some people may have evolved this role into a deeper CXO role. I did find a number of CCO roles on LinkedIn.

It’s also possible that the role is combined in with another position – likely that of the CMO. It does seem that organizations are very focused on attaining customers, so focusing on the experience from a marketing/brand perspective might well be the starting point for CXOs. Of course, this goes against the idea that the CXO doesn’t belong to one particular group.

As organizations struggle to build holistic relationships across the entire organization, I expect to see the role of the CXO take hold in some form. If you are in the CXO role, or something very similar, I’d like to interview you, so please contact me through the link here. I’d also encourage you to share your thoughts on the CXO role and how it’s being developed within your own organization in the comments.

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