A growing number of companies are installing a Chief Experience Officer (CXO) into the C-suite, with responsibility for every facet of the customer journey. Harvard Business Review even makes the case that every company should have a CXO. But what exactly is the job description for a CXO (sometimes referred to as a Chief Customer Officer or CCO) and how do companies set such a role up for success?
Kurt Schroeder is the Chief Experience Officer for Avtex Solutions, a leading full-service customer experience solution provider. In this interview, Schroeder explains his role and the philosophy behind prioritizing customer experience throughout an organization.
Dan Gingiss: What does a CXO actually do? What do you do when you get to work every day?
Kurt Schroeder: Yeah, that’s a good question and sometimes, I wonder about that myself. So, I think the primary goal of the CXO role, at least as I portray it, is I wake up every morning and I think about, “How do we continually improve and deliver a better experience for our customers?” Why is that even important? I’m a firm believer that we live in a world where everything is about the experience. We live in the Experience Economy.
Products are largely undifferentiated. There’s the time to market, to replicate and make something better and newer and faster and more attractive. That time has shrunk down to weeks, maybe months at the most. So, what makes the difference? It’s the experience that the customer has with you. So, if you don’t have someone who is thinking about that day-in, day-out, at night, when they’re sleeping, when they’re waking, when they’re eating, then I think you’re lagging behind. You’re missing a great opportunity. So, what do I do when I get here in the morning? I think about, “What are the areas of our organization and the experience that we’re rendering to our customers, that we really need to improve and make better and create differentiation in the market?”
Gingiss: What’s the difference then between the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the CXO? One might think that you would oversee every part of the company because as we know, customer experience is really every interaction that a customer has with you.
Schroeder: A CEO has to be in tune and equipped to deal with so many facets of the business. So, when push comes to shove, the CEO is going to have a focus in maybe a handful of areas. You need someone who is dedicated solely to what the customer experience looks like. Does the CEO care about that? Absolutely, and they should, but their mind is divided across so many challenges and opportunities and they need to make those decisions. You really need someone solely focused on the experience and bubbling up opportunities to improve the experience that the CEO then can make strategic decisions about.
Gingiss: Why is it that so many businesses don’t have a CXO?
Schroeder: I think there is a gap between what the research shows and what we’re practically able to believe. Here’s what I mean by that: customer experience is still kind of this squishy concept. When we talk to our clients about how to improve the experience, we talk about two fundamental needs that a customer has, regardless of whether it’s B2C or B2B: a functional need – “What am I trying to achieve?” – and an emotional need – “How do I need to feel through this?”
As soon as we start taking a business down the path of talking about how our customers feel, that is just starting to get way too squishy. So, I think we have organizations who retreat on that and are not willing to make the investment in the role, in order to really drive that and permeate it throughout the organization. We know there’s financial viability in investing in customer experience, but it’s a feeling of, “in my heart, I know this is true, but in my mind I still can’t commit myself to make that investment.”
Gingiss: What about the companies that put customer experience under the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)? There’s clearly overlap between marketing and experience, but let’s face it, marketers are often most focused on acquiring new customers. Doesn’t the CXO have to turn inward and say, “All right, we’ve got all these existing customers, how do we keep them happy, keep them loyal, and fix the leaky bucket that we know we have on the back end with customers leaving?”
Schroeder: Yeah, it’s a good observation. When we talk to clients and even when we look at ourselves internally, when someone says, “Well, what’s the purpose of rendering a customer experience?” I say, “Well, it’s really simple. It should cover the landscape of ‘find more customers, win more customers, keep more customers and do more for those customers.’” So as we think about the entirety of the journey that a customer has, it’s really those four key things that you want as measurable outputs.
The customer experience that is rendered during the sales experience is very, very important. If you’re not providing a differentiated experience from the beginning, then price is going to be the only decision-maker. Many times, in addition to Marketing, we see the CXO role as really incubating out of Customer Service as well. So I think between Marketing and Customer Service, that’s where we see it really residing in most organizations, if it hasn’t been already elevated to a C-suite position.
It also depends on the organization’s DNA and how they grew up. In other words, if it’s an organization that was extremely product-centric from the beginning, then I’m not going to have a C-level position sitting at the table, because that’s not what we’re known for. So, it takes time. It takes some external disruption to really cause them to think about, “What do we want to be known for in the future and how does customer experience come into play?” The organizations that we see putting a C-level position in charge of customer experience are the organizations who have made the decision, or who have had the original DNA of the organization, based on a customer experience value proposition. They see the importance of it.
Gingiss: With the CXO having oversight over the entire customer journey, it seems like the role might be put in an uncomfortable position, quite often, of having to tell other people within the organization that their experience is not good. Is that right? And what’s the best way for the role to interact with the rest of the company, so that you don’t have everybody else worried that when the CXO calls them, it must mean that they’re doing something wrong?
Schroeder: I think, as an example, journey mapping should be a core competency within every function in the organization. If you touch the customer or you’re supporting someone that touches the customer, you should really understand how to do a journey map, what are the inputs to that, because it helps create empathy and empathy is so important in moving towards designing a better future state, a better experience. So, the organizations that we see that are really doing well are looking at this as a core competency, not a function.
They’re looking at the role of the CXO to drive that competency throughout the organization. So, instead of getting the call from the CX person and it’s “we want to talk to you about the experience you’re providing,” it actually becomes more permeated through the organization, it becomes embedded into their DNA and how they view working with the customer and providing the experience.
The conversation was edited for length and/or clarity. The complete discussion appears on Episode 81 of The Experience This! Show, available on your favorite podcast app.
Dan Gingiss is a keynote speaker and marketing consultant – and the Chief Experience Officer of his company, The Experience Maker, LLC. Sign up for his bi-weekly customer experience newsletter here.