You may have seen various blog posts and articles surrounding the recently released study by the Economist Intelligence Unit on the relationship of C-level engagement in customer experience (CX) initiatives. What struck me about the coverage and the actual research report is the whole notion of perspective.
As head of customer success at Genesys, I’m always challenging our team to keep the customer perspective in mind, and balance that view with the corporate perspective. Often these perspectives are in alignment, but not always. Similarly, the Economist report shows that despite efforts across the globe to focus on organizational CX initiatives, there are different perspectives on the how (and the who) of really leading the overall CX program within organizations.
So, Who IS in Charge?
What’s clear is that customer experience is a hot trend, although within companies, CX “ownership” is a relatively new function. As a result, CX ownership is going through potentially uncharted waters, and the CX owner’s perspective depends on the lens of the particular C-level suite executive.
According to the Economist study, 72% of CEOs think they are in charge of CX, while 27% of C-suite executives disagree. Furthermore, one-third of surveyed respondents (32%) say the CIO is in charge, and another third (35%) say the CMO is in charge. While these different perspectives don’t necessarily translate into chaos, they certainly can lead to confusion at the C-level and down into the rank and file employee base and ultimately to the customer. “I’m in charge. No, you’re not, we are.”
On the Other Hand…
Maybe organizations should stop thinking in terms of WHO IS leading CX and start thinking about who SHOULD be leading CX. And rather than playing tug of war between the CEO, CIO and CMO, appoint and empower a Customer Experience Officer (CXO). A CXO, whether it’s in one’s formal title or overall duties, doesn’t have to think about the customer experience in his or her spare time from their “other” C-level responsibility, but is devoted 100% to CX.
Does this newly defined CXO just create another organizational silo? Not at all. By definition, the C in CXO stands for customer. Customers have to be the true and sole focus of CX initiatives, and while all parts of an enterprise ought to be thinking about customers, lots of departments are by necessity focused on other things – important things like facilities, employee retention, corporate infrastructure, and laptop currency and the long list of items that keep our companies running efficiently. In contrast, the entire focus of the CXO is on customers, and CX programs and initiatives. If anything, the CXO can be the common thread woven through and across the entire company — including any potential silo department.
Put the Chief Experience Officer in Perspective!
When everyone is in charge, nobody is in charge. And with too many CX cooks in the corporate kitchen, the unavoidable consequence is confusion. When companies are confused and don’t have their act together, it’s usually the customer that feels the pain. And across every vertical industry and geography, when customers feel pain, they’re much more likely to become somebody else’s customer.
The “new” status quo of ambiguous CX ownership is not sustainable. Neither is trying to share CX ownership among the C-level suite. What the Economist Intelligence Unit research and common sense both indicate is that without a CXO officially in charge, you’re likely to have CX-related problems internally, with your customers or both.
Create an Office of the CXO
How can you kick start the CXO role? It might be easier than you think. Start by creating a charter for the office of the CXO. In addition to having a singular perspective on the customer experience, there are benefits that come with a CXO for both the customer base AND the organization itself. These range from clearly defined corporate CX responsibility, budget ownership for CX initiatives, as well as the required resources, and elimination of either finger pointing or lack of follow-through on CX programs that suffer from the wrong C-level sponsorship. Most importantly, you gain a continuous of each and every customer, and insights into how their customer journeys are being managed.
Read the complete global results conducted by the Economist Research Unit, When The Suite Is In Charge of Customer Experience Initiatives, Business Performance Thrives.