Anatomy of the VP Customer Experience Role

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vice president customer experienceIf “customer experience” has innumerable interpretations, the same can likely be said about the ideal role of the Head of Customer Experience. This position may also be known as Chief Customer Officer or VP of Customer [fill-in-the-blank] (e.g. retention, loyalty, advocacy, care, success, digital transformation, etc.) — or even a Chief Marketing Officer may include this as hybrid role. The intent of this position may be growth, churn reduction, lifetime value, brand differentiation, and/or similar aspirations.

In my last article, CEO’s Guide to Growth through Customer-Centered Management, the following definitions are recommended:

  • Customer Experience is customers’ realities compared to their expectations [in selecting, getting and using a solution toward a capability they seek (i.e. job-to-be-done)].
  • Customer Experience Management, as it should be managed, is alignment of the company to customers.


Accordingly, you may want to re-assess the charter in your company for your top customer experience leadership role. The following job description describes what’s needed to embed customer-centricity in your enterprise DNA. It’s universal, for any sector or industry, any company size or maturity. It’s what’s needed sooner rather than later to drive sustainable growth through customer experience differentiation. Use the guide below to compare and contrast what you have in place versus what you could be achieving:

Job Description: The Vice President of Customer Experience is responsible for facilitating ownership of customer experience excellence throughout our company. Our vision for customer experience excellence is alignment to strategic customer segments’ expectations and goals, for seamless, transparent and frictionless experience that sustains mutual growth. This executive reports to the CEO and influences the senior management team and business unit champions in providing seamless interactions and mutual value to customers. As strategic customers’ expectations evolve, this executive will drive ongoing alignment to maximize customer lifetime value growth.

Facilitating ownership throughout your firm is the primary purpose of any customer experience-related role. That’s because customer experience is not something that is fully addressed by individuals or programs. Ownership must be adopted by every role reporting to the CEO, no exceptions. Their respective contributions are interdependent and synergistic. Anything mis-aligned from the top will undermine your customer experience goals. Align foremost to your high-growth customer segment.

Scope: This executive will lead a small multi-faceted team to facilitate central oversight of customer experience programs and efforts company-wide as well as centralized programs. The team will focus on synergies, organizational learning, change management, holistic perspectives, closed-loop systems, creativity, improvement, customer-centricity and momentum. Centralized customer experience programs include customer research and analytics, customer relationship management and customer success, customer service and business process improvement. This executive will work closely with marketing communications, human resources, strategy, legal, finance, IT, quality and sales leaders to jointly embed and facilitate customer experience excellence ownership and alignment.

The charter for this role is monumental in driving holistic thinking and making continual progress with customer-alignment in every nook and cranny of the enterprise. Be selective in assigning it to the right talent and make sure this person’s direct reports fill-out diverse skill sets accordingly. The programs overseen by the VP-Customer Experience should have the goal of becoming smaller over the years as customer experience ownership permeates all parts of your firm. This becomes possible when customer experience programs are allowed to shift from fixing mode to preventing mode and then anticipating mode.

Requirements: This individual has a customer-centric mindset and demonstrated ability to create shared vision, inspire collaboration, and drive change with momentum. This executive has a strong background in customer research and analytics techniques, customer strategy, process improvement, human-centered design and performance management. This individual has proven ability to manage diverse efforts’ synergies, and ability to navigate ambiguity and change with an entrepreneurial mindset.

A customer-centric mindset means customers’ well-being is top-of-mind in a person’s decisions. This requirements list may lead you to think of a unicorn: you’ve heard about it but never seen it. There are people with this background, or otherwise there are small teams you can assemble who collectively represent these capabilities. Indeed, this role may be the most demanding and pivotal of all top management roles. This is because customer buying depends on customers’ experience meeting or exceeding their expectations. And dividends, budgets and salaries are made possible by customers.

Responsibilities:

  • Ensure that all leaders reporting to the CEO have a clear understanding of the company’s vision and goals for customer experience excellence, and of their organization’s respective contribution. This includes setting the customer experience goals assigned to top management executives as part of their annual performance assessment.
  • Develop and deploy the company’s customer experience strategy, including characterization of strategic customer segments and implications for charters and roles throughout the company, and systematic collection and application of customer experience insights for strategic advantage and growth.
  • Coordinate the various roles associated with customer experience management throughout the company, minimizing silos of systems, data, assumptions, hand-offs, performance and customer touch-points.
  • Establish and roll-out the company’s customer experience maturity roadmap for holistic management and incremental sophistication as internal capabilities increase and external expectations evolve.

A masterful facilitator does the above in concert with fellow leaders across the enterprise. Some things must be empowered and deployed rapidly, and most things will take some time. There must be a sense of urgency and priority in order to maintain momentum. Ongoing coaching by the VP-Customer Experience’s team is essential. Most importantly, accountability must be built-in to existing meetings, templates, approval processes, and so forth to encourage real adoption and to minimize going-through-the-motions. It’s a process of embedding new habits in the enterprise DNA.

  • Develop an efficient portfolio of customer experience insights and analytics that provide an integrated single view of each customer, a 360-degree view of customer experience for each segment, a delightful experience for participants, and reports that compel strategic action systematically across the company.
  • Coordinate 720-degree view of customer data (traditional 360-degree customer lifecycle view with an overlay of 360-degree digital interaction data) for strategic data monetization, digital empathy, digital business models and real-time digital customer experience excellence.


Customer experience insights are the lifeblood of customer experience performance. The purpose of this data is to run the enterprise smarter than your competitors do. Smarter means anticipating customers’ reactions as inputs to everyone’s decisions company-wide so that waste is prevented, efforts are rewarded by the customer base as a whole, positive differentiation is obvious, and your brand has a magnetic field attracting high-growth customers.

  • Develop an effective portfolio of internal communications that educate executives and employees about customer experience realities, expectations, moments of truth, goals, improvement and innovation techniques and engagement opportunities, emphasizing specific ways different roles can make a difference in customer lifetime value.
  • Develop recognition for formal and informal collaboration that resolves issues, prevents issues, and creates value for internal and external customers.
  • Work with each discipline across the company to reframe their charter, roles and rituals for customer-centricity, i.e. why customers care and how it can make a difference for customers and/or customer touch-points.

Organizational adoption of customer experience excellence is the litmus test for sustainable customer experience-led growth. It becomes sustainable when everyone sees their respective roles in a customer experience context: why are customers funding each job, and how is that job contributing to ease-of-doing-business?

  • Develop customer experience performance dashboards that connect lagging indicators of market performance and leading indicators of team performance related to key drivers of customer lifetime value.
  • Develop and deploy systematic actioning on customer experience insights by cross-functional representatives, to prevent recurrence of issues and to create new mutual value associated with key drivers of customer lifetime value.
  • Influence ease-of-work and ease-of-doing business as a committee member for product development and realization, go-to-market, employee engagement and other endeavors across the company.
  • Ensure ongoing skill development and capability-building within the customer experience management roles and among executives and employees at-large for customer-focused communication, customer experience improvement and innovation, and alignment with customer expectations.

Empowerment and accountability are the yin and yang of any successful undertaking. Build-in an infrastructure that makes customer-centered behaviors the way of life across your firm.

Required:

  • Demonstrated ability to create shared vision, inspire collaboration, and drive change with momentum.
  • Proven ability to manage diverse efforts’ synergies.
  • Experienced in navigating ambiguity and change with an entrepreneurial mindset.
  • Track record of customer-centric decision-making.
  • More than two customer-management roles previously, such as voice of customer, experience design, customer care, customer intelligence, customer loyalty.
  • Bachelor’s degree.

This list shows priorities from top to bottom. If a candidate’s strengths are weakest at the top of this list, pair them with someone who can tag-team, arrange coaching and training from someone who’s successfully demonstrated those abilities, or preferably look further.

Preferred:

  • Strong background in customer research and analytics techniques, customer strategy, process improvement, human-centered design and performance management.
  • Track record of frequent personal interactions with customers.
  • Tech-savvy in evolving technologies.
  • Comfortable with public speaking and facilitating large group sessions.
  • Work experience in multiple P&L units or multiple functional areas, such as marketing, quality, service, etc.
  • Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP).
  • Lean/Six-Sigma training.
  • MBA degree or equivalent.


These capabilities can elevate and accelerate the impact of the VP-Customer Experience role.

This job description should clarify what customer experience excellence is all about. It’s imperative that each member of top management understands and honors what this role can help them achieve collectively and personally. Customer experience leadership takes a village. By definition it’s a team effort, as a mis-step by anyone can spell excessive costs or public relations disasters or demise of the enterprise. Alignment of your company to customers’ well-being is the mandate for customer experience-led growth.

Image licensed to ClearAction Continuum by Shutterstock.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Great article, Lynn. This is a great place for a company to start to understand the role and need of the Chief Customer Officer (or whatever title a company uses for the same responsibilities.)

  2. Many thanks, Shep. It’s essential that the top role for CX leadership in a company takes on core strategic positioning and execution, making a decided shift from legacy notions of the customer service/success/VoC/CRM realm. To really reap sustained growth, it must be ahead of the curve.

    Related comments I’ve received separately may be interesting to readers:

    “There is a huge change needed in this space today and I have talked to many customers who sense the divide and do not like it at all.”

    “Here’s my take, it’s more important where the role sits in the organization for CX to truly be immersed in the company DNA. Wherever the company’s ‘center’ is, that’s where the role sits. The description you’ve provided speaks very well to the strategic and tactical job duties. Sitting in the wrong part of the organization can profoundly limit the CXO success.”

    “This covers the right bases regarding the enterprise role CX should play in a company and how it fits in with other functions and what they are doing. Tactical action plans that improve experiences are important but they will only produce sustained results if the company truly thinks and acts in a customer-centric fashion.”

    ” I agree with you that cross-functional alignment around CX expectations is critical. Perhaps follow up with the qualities that help to build a successful CX leadership team that represents all areas/departments.”

    “The one thing I would add to the job description is the ability to work with marketing operations and technology to assist in defining a technology strategy to support customer experience goals. I think anyone in this job has to fundamentally understand marketing and sales technology.”

    “I wonder how many business adopt the role in a serious way. I feel like there is a lot of “me too” that goes on and not always a lot of authority goes into the position.”

    “First and foremost, the concept is absolutely off the charts and I think you really get the importance of customer centric thinking. This role is hugely important, and from my perspective not having this is exactly why classic american retail got bombed over the last decade. The merchant mentality ruled the day for so long, that customers were told what they wanted not asked what they wanted. That is changing and this role will drive to that.”

    “If a leadership truly believes that a customer focused culture will lead to profitable growth, and understands what it takes to shift a culture that may currently not support this belief, then I think the described position is dead on. But if leadership isn’t “all in” the individual in the customer advocate role will die a slow painful death. I’ve been there.”

    “Having spent close to 15 years in domain of measurement of customer centricity programs via Customer satisfaction/ Mystery shopping/ Channel dealer satisfaction etc studies, it would be a good & gradual move to learn how to strategies & implement customer centricity.”

    “This role definition encompasses not only the passion that’s required to really be an integral change agent but the breadth of influence this role needs across the organization as well as the customer’s journey. The ability to have one person direct a “one company, one customer voice” is captured in your write up!”

  3. Some constructive feedback I received separately:

    Comment: “Typically, job descriptions are laundry lists of responsibilities without a frame, so candidates and hiring managers have to guess how the role should be structured. I’d challenge describing it in no more than 7 core responsibilities (magic number) with specific key outcomes or deliverable for each one in an executive summary format as well. The 7 key responsibilities could be framed in sequence from beginning (assessing, defining vision, etc) to end (implementing, measuring, optimizing, etc).”

    My reply: “1st 3 subheadings (Description / Scope / Requirements) are the executive summary. They describe the full job succinctly. The bullets are for the curious who want further depth. The long list under “Responsibilities” could use subheadings for bullet groupings according to my blockquotes: Strategy, Insights, Adoption, Execution.”

    Comment: “It is heavy in buzz words – frictionless experience, sustains mutual growth, mutual value, holistic perspective, etc. — what I wonder about is these are broad interpretive phrases that may detract from the true meaning of the rule. I wonder if there should be more specifics in crafting what the role would do, such as Drive customer engagement thru the use of digital, Lead the build out of a new store strategy by taking customer feedback and implementing to those concepts, organize and report on all customer interactions and feedback, etc.”

    My reply: “It’s hard to write without using buzzwords. It can be done, but less succinctly. I suppose the phrases are unpopular because of overuse, particularly in ways that are out-of-sync with original intention. So much of human communication is non-verbal (90%-ish), we have to remember to provide examples as clarification of whatever words we choose.”

    Comment: “I must admit, seeing that list of responsibilities makes it appear rather daunting and, in some cases aspirational (the 720 degree bit – has anyone achieved and sustained this, really?).”

    My reply: “It is daunting, yet there are ways to execute it efficiently. Any company that embraces this approach would certainly differentiate customer experience. I’ve been writing about silo-bridging, keys to customer-centered management, and CEO’s guide to growth . . . and we’ve developed recipes that guide the deployment of recipes customized to a firm’s existing momentum and fast-tracks ownership across the company. These recipe injections make it possible for the VP/CCO to wrap their arms around the whole role and focus on influencing momentum.”

  4. Lynn, good starting point for dialogue since, in my experience, at least half of executive teams will ask “but what IS a CCO?”

    The area in which I invest most of my energy is in what I call ‘activating’ employees. That is, how do we educate the entire company on (a) what a superior experience is, (b) how it can transform a company, and (c) how to initiate independent actions without heavy-handed oversight. We want a wide swath of the company involved in making improvements (not just the CX team).

    Your readers may benefit from an article I wrote several months ago to articulate the difference(s) between customer care, success, and experience. https://pivotpointsolutions.net/2017/12/19/the-customer-care-success-and-experience-continuum/

  5. Great insight and information that validates the critical need to focus on customers first in everything the company develops and services. The role should report into the CEO/COO level however, not fully embraced and implemented in Most companies globally. Our customers will buy products and solutions from partners, suppliers based on Customer experience along the customer life cycle from pre-sales too sustainability.

    The key is forCX tams to be able to articulate the Value of CX and how to monetize the investment and measure positive business outcomes.

  6. Thanks for your comment, Andrew McFarland. ‘Activating employees’ is certainly the primary responsibility of every CX leader/manager. As you point out, by definition, customer experience excellence cannot be achieved just by the CX team. The most important skills, as outlined in the “Required” section are:
    a) Demonstrated ability to create shared vision, inspire collaboration, and drive change with momentum.
    b) Proven ability to manage diverse efforts’ synergies.

    Keep spreading the wisdom!

  7. Thanks for commenting, Carolyn Muise. You’re right that this role characterization is not yet fully embraced or implemented in most companies in the US or elsewhere. Hopefully, the enthusiasm demonstrated by readers of this article will help CEOs and COOs shift their mindset to empower the VP-CX role as described.

    To help with that, my article series this year is “CEO’s Guide to Growth through Customer-Centered Management”. Other resources such as infographics and podcasts on this topic can be found at ClearAction Continuum Resources.

    Articulating the value of CX is absolutely top of the list for the VP-CX role. Monetizing it and measuring it should focus a great deal on “customer experience annuities”: stemming “Band-Aid” investments and redistributing those otherwise perpetual costs instead to higher value opportunities. This requires cross-functional collaboration to prevent recurrence of customers’ thorny issues — as well as embedding CX insights into the annual planning process as guiding stars.

  8. Hi Lynn – great detail here on this role. I’m curious about your take on how a VP product management and VP customer experience would ideally interact? It seems to me, and from my experiences, these roles are difficult to integrate in to a single business. Would love your take.

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