If “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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.