Customer experience leadership: role or action?


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I have seen quite a bit of conversation and research of late regarding the need for, or fast growing presence of C-level leaders accountable for customer experience strategy and objectives. I’m guessing many of you have as well.

Paul Hagen turned up our attention on the Rise of the Chief Customer Officer in his recent Forbes post. Bruce Temkin tells us that almost six out of ten companies among the 200 large companies he surveyed have a senior executive in charge of their customer experience efforts.

But, what does this role look like?

Four types of titles and roles seem to be emerging:

Line executives– in marketing, sales, service or operations, where customer experience is folded into the work.

Functional leaders– where customer experience is a discipline. Employees are trained in customer experience as a sanctioned expertise.

Senior-level internal consultants– who set expectations and advise line leaders on how to achieve customer experience objectives in their areas or business units.

Chief customer officers– line executives with broad and comprehensive authority for getting keeping, and growing profitable customers.

However, recently I’ve been thinking that the more meaningful question has less to do with the organization’s structure or the title on the org chart and more to do with two age-old basics: strategy (organization’s intention) and outcomes (what success looks like).

More plainly, my thought is this: It’s not about the position – it’s about the action.

Think about the decisions and actions happening across, up and down your organization as you read this. What is most often the primary driver of those actions? I’m not asking about the scorecard for success. I’m asking about HOW you get results. What drives action in your organization?

Your answer will help identify which role is best for your company.

Is customer experience part of your operating strategy to drive financial performance? If this sounds like how your organization works, you will get great results with top-level accountability for customer experience (i.e., Chief Customer Officer)

Do you view customer experience as one of several competencies or one of many equally important functions in your organization? If yes, you should think about a line executive role.

Do you think customer experience is a competitive competency or a strategic focus for the next 1-2 years? If so, an internal consultant or specially tapped fuctional leader can best drive this work in the short term.

Your real challenge is this:

Do not get distracted by what the “popular kids” in your industry are doing. For your organization, right now, you must CHOOSE and then ACT on customer experience in a way that generates the best performance.

In my experience, organizations that see customer experience as a core operating strategy to drive financial performance will generate the biggest financial performance payoff for customer experience efforts. They are the boldest. They use reach and power across the organization to make tangible changes to the customer experience itself. And they are most committed to the all-too-often cultural shift necessary to sustain change.

You may be feeling some frustration that in your organization, customer experience is only a functional expertise. You – or your team – may represent that discipline or act alone in using a defined target experience to drive decisions every day. I applaud you, too, because you are making a difference. In research conducted by Aveus, we found that even though organizations with a functional view or isolated leadership aren’t top performers, these organizations get better financial results than those organizations with no focus on customer experience at all. It’s not the role, it’s the action that matters most.

What is your organization willing to do?

Is your organization ready to give someone the reach and power to be successful? What position makes sense for your company?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Linda Ireland
Linda Ireland is co-owner and partner of Aveus LLC, a global strategy and operational change firm that helps leaders find money in the business performance chain while improving customer experiences. As author of Domino: How to Use Customer Experience to Tip Everything in Your Business toward Better Financial Performance, Linda built on work done at Aveus and aims to deliver real-life, actionable, how-to help for leaders of any organization.


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