What’s The Fate of A Customer Experience Officer (CXO)?

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What's the fate of Customer Experience Officer CXO Role written by Stacy Sherman
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A recent Wallstreet Journal article discusses the idea that some customer experience officers are aspiring to make their roles obsolete. Best Buy Co chief customer officer and executive, Allison Peterson, is quoted as saying: “My goal is to create an environment where we are so obsessed over the customer that a separate person or team doing it doesn’t need to exist.” While some leaders are raising doubt on the longevity of the role, people like myself believe the customer experience officer (CXO) job is increasing in importance and far from ending.

The Trend of Customer Experience Officer (CXO) Role

If you search on common job sites, you’ll see companies are hiring CX managers and related executive positions at a faster rate than ever before. The trend is rising and paving the way for change management. That’s because a CXO has unique skills and training to guide a company’s direction and investments (tools, resources) that are in the best interest of customers. Likewise, a customer experience officer knows how to influence people to feel that they have a customer experience job, even when they don’t interact directly with customers. Without such a culture, loyalty goals can’t be achieved.

Besides my observations, research indicates organizations are taking customer experience (CX) seriously by committing more resources and talent to the discipline. Gartner Customer Experience Management Survey reveals: “In 2017, more than 35% of organizations lacked a chief experience officer (CXO) or chief customer officer (CCO) or equivalents, but in 2019, only 11% and 10% lacked one or the other role, respectively.”

Golden Rule for Customer Experience Officer

A CXO can’t live on an island alone. Like any other executive position, collaboration and partnerships with every department are essential for positive changes to happen. CX needs to be methodical, intentional, consistent, and a shared passion; the same holds true for EX (employee experiences). You can’t have CX without great EX, which is why employee engagement and driving commitment to customer excellence is part of the CXO job and not a short-term strategy.

Conclusion: Will the Need For A Customer Experience Officer End?

I believe the answer is maybe when my kids have kids. We have a long way to go as technology advances and dehumanizes experiences. A CXO ensures that the Internet of Things (IOT), artificial intelligence (AI), and other ways of doing business enhance customer experiences, and not supersedes actions like sending a personalized handwritten letter. That’s irreplaceable.

For those who have a goal to become a CXO or in the job now, I give you a standing ovation because it’s not an easy career and requires a “high level of effort.”  There’s a lot of obstacles, yet it’s a leadership role that is so important not just for business but also for the greater good.

What are your thoughts? Do you think CXO and related leadership roles will go away at most organizations in the foreseeable future?

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Speaking as a CXO and someone who has been in CX leadership roles for 20+ years, I agree with you. Being responsible for improving CX should happen all across the company but ensuring we are working on the right things, measuring progress, providing CX expertise and skills are something that a CXO and their organization provide. This helps ensure more effective cross-functional collaboration, a human centered approach to designing those improvements and enabling clear and measurable results. Here’s hoping there’s even more experience improvement work in the future, so we all get a better experience as customers.

  2. Stacy, great question, and I appreciate you supporting this with data. Personally, I am not sure about the sustainability of the CCO/CXO role even though I do believe it to be an essential role. I guess my feeling on this is that the CCO/CXO role should in theory be embedded within the CEO role except that we know the CEO role is often rooted in and mired with financial objectives and often to the detriment of CX. There once was an organization that I had the pleasure of being a customer of whose very existence was based on customer-centric behaviors across the entire organization. I would have held them up as the most customer-focused company on earth and they had no individual responsible for CX. It was truly embedded in their culture and was evident to the customer at every interaction.

    Unfortunately, that was the one and only company I ever found to be like this and the key to all this was that the CEO was in effect the CXO/CCO all wrapped into one individual. The company was privately held at the time I experienced this but it was eventually acquired by a large public organization, which in short order transformed them back into what is all too familiar to us and hence requiring the CXO/CCO role in order to at least appear as if they were interested in being customer-centric. Sorry if my cynicism around corporate existence shows through here but I do agree that the role is necessary for organizations and leadership thereof that lack the ability to put the customer front and center.

  3. So I work in the Less Than Truckload (LTL) transportation technology & data space. I foresee a possible future where autonomous, self-driving containers come with a “driver” that is actually a Customer Experience/Success expert. They share expert knowledge. They show & guide customers with using best-practices, such as for loading & unloading freight. They explore new opportunities to move goods for them through inquiry and observation, on-site. In the end, they reduce friction when transacting and drive value growth for both parties culminating in a great customer/vendor experience. This front-line workforce will still need great leadership supporting them, no?

  4. Probably, the individual activities of current CXO get integrated to every role, than an explicit CXO

  5. I’m fully in agreement with your conclusion about the current landscape and future outlook for the CXO/CCO role. In fact, as predicted in one of my CustomerThink posts almost exactly eight years ago (https://customerthink.com/the_evolving_chief_customer_officer_identifying_value_authority_scope_responsibilities_and_stra/): “In the past decade, we’ve seen the number of companies with an individual in the role of Chief Customer Officer (CCO) – nicely defined by Wikipedia as ‘the executive responsible for the total relationship with an organization’s customers’ – grow from under 100 to thousands today. Reflective of the escalating focus on customer data, experiences, and relationships across all methods of communication and access, the role is rapidly evolving and morphing; however, there is general agreement regarding its significance in building and sustaining true value, planning capability, and enterprise customer-centricity.”

    I’ve seen no eroding of enterprise importance or contribution of this role – – in fact quite the opposite, From my perspective, one key reason is because of the increasing leadership recognition of employee commitment/experience to value delivery and how this is integrated and woven into the customer experience. The CXO must be able to accommodate experience needs all stakeholder groups.

  6. I believe it is an important role and one that is here to stay. We will always need a person at the CX helm to guide the organization through continuing evolution in the CX experience and requirements. For example, the pandemic rapidly accelerated a shift or the need to shift to a digital business model for many businesses. That impact on CX has to be evaluated and strategized by someone who lives the customer needs, and expectations and understands onboarding, adoption, and outcome delivery. Who else would be setting the standard and shaping expectations for the customer? Businesses will continue to need to coordinate the customer experience across all functions and touchpoints. The role of the CXO will remain as the standard bearer.

  7. CXO is a need.While all the employee can be trained to excel as a CXL does, we still need a focus, single person strategising the CRM activities, processes and rewards etc.

  8. Customers are the lifeblood of all business. Having an executive seat with the primary responsibility of ensuring the organization is aligned and delivering an experience in accord with brand promise and desired reputation is critical for success. The world changes and businesses must adapt to new demands, new ways of interacting with technology and new ways to experience services and products.

    The CXO role and others like it are necessary to keep the customer at the forefront of design, development and operations. It would be fantastic if every company had an intrinsically driven culture where every employee, regardless of role, understood the part they play in CX. However, even in an organization filled with CX minded employees, a leader is needed. When a task is everyone’s responsibility the danger of group think can encroach and soon it becomes no one’s responsibility. A team made up of the greatest athletes will not win the title without a coach to drive strategy and navigate through the ebb and flow of the game.

    I agree with Stacy Sherman and others who have shared their comments. The CXO and their team must remain. Additionally, I would stress the importance of strategically positioning the team horizontally across your organization and connecting frequently to remain aligned and focused on key business objectives through the lens of experience.

    If this past year has made one thing abundantly clear, it is that the only constant is change. CX will continually need to be translated through new products and services and seen through the eyes of ever-changing consumer perspectives. For these reasons and echoing those of other others above, I do not foresee the CXO role disappearing anytime soon.

  9. I think Allison’s comment is meant in the spirit of aspiration, but I also think it demonstrates that there is a conflation between things like Customer “Support”, “Service”, “Success”, “Care”, etc… and Customer EXPERIENCE.
    CX, as a function and role, should be all about taking enterprise-wide ACTION to improve your internal processes so as to better align your Customers’ experiences with your Brand Promise. It’s different from all these other things.
    When it’s seen from that angle, with such an important and enduring role (and, more importantly, a differentiated role from all the “CS” roles mentioned above), I think the answer would be different.
    Great conversation starter, Stacy!

  10. Hi everyone. Thank you so much for sharing your thought-provoking perspectives per my article. Let’s keep the conversations and CX movement going. Together, we are making a difference❣️

  11. I 100% agree with Stacy! After interviewing over 40 CX managers, I can confidently say that all of them, independently of how many years they have been in position, say that the work has just begun. Many CEOs don’t want to accept how much internal work there is to be done in the firm to make it customer-centric, thus improving CX. It is not a 2-year development project, not even 5, but deliverables are worth it in the long run.

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