For those of us working across the Customer Contact space, Customer Experience is not a new concept, however, dependant on which company, or organisation you talk to, the understanding and use of Customer Experience and the people employed within this category is still very different from business to business. The role of a Chief Customer Officer, or board level Customer Experience Director is a post yet to be fully embraced in many companies or organisations but should this change?
There is an opinion that to deliver a truly great Customer Experience there is no place for siloed teams or departments, there has to be one person focussed on the customer who has the ability to advocate and influence the board room. This is where the Board appointed Customer Experience Director or the CCO comes in. Without this level of role it seems that ‘Customer Experience’ is at risk of becoming an over-used term, which was recently discussed on the Customer Experience Management Group with a post from Kevin Brown ‘I am concerned with the growing executive backlash against CX and would like to hear your insights’ and a recent blog post from Bob Thompson who wrote ‘The biggest danger to CX is simply this … HYPE’,
So, is it time for you to hire a Customer Experience Director?
Good question – In my experience, customer experience directors often have huge influence but no authority. They are brought in to educate the CXOs (CEO, COO, CFO, CMO etc) that the customer is not the remit of customer services and that the CXOs collectively own the customer experience. Once that job’s done, their team is redistributed and they go.
There are a very few customer experience directors who, in great businesses, own all the customer touch points and associated operations. They get much more done, more quickly. They know how to join up insight & engagement with rapid change of operations, self service and marketing.
As you know we have facilitated the Chief Customer Officer Forum for the past 7 years. It’s an important part of our passion: “How do we stop doing dumb things to our customers and our people?”. In my view, it should remain a fictional title – a role that anyone and everyone can take on for the organisation. For staff and for customers, leadership used to be an act of the leader, today it’s a 1000 acts of a 1000 people everyday.
So in answer to your question “Is it time…..?”, here’s a checklist for the CEO:
a) Do I really believe the customer and the front line staff come first?
b) Do I know how to lead from that position and make the quarterly numbers without it being a trade off?
If yes and yes, its a really good start and you probably don’t need a customer experience director. You just need some practical processes putting in place.
If yes and no – you’re in the danger zone, so go learn externally how to make the numbers follow the belief before working out the plan of attack
If no then recruit a Customer Experience Director. And choose whether its one who has your full authority over and across the various functions of the business. Or whether its one in one of the silos. Very different people and impact.
‘Have you ever been involved in a discussion in an organisation along the lines of ‘who actually owns the relationship with our customers?’. I have……many times. Ownership of the customer, and the experience that the organisation delivers to them has always been subject to debate around the globe.
In my time as ‘Head of Group Customer Experience’ for a retailer, I reported in to the Chairman, the HR Director, The COO and the Group Retail Director – not all at the same time, I might add! Whoever your business recognises as the ‘owner’ of customer experience, I would ask you to consider the fact that everyone on the board should collectively own the customer experience. However, I have often argued that having an independent ‘mirror’ at the board table will lead to a greater focus on customer experience. Someone who is independent of any customer facing process, but responsible for bringing the voice of the customer to the table, can be the conscience of the business. It is not that easy though. Being independent can make a CX Director very unpopular – if you continually point the finger without enabling change to happen in the right way, you will end up being seen as the CCI (Chief Company Irritant), rather than the CCO.
I believe a business must be ready to appoint a genuine customer experience director – and what I mean by genuine is NOT renaming the customer service director or marketing director. There must be collective agreement around the board table. Many US businesses have already embraced the model – we need more UK based organisations to now follow suit.’
Suggesting a board level Customer Experience Director or Chief Customer Officer may seem frivolous to organisations who believe they already focus on customers. However, many organisations even when they see customer experience as a top strategic priority and have a proliferation of tactics and projects underway, still struggle to do anything significant for customers.
In my experience, what they are usually missing is a dedicated executive leading the effort: in charge of a concerted programme to improve customer experience across the organisation, driving cross-functional alignment and co-operation across silo-ed departments, commanding the attention of the senior executives and very robustly influencing the organisation.
Having a board-level Customer Experience Director or Chief Customer Officer shows that you are serious about customer experience:
• Giving customer experience the attention that it deserves, not just paying lip-service – a board champion overseeing the strategy, getting into the details and standing up to his or her peers to drive action
• Connecting the dots between departments and initiatives, bridge conflicting agendas and providing relentless focus and discipline to driving a co-ordinated, systematic and sustained, organisation-wide customer experience programme
• Getting buy-in from functional leaders and mobilising change – overcoming political challenges breaking down organisational silos and cultivating cooperative relationships
• Building and maintaining organisational enthusiasm – overcoming inertia and barriers to change
• Implementing cultural change and spreading customer centricity throughout all areas of the organisation
• Bringing a customer experience “balance” to executive decision-making
But this type of position only makes sense if the CEO is truly committed to a significant change, will make it a dedicated C-level role and hold the entire executive team (not just the new executive) accountable for results.
If the role is a lower level, it does not show your customers and employees how important the work is, and, it is not going to empower the role holder with the real authority and necessary statute to break down all the corporate silos for successful delivery. It’s illogical to think that your leaders will want to collaborate on strategy and direction with a Customer Experience Director or Chief Customer Officer who is not considered a peer. If the Customer Experience Director or Chief Customer Officer is not board level, the customer effort will be greatly compromised.
Likewise it will not work as well, if the role is layered onto an existing one with an already over-flowing line of responsibilities. For example, someone running an operating area (such as customer service) and layering the cross-functional customer work on top of that.
Customer experience thrives with the right executive leadership.
What do you think?
We would like to hear from you if you are a CCO or Customer Experience Director, or work for a company that has one and if you feel it has made a difference to your business, or, if you disagree that there is a need for a Customer Experience Director, do let us know your comments here:
If you are thinking of hiring a Customer Experience Director, or are a Customer Experience Director looking for your next move, then do give us a call on 0845 620 9720 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org.