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Why Smart Companies Are Making Customer Experience a C-Suite Job Putting a senior executive in charge of managing customer experience is a powerful way to align departments happy in their silos.

By Len Devanna Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


I had a bad experience last week with a hotel chain that shall remain unnamed.

In a nutshell, I called to make a reservation. Everything went smoothly. However, the agent suggested I hold the line for a moment. I did so, assuming I was getting passed to a customer satisfaction survey. I'm the type of person that likes to share positive experiences when deserved.

Instead, I was passed to a representative from their 'loyalty club' who began the hard-sell around why I should join their time share program.

I politely declined once, twice, three times. The badgering began. "Why don't you like to travel AND save money, sir?" I lost my cool. I'd just finished a transaction with this company and was now getting the hard sell for something I had no interest in.

So I took to the web to share some constructive feedback on my experience.

While the company web site has several feedback forms, everything was purpose built for specific use cases (making reservations, requesting catering, being contacted by sales, etc.). Each form required discreet information that was completely irrelevant to my feedback.

It was impossible for me to share constructive feedback on my customer experience.

The process was maddening, but also served as a good reminder. Most organizations continue to operate almost entirely in silos. We're all so busy thinking about our departmental metrics or objectives that we lose sight of the bigger picture -- the customer's experience.

A chief experience officer (CXO) is an emerging role tasked with looking at that bigger picture. They are uniquely positioned to advocate for your audience(s), ensuring a smooth, seamless experience throughout the customer journey. Given that experience optimization is a key contributor in financial performance, expect to see more and more demand for this critical function.

Here are a few ways a CXO could transform your business.

Align and unify departments around the customer journey.

Imagine this scenario. Your marketing, sales and service leadership approaches your CEO advising that they've aligned their once disparate goals and measures around a common view of the customer journey.

Each department understands their role in the broader customer experience, and also understands how downstream activity, like support, impacts upstream activities such as sales. Their teams have been educated on the journey and cross-departmental goals are now completely aligned for the first time in company history.

I have to imagine even the most conservative of CEOs would do a two-step in celebration. Every department has a role in the customer journey. Building engaging experiences that guide your audience through that journey requires a high degree of cross-functional alignment and collaboration perfectly matched to the role of the CXO.

Related: 4 Steps to Ensuring Customer Experience Comes First

Enable and activate the organization.

We all have quarterly or annual goals that often are tied to some sort of monetary incentive. Think about your own goals, and ask yourself if you're measured in any way on customer satisfaction. I suspect the vast majority would answer "no" to that question, even though we all should feel accountability for delighting customers.

Instead, tired but deeply rooted measures often include things like producing X number of content assets or resolving customer problems within X minutes, instead of helping customers truly maximize product value.

A CXO can serve as a change agent, flipping yesterdays behavior on its head in the interest of enterprise transformation. They can eliminate bottlenecks, streamline collaboration between internal and external audiences and enable the right engagement from the right part of the business at the right point in the customer journey.

It's far too easy to feel like a cog in a big machine, as opposed to someone directly accountable for delighting customers regardless of level or department.

Listen, listen and then listen some more.

It doesn't matter what audience we're talking about. Whether it be your employees, investors, partners, prospects or current customers -- Everything they want, like and dislike about your category, your competitive set, you… It's all out there.

Smart brands are listening to conversations beyond their Facebook page or Twitter channel. They're also looking at conversations not directly about their brand or products, but about the needs of their audience. They're mining meaningful and actionable insights through digital, and leveraging those insights to inform and drive business strategy.

The web was a broadcast medium for the longest time, and leveraging it as such is still deeply entrenched in our behaviors.

I love the adage "We have two ears and one mouth for a reason." Everything we do should begin with listening.

This is another transformative behavior that can uniquely fall on the CXO, given their license to drive sweeping change across all facets of the organization.

Related: 3 Fundamentals of Better Customer Experiences

Build your next generation marketers.

Peter Drucker once said that the purpose of business is to create customers. I like to expand on this a bit, suggesting that the purpose of business is to create customers who create new customers.

Bottom line, if you delight your customers throughout their experience, they will serve as your best and most vocal advocates. The largest marketing budget cannot duplicate the impact of happy customers who share their passion and affinity across their networks and in places of influence that you could simply never reach.

To get there, customer-centricity has to be part of your DNA. Teams need to align around the needs of the audience at every touch point. Systems need to be connected to make the customer experience frictionless. Customer insights need to inform business strategy and product direction.

Changing behavior as an individual is hard. Transforming a business to change the way it fundamentally serves the audience throughout every phase of the customer journey is exponentially harder.

I firmly believe companies that invest in experience optimization now will thrive, while those that do not will become irrelevant over time. The chief experience officer is an emerging and increasingly important role that can serve accelerate this critical transformation by identifying and driving the changes required to thrive tomorrow.

Related: Can 'User-Experience' Experts Become 'Customer-Experience' Experts?

Len Devanna

President of xInsights

Len Devanna, president of Trepoint, has worked in digital marketing for 25 years. He has helped startups to $180-billion companies transform and integrate how they serve their audiences through digital media.

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