Customer experience (CX) is surpassing marketing to become the main focus of many brands. That’s because a superior CX—one with seamless, connected customer journeys—can propel a brand past even the fiercest competitors by keeping happy customers coming back for more. Gartner, in fact, estimates that customer experience now drives more than two-thirds of customer loyalty, outperforming brand equity and price combined.
But it’s hard to create a unified, customer-first company culture when each department or function has its own, differing idea of what the customer wants. You need someone at the top of the organization leading the charge—and making sure everyone’s on the same page.
That’s why so many companies now—nearly 90%, according to Gartner—have added another role to their C-suite: the chief experience officer (CXO). Most companies began to get the memo in 2019—Mastercard, for instance, hired its first-ever chief experience officer (CXO) that year.
But CXOs aren’t just for industry giants. Companies of all sizes are filling this important, new role to ensure their CX is proactively optimized and managed in a more holistic, strategic way.
Here’s what you need to know.
What exactly is a chief experience officer (CXO)?
CXOs are high-level executives who focus on creating consistent, frictionless CXs that meet or exceed expectations across all customer touchpoints and at every stage of the customer journey—before, during, and after a sale is complete.
The intended result? Higher customer satisfaction rates that boost customer loyalty and lifetime value, shrink churn, and inspire customer evangelists to advocate on a brand’s behalf.
What does a CXO do?
Chief experience officers work with both leadership and front-line employees to develop CX strategies, aiming for every customer interaction to deliver a positive outcome.
They strive to create internal cultures that prioritize the customer viewpoint in all decision-making processes. As the orchestrator across departments, channels, and touchpoints, CXOs break down any silos that exist between different teams and data systems. They then continually evaluate and improve all CX-related business practices, strategies, and tactics.
Specific CXO duties often include:
- Working closely with other departments and the C-suite to co-create innovative ways to improve and elevate the CX, define what “value” really means to customers, and establish a common language for talking about the CX
- Overseeing everyone involved with improving the CX—from customer service teams, marketers, and CX practitioners to product designers, developers, and researchers—to ensure everyone contributes to and supports the CX plan
- Translating wide-reaching departmental goals into user-specific ones
- Working with team leaders to identify, then track against benchmarks the metrics that most effectively measure the impact of customer interactions
- Capturing, monitoring, and analyzing a wide variety of customer intelligence (e.g., Net Promoter Score, CES, CSAT, customer sentiment)
- Eliminating gaps and friction points across the entire CX
- Advocating for customer needs in all projects and strategies
- Building data-driven customer journey maps
- Educating internal teams on customer motivations, the buyer’s journey, and the customer lifecycle
- Empowering employees to independently make more customer-centric decisions
- Working with product development teams to ensure products deliver the functions and capabilities customers actually want
- Ensuring consistency between in-person and online experiences
- Understanding customers’ demographic, firmographic, and behavioral data
- Working closely with IT to ensure the organization invests in technologies that can support future CX strategies
What kind of skills, experience, and education should a CXO possess?
The specific skills and experience a CXO needs can vary greatly between organizations and industries. But, at a high level, here’s what to look for.
Ideal skills of a CXO
- Equipped with empathy, leadership, people management, change management, and problem-solving skills to see the big picture and align all stakeholders around a strategy that maximizes the value customers receive
- Translates data-driven insights into effective strategies and tactics
- Explains new concepts and strategies to different audiences in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them
- Understands analytics and knows which tools to use to uncover the right information
- Maintains a growth mentality by eagerly watching for and embracing new best practices, communication channels, and strategies
- Remains calm and clear-headed under pressure
Ideal experience of a CXO
A strong background in one or more customer-touching disciplines, like:
Ideal education of a CXO
Many organizations prefer C-suite executives who have masters degrees, but that approach can severely limit your candidate pool when searching for the right CXO.
What you really want is someone with at least a bachelor’s degree who has experience in an executive role and can do all or most of the above—and shows, not tells.
Which companies need a CXO?
Every company that wants to increase customer satisfaction by ensuring a positive aspect of every part of its buyer’s journey and customer lifecycle needs a CXO.
That’s because companies without CXOs tend to keep working in silos—customer-facing teams like marketing and sales simply can’t keep CX optimization top-of-mind at all times because they’re busy with their own initiatives.
To deliver the best possible CX, you have to place it at the heart of your organization’s culture and ensure it influences every aspect of your business, every day.
This article originally appeared in UserTesting.