Improving the customer experience has never been more crucial. Amidst the turmoil and uncertainty of the past two years, CX experts have taken it upon themselves to keep their eye on maintaining a positive customer experience and improving those experiences whenever possible.

To recognize those who champion customer experience, CMSWire, a leading native digital publication by Simpler Media Group that covers customer experience, marketing and intelligent information management, created the Customer Experience Leader of the Year award. We looked for senior leaders who have been in their current roles for at least a year and who went above and beyond to create exemplary experiences for their customers. Five finalists were chosen from the submissions we received and all were honored during a special awards ceremony.

The awards ceremony was held on October 29, the second day of the two-day DX Summit (DXS) fall event. It was the culmination of a year of virtual events for CMSWire, spotlighting topics such as tech stacks, omnichannel experiences, proving ROI, gaining buy-in and more.

Before announcing the award winner, CMSWire’s Senior Reporter Dom Nicastro interviewed each finalist for their insights into what they do, examples of the work they’re most proud of and what the future holds for CX.

2021 CX Leader of the Year Finalists, presented by CMSWire

  1. Sean Albertson, Director of Client Experience Measurement & Analytics (CXMA), Charles Schwab
  2. Gavin Fabian, Chief Product Officer, HST Pathways
  3. Katrina Schiedemeyer, Sr. Customer Experience Center of Excellence, Danone, NA
  4. Amy Shioji, SVP Corporate Strategy & Chief Experience Officer, Strategic Education
  5. Dave Zatloukal, EVP, Hughes Network Systems

The Finalists

Sean Albertson has always found something new in his journey to his current role at Charles Schwab, be it client or customer experience. Schwab’s current ROCS program (Resolving Our Clients’ own Struggles) brings in journey, survey and operational data into a single analytics program, which brings to the front those things that create challenges for Schwab’s customers. “Everyone talks about finding actionable insights; bringing in data-driven decisions to the forefront is how we’ve achieved that,” says Albertson.

Gavin Fabian at HST Pathways is charged with nothing less than bringing human-centered design to healthcare technology. “Technology has the ability to reshape every industry, including healthcare,” Fabian says. “It’s our job to help nurses, doctors, patients and others engage with technology in a way that’s meaningful to them. Being recognized for improving the way the healthcare industry is engaging with software technology is a huge honor.”

Learning Opportunities

For Katrina Schiedemeyer at Danone NA, customer experiences starts further upstream than one might imagine. “Ensuring we can have a good relationship with our suppliers has a trickle-down effect on customer experience,” Schiedemeyer says. “It cascades downstream. This makes our employees happy, and that passion cascades down to the customer because it means they get what they want at the right time.”

Dave Zatloukal believes great CX requires great employee engagement — but engagement isn’t without its challenges. “Before the pandemic we had really strong enthusiasm among our employees. Obviously the pandemic interrupted that, so we had to rethink how we approached the customer experience to include our employee engagement.”

Finally, CX Leader of the Year Award Winner Amy Shioji is thankful for the recognition she’s received in her role at Strategic Education. “When you think about higher education, CX doesn't necessarily come to mind, so I’m proud of our organization and the work we’ve done,” Shioji says. She likens CX to an endurance sport — more of a marathon than a sprint. “Part of our challenge as CX leaders is that in many organizations, professionals don’t own a lot relating to the experience itself,” Shioji says. “It’s a lot of influencing other parts of the organization. While that can sometimes be a challenge, to me it's exciting because we need to continually evolve with our customers and work with other departments.”

Editor-in-Chief Rich Hein noted that customer experience has been increasingly in the spotlight for some time and pandemic only accelerated that trend. CX is now a key differentiator where businesses compete for customers. CMSWire created this award to recognize leaders who excel in CX, improve customer experiences by partnering with other departments and leaders across their organizations and leveraging all the digital technologies available to them. Our CX Leader of the Year Amy Shioji — along with all our finalists — consistently go above and beyond to create amazing and delightful customer experiences.

CMSWire’s 2022 CX Awards will open to nominations next fall, and will feature the CX Leader of the Year and an expanded awards slate. More details to come.