COVID-19 affected every line of business. And the way customer experience (CX) teams operate is no different. The fragile post-pandemic economy is reducing or pausing many digital customer experience budgets, particularly for smaller teams, according to the CMSWire State of Digital Customer Experience 2021 report. “Budget and resourcing” rose by 11% to be the number 1 challenge for digital customer experience teams.

Those challenges certainly don't downplay the importance of having dedicated professionals to run CX programs. “I think it’s important for companies to have a CX team, whether it’s formal or not,” said Annette Franz, CCXP, founder and CEO of CX Journey. “It’s a lot of work to ensure the customer voice is listened to and then heard within the organization. While everything a business does is about the customer, I believe these roles provide valuable information and services that feed into and facilitate the customer-centric culture.”

What Do CX Professionals Do?

So what do these CX teams look like? Bruce Temkin, head of the Qualtrics XM Institute, said CX teams will split roles between insights and analytics, voice of the customer, design and processes, engineering and other roles and responsibilities like internal communications.

According to his team’s State of the XM Profession report conducted in the second quarter of 2021, XM professionals primary responsibilities can include executives who:

  • Run an experience management program that includes customer experience, employee experience, product experience or brand experience
  • Manage projects such as voice of the customer or voice of the employee
  • Handle market research and analysis

These XM professionals come with backgrounds in strategy (52%), customer service (46%), marketing/PR (46%), operations (43%), customer success (39%) and sales (30%) among others. “CX team structure has not changed very much since 2019, except that there are likely more CX teams that have experience design and employee engagement elements,” said Temkin.

Related Article: 3 Core Practices of Emotionally Intelligent CX Teams

Typical CX Team Titles

The size of the organization typically dictates what and who composes CX teams, according to Franz. Smaller businesses tend to have one person, if they have anyone at all. Mid-sized businesses tend to have at least one person, maybe up to three or five. And larger businesses go so far as to have "Office of the Customer" and much larger teams, Franz added.

According to Franz, the following are some of the more-common roles/responsibilities of the individuals on CX teams, though not everyone has all of these:

  • Chief Customer Officer, or CCO, VP of CX, or similar title
  • CX admin or CX specialist; a coordinator role
  • VoC program manager, analysts; surveys, data, analytics, insights
  • Customer advisory board manager
  • Communications manager (might be shared with marketing)
  • Process change or improvement specialist/lean specialist
  • Experience design/design thinking
  • CX operations; tools, processes, change management, internal communications
  • Journey manager/journey mapping
  • Digital strategist and/or analyst (folks who are focusing on the digital experience and know how to tie that and all channels together)
  • Customer Success Manager
  • UX managers, if not explicitly then certainly through a dotted line so that there’s a more centralized focus on every aspect of the experience

“I don’t think the primary responsibility has changed,” Franz said of a pre-COVID CX team vs. now. “I think it’s become that much more important now than it was two years ago, simply because customer insights and customer data are that much more valuable to the organization now. I do think that there is now more focus on the entire ecosystem of constituents than two years ago. So, more focus on employees, partners, vendors, etc.”

Related Article: Why the Evolution of CX Is Impacting Your First-Party Data Strategy

Typical CX Team Responsibilities

When it comes to what’s getting done by CX teams, Franz shared some key responsibilities and expected actionable outcomes:

Learning Opportunities

  • Develop and implement tools and processes to understand customers, e.g., surveys, other listening posts, personas, journey mapping
  • Co-create new experiences with customers
  • Centralize and analyze customer feedback and data
  • Identify metrics to track and ensure those metrics are linked to business outcomes
  • Share the insights from the customer understanding tools throughout the organization
  • Educate the rest of the organization about the customer and the customer experience
  • Align and unite the organization around the customer
  • Ensure that the customer and the impact on the customer is embedded in all decisions, designs and conversations
  • Partner with HR to ensure that employees have a great experience, and to ensure that customers have a great experience
  • Partner with the CIO to ensure that the right data is (a) accessible and (b) shareable; able to get to the right people at the right time
  • Develop the strategy to achieve the desired and intended customer experience

CX Team Structure Is All About Customer Journeys

Customer experience is departmental or team focused, according to Shep Hyken, customer service and experience expert and author. “It takes the CX strategy to a tactical level,” he added. “A big part of the CX team’s responsibility is to analyze every touchpoint that a customer has at every interaction they have — or could have — with any part of the journey they experience when doing business with the company.”

Identifying these interaction points are step one, Hyken said. Making them better, easier, simpler, or even eliminating them, is the next step. “Depending on the type of organization, it could be a focus on the digital experience, the human-to-human experience or a blend,” Hyken said. “There may be others — individuals and departments — that may work with the CX team to make this better experience come to life. This won’t happen on its own. It takes a leader that can set the strategy and delegate the implementation to ensure the customer has the best experience possible.”

Hyken noted that many organizations have a chief experience officer (CXO) or a chief customer officer (CCO) sitting at the top of the CX division. However, IT has become increasingly involved in managing the experience because there's a lot of digitization in business today. Ultimately, he doesn’t see a definitive organizational tree for CX, but rather CX roles and responsibilities are a reflection of the customer’s journey. “We’ve got to understand that everybody needs to be on deck,” Hyken said. “Everybody needs to understand the role that they play in delivering a better customer experience. Just take a look at the journey map that a typical customer goes on, and then each one of those interaction points they have."

Related Article: How CIOs Define Innovative Customer Experience

Actionable Insights Fueling Experiences

The primary role for customer experience teams continues to be distributing actionable insights and helping the organization design experiences that meet the needs of customers, according to Temkin. COVID-19 and the changing environment has forced CX teams to more actively monitor short-term shifts versus just tracking long-term metrics, he added. “In addition, CX teams have increasingly been asked to help collect and analyze feedback from employees, as employee experience grows in importance,” Temkin said. “Some CX teams include an employee engagement component, and if they do, there’s likely been an increase in focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

CX teams are becoming more important than ever, Temkin added. With all of the changes in the environment that customers are facing — both consumers and business customers — CX teams need to provide more ongoing insights into those shifts, he added. “Rather than focusing on tracking against long-term relationship metrics like NPS, the emphasis is much more on understanding and responding to more near-term changes, like what are customers planning to do and how will that impact what they buy and how they renew,” said Temkin.

CX teams have also had to help their organizations envision and create new products and services to satisfy the shifting needs of customers, so they’ve had to focus on more ad-hoc research and support more experience design activities, according to Temkin. “CX teams have been brought into more executive conversations,” Temkin added, “as organizations make significant decisions in the face of changing market conditions.”