a mother duckling leads her ducklings.
PHOTO: Jennie Park mydisneyadventures

Departments within organizations often lack an aligned understanding of their customer experience (CX) strategy, according to a Deloitte Digital report (PDF). “They have not sufficiently defined the necessary internal processes, functional interfaces, CX principles and responsibilities,” researchers found. “This inevitably results in a misunderstanding of ‘who needs to do what.’”

Many organizations have created roles like chief customer experience officer in order to delegate a leadership role for CX. Others still don’t have a CX owner. So who should lead CX efforts in your organization? The easy, common answer is everyone. But shouldn’t organizations have an actual leader for CX?

CX Is the CMO’s Game

David Peterson, senior director of marketing and strategy at HealthMarkets, said the chief marketing officer should lead and oversee customer experience efforts. “CMOs are charged with leading the holistic brand experience, which I see as the 'top' level of experience, if you will,” Peterson said. “Brand experience encompasses customer experience, which then encompasses the user experience.

Each are important to various facets and roles within an organization, and the customer experience is the responsibility of all to ensure it is exemplary from end-to-end so you earn a customer's trust.” One leader whose primary role is to oversee that would be the individual in charge of marketing, according to Peterson.

Related Article: What Separates Customer Experience Leaders from the Laggards?

It All Starts With the CEO

Ahmed Quadri, senior VP of success organization at Reltio, said CX efforts are often led by ideally the CEO, who will implement a CX mandate. That trickles down, he said, to the CMO or VP of marketing to execute the mandate. “Marketing leaders are great at leading CX efforts because they’re in charge of the overall customer journey, which tends to be a natural starting point in understanding your company’s CX efforts," Quadri said. “CX incubates with marketing, and they define the overall customer experience on the consumer side. On the B2B side, with high-tech software for example, CX is not only about the journey but how the product delivers that experience to customers.”

Any Executive Who Believes in CX

Who should own customer experience within an organization? The challenge in answering that question, according to Howard Tiersky, CEO of FROM, The Digital Transformation Agency, is that CX cuts across many traditional organizational silos and includes:

  • Branding
  • Marketing
  • Research/insights
  • Product development
  • Fulfillment/operations
  • Customer service/support
  • Technology

“Real CX progress starts with these executives prioritizing CX and championing it as an organizational priority,” Tiersky said. “This is essential because the only way great CX happens is when all the parts of an organization commit to two things: to deliver a truly outstanding customer experience and to work together to achieve this.”

It does make sense to have a single leader over CX within an organization, Tiersky added. It’s a proven management principle that ownership is key to any initiative. That individual will need strong partnership from the leaders of all the other areas of the organization. “This individual could be a CMO, chief digital officer (CDO) or other senior executive, who has been given ownership of CX as an extension of their other responsibilities,” Tiersky said. “Or it could be an individual who is brought in at this level with CX as their exclusive focus.”

Related Article: CMSWire Reader Advisors Share CX Challenges, Success Stories

Could It Be the CCO?

That role is increasingly referred to as the “chief customer officer," or CCO; however, the label is less important than the responsibilities, Tiersky said. According to Tiersky, typically the CCO would:

  • Understand the business goals and KPIs of each area of the organization and align with them.
  • Propose new KPIs to quantify CX progress (such as Net Promoter Score), gain alignment around these KPIs and have the CEO add them to the variable compensation plans in a meaningful way for all the key leaders of the different silos.
  • Conduct a collaborative and open process for envisioning the “future state” customer experience that all key executives can feel ownership over. You want victory to be a shared one, not a success of the CCO over the other executives at that level. 
  • Develop a clear action plan and drive it forward, with different areas of the organization making commitments regarding what they will do and when.
  • Make sure progress reports have CEO-level visibility.
  • Celebrate success and take a collaborative approach to addressing any roadblocks.
  • Develop and share a design pattern library and other assets so that all parts of the organization that are creating CX understand how their part fits into a bigger unified picture.

Big CX Picture More Important Than One Role

David Greenberg, Act-On Software's SVP of marketing, said that when thinking about customer experience, it's important your company take a step back and look at the big picture. “Who are the most unforgettable companies you have interacted with? You'll likely recall a company that has nurtured your trust and is authentic,” Greenberg said. “Traditionally, CX was passed around like a hot potato within an organization. But, it's everyone's responsibility to deliver a great relationship in today's world.”

In the older models, after marketers nurtured a lead, they handed it off to sales. Then, once sales sealed the deal, they punted the newly minted patron to the customer service department for eternity. This fragmented relationship is “sloppy and inconsistent,” according to Greenberg, leaving customers to experience a different brand throughout the entire lifecycle. 

“But, in a world of heightened connectivity and accountability, a brand is only as good as the last great thing it has done for its customers and the funnel-focused approach simply won't do,” he said. “While CMOs and CXOs are responsible for creating and initiating on the blueprint CX, they need to foster consistency through the whole organization. Otherwise, you can forget about fostering enough trust to build true brand devotion.”