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Who is ultimately responsible for the success (or failure) of the digital experiences a company delivers? PHOTO: HutchRock

Volker Hildebrand, global vice president at SAP Hybris, recently bought two monitors for his son, who is a gamer. “He explained to me that you need two monitors if you really want to to do gaming well,” Hildebrand told CMSWire.

The next day, the marketing efforts began. The retailer pursued Hildebrand relentlessly over the following weeks and months. Pop-ups and emails urged him to buy a monitor. Essentially the message was, "'we saw that you were interested in monitors so here is a deal for you,'" he explained. “It got to be annoying — how many monitors do they think I need?”

More than likely those behind the marketing effort driving these messages were unaware of the purchase, which is even a worse sin in the eyes of Hildebrand, who knows more than a few things about the industry. Rule number one is know your customer and personalize the messages and offers you are sending him or her.

So who, in Hildebrand’s expert opinion, was responsible for this breakdown? The CMO? The chief customer officer? The head of sales? The web designer? None of the above. The blame should fall directly at the feet of the CEO, he said. “The person who is responsible for providing a good customer experience in the company is always the CEO," he said.

Yes, many other titles in a company claim ownership of the customer experience or at least part of it, including the CMO, the chief experience officer, the chief digital officer and so on. But that is part of the problem, Hildebrand maintains. “All of these titles have a very narrow view of the overall customer experience, which is limited to where their job responsibilities end. Companies need a much broader view of the customer experience, one that isn’t focused on just the transaction.”

So the buck stops with the CEO. But she can’t do everything herself. Once she's established the vision — we are a customer-centric company — then starts the delegation of tasks and responsibilities. Here we look at exactly who these players are.

Who Does What in the C-Suite

Chief Fill-In-The-Blank Officer

Chief Experience Officer. Chief Customer Officer. Whatever the titles, the premise is the same: this person is responsible for the customer’s experience of the company’s products and services. The advantage that this individual brings to the table is that he or she is in the C-Suite, with direct access to the CEO. The impulse to create these roles is a righteous one: the company wants to show how seriously it takes the customer experience (CX). The problem can be that sometimes these roles are poorly designed or created with little introspection. And too often, Hildebrand said, these people are not empowered to make the company-wide decisions necessary for the role.

Chief Digital Officer

Much of the above also can apply to the chief digital officer. However this role deserves its own category as it emphasizes that the company has realized that digital initiatives are also crucial to the customer experience. “Some organizations have created the CDO role as an executive-level position with cross-cutting responsibilities for all digital initiatives,” wrote Suzanne Lentz, vice president of Marketing at LiquidHub in a blog post. “To give the customer a transparent view of their requests, orders, and interaction with the company, digital needs to cuts a horizontal slice across the organization and traverses across all of the vertical ‘stovepipes’ within the organization.”

Chief Service Officer/Head of Service

One problem for companies is that customers don’t actually behave the way companies are organized when they seek products and services, said Robert Wollan, senior managing director at Accenture Strategy. Ergo, the chief service officer, or head of service, is a title that is gaining currency, Wollan told CMSWire. “Some consumers have done their research and they are buying on the back of a service call, for example. Or maybe someone sees an old ad and decides to respond months later.” In short, service is becoming the new sales — and the service organization is becoming a hub of digital experiences on par with other groups also responsible for CX, he said.


Perhaps a surprising inclusion, but never forget the person who holds the purse strings, Rob Mead, head of Marketing for Gnatta told CMSWire. “Some of the digital experience you want to build won’t have a direct ROI — so ensuring they appreciate what you’re trying to do is crucial to getting budget.”

Moving Down the Ladder

Director or VP of Digital Experience 

This isn’t the same position as a CDO. Rather, the DX director leads a team that provides support to the customer’s entire digital journey, across all channels. This unit is a cross-functional one that includes members from across the business — even if digital experience is not the sole focus of a particular individual’s role, Matt Harris, co-founder and CEO of Sendwithus told CMSWire. These team members might include:

  • Marketing Strategist: This person is responsible for creating and executing a digital marketing strategy that supports the entire customer journey across all channels and touchpoints, which includes the intersection of online and offline interactions, Harris said. He or she is also responsible for brand standards, including consistent design, voice and tone.
  • Content Marketer: Responsible for executing a content plan to support the DX strategy across all channels.
  • Marketing Automation Specialist: This individual takes that strategy and content and turns them into campaigns that are served up automatically, in context, based on user segmentation and behavior.
  • Web and Product Designers: They ensure everything from transactional emails to landing pages to in-app dashboards meet brand standards, customer expectations, and business goals, such as conversion rates.
  • UI/UX Developer: This person ensures the user interface — both on-site and/or in-app — hits the sweet spot where brand, customer expectations and functionality meet.
  • Developers: “Creating integrated and seamless digital experiences requires code,” Harris said. “A DX team should have at least one dedicated developer, if not more, rather than have product developers perform these tasks when they find time.”
  • IT/Engineers: They are necessary to support digital architecture, MarTech and CRM integrations.
  • Data Developer: This person manages collection and warehousing of data from all customer touch points, as well as pipelines for accessing that data.
  • Data Analyst: This person analyzes and reports on customer data, behavior, and campaign performance to identify trends and make actionable recommendations.

With the CEO setting the vision and the direction, it clearly takes a village to deliver great digital experiences.