Go back ten or 15 years, and the role of CXO, or Customer Experience Officer to give it its full title, was regarded as one of those unconventional or even ‘wacky’ roles, created by advertising and marketing businesses as the next big thing. Seen by some to be just another title for a customer service manager or head of marketing, or even a hybrid of the two, it quickly became clear that CXOs were indeed what businesses needed, particularly in our digital era. Fast-forward to today and what we see is effective, dynamic CXOs in place across diverse businesses, spearheading a customer-centric culture and driving real competitive advantage in a marketplace where products and services are no longer key business differentiators.
According to Forrester, the number of CX executives will grow by at least 25% this year. So, how have we got here, what’s changed and what does the CXO of today look like? The CXO has always been tasked with ensuring that every aspect of the business enables a positive engagement between brand and customer. The rise of digital has led to an increase in the number of customer touchpoints to be managed, presenting not only an uplift in opportunities to reinforce positive customer experiences but a dramatic rise in customer expectations, as well as even more potential for things to go wrong. As such, CX is more important than ever, with research finding that 76% of business executives say that improving CX is a high or critical priority.
Not only has the rise in digital impacted on customer expectations but it’s also fundamentally changed the role of CXO. Where once technology alone was enough to provide that all-important competitive advantage, this is no longer the case as more businesses are investing in the same technologies to keep pace with our economy. As CX technology matures, so does the need for CXOs to head-up strategic digitisation projects, not only bringing on-board the right technologies but optimising their use across the business to provide the key differentiator of CX excellence. So, what does this mean for the role of CXO in terms of required skill sets?
At the heart of the CXO role today must be data, but it’s no longer just a case of looking at performance data to then decide where to make changes. It’s all about analysing this data to uncover in-depth, actionable insight, identifying patterns and opportunities across customer records and data to inform not only CX strategy, but the wider business strategy as well. With the increase in personalisation something that can’t be ignored, it’s only by mining data to pinpoint trends that businesses can drive better experiences tailored to meet the needs and expectations of individual customers.
One key responsibility of CXOs is ensuring the business is collecting the right data it needs. It’s all very well having the necessary tools in place to analyse data, but if you’re not collecting the right data in the first place, any analysis is pretty much redundant. Customers expect businesses to know them inside out and anticipate their needs so organisations need to ensure they have the right tools in place, such as comprehensive case management systems, to not only collate the information but to then provide a holistic view of the customer journey back to the business, as and when required.
It’s no longer good enough for CXOs to be concerned with the here-and-now, even if it is supported by the most comprehensive single view of the customer. It’s important to understand how this view of the customer changes over time, making it essential for CXOs to put in place advanced customer journey mapping as a vital business process. Although still relatively new for many businesses, customer journey mapping is rapidly establishing itself as a key factor in improving CX. As such, savvy CXOs are working quickly to refine processes and practices to not only improve the levels of insight generated but to turn this insight into actions which lead to tangible improvements in CX levels. It can’t just be a historical exercise though, with the most insightful information only emerging when current and new trends and data points are brought into the mix.
Advanced journey mapping not only enables a more in-depth understanding of where the customer has been but also signposts where they might go or what they might do next, providing that vital ability to pre-empt both customer demands and expectations. Brands need to better understand the whole journey, providing a consistent experience across the board in the realisation that journeys, more often than not, trump interactions, and it’s down to the CXO to implement customer journey mapping to drive demonstrable and continuous improvements to business-wide CX.
A unified business
It also often falls to the CXO to spread this customer-centric focus across the business, uniting seemingly disparate functions to deliver consistently excellent customer experiences. While it’s always been difficult to shoehorn the role of CXO into a specific department or business function, the CXO of today is a truly multidisciplinary role, which needs to enlist the support and contributions of the rest of the business to enable the deep dive analysis of CX information that underpins continual CX improvements. In what is a cyclical, mutually beneficial relationship, where different departments can see the wider business benefits of a strategic approach to CX, they’re more inclined to be involved. For CXOs, harnessing this bigger picture is vital if they’re to successfully make the case for future investments in CX, breaking down previously held silos of information and insight to secure a holistic approach to CX.
CX and EX
It’s not just departments and functions that need to be united by the CXO. Customer experience and employee experience can no longer be regarded as separate, with the employee experience often a reflection of customer experience, and vice versa. The CXO of today knows that CX and EX are inextricably linked, creating valuable relationships, which in turn form the foundations of a real competitive advantage. As such, the CXO has to work hard to align both experiences, realising the value in both functions to deliver excellence in both.
Today’s CXO is very different from that of ten or even five years ago. What was once a functional role, has shifted to become a distinctly strategic responsibility, spanning the entire business. The CXO is now a disruptive role, having a positive effect on the business to drive the necessary change quickly, effectively and successfully. By leading the charge when it comes to putting CX excellence front and centre, the best CXOs underpin the formation of a customer-centric organisation, creating the crucial competitive advantage that businesses the world over are striving to achieve.
Written by Martin Ellingham, director, product management compliance at Aptean.