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Why a single executive chief customer officer role is wrong


The past ten years has seen a rapid rise in the number of chief customer officers being appointed at large organisations. So why aren't customer experiences improving?

27th Feb 2023

I’ve worked in customer experience (with many different job titles) my whole career, and I’ve been involved in multiple situations in which improving CX has been deemed as a ‘business opportunity’, ‘not good enough’, through to ‘needing emergency life-saving surgery’.

Throughout this time, my CX leadership roles have involved working within a multitude of organisation designs, and these experiences have provided me with a clear view on the biggest mistake the majority of companies have been making more and more throughout the last decade.

That mistake is the creation of the single executive chief customer officer role. Being such a strong advocate of doing the right things for our customers, you’re probably surprised by that comment, so let me explain.

Without doubt my least effective (and most frustrating roles) have been when I’ve operated at a lower level than the head / director / VP / chief marketing executive in the same organisation. Aligning this with the fact that 90%+ of the chief customer officers appointed in the last decade, have all had strong marketing backgrounds, this has just exacerbated the problem.

Here’s why I think this is entirely the wrong approach to take. 

In my view, "customer experience" is a buzz phrase of distinctly different aspects of the experiences of actual customers.

First, customers have brand & marketing experiences:

  • The ads we see - online, TV, billboards, social, print, in-store, everywhere;
  • The marketing we receive – emails, SMS, white mail, social, push notifications;
  • The packaging of the products, the messages pushed out about the benefits or USP’s of the company’s products and services; and
  • The visualisation and design hooks shown to prospects and customers across all channels – personalised offers, virtual teality, augmented reality, etc.

And to be fair to marketeers, all the above is getting better and slicker year on year.

Second, customers have service experiences, being able to ask questions at EVERY lifecycle stage:

  • Interest;
  • Pre-order;
  • Order;
  • Fulfilment;
  • Returns;
  • Support.

THIS SHOULD MEAN customers are able to:

  • Choose the channel they want to use at that moment (including self-service or agent);
  • Speak to someone who ‘has the true behind the scenes information’ to provide an honest and accurate situational update; and
  • Can ‘own their issue’, take control of finding a solution, keep the customer informed.

And let’s be frank, all of the above is deteriorating year on year.

So why does creating a single chief customer officer role with strong marketing background experience not work ?

Because they are experts in the first aspect of CX - brand & marketing experience - but have no real expertise in full Llfecycle service experience.  Quite simply, they don’t know what they don’t know.

In my view it works both ways. If 90% of chief marketing officer roles were filled with great customer service leaders, that would be just as much of a car crash as the other way round.

So how should it work ?

Quite simply, if organisations want to use in vogue ‘customer & experience’ phrases in executive leadership roles, (which is actually OK, if they truly mean it to showcase a step change within their company) they should create two roles:

  1. Chief customer brand & marketing experience officer (CCBMX).
  2. Chief customer service experience officer (CCSX).

Between them, these two roles absolutely work in parallel, fully in sync.   

In practical terms, they must fully agree on the lifecycle stages relevant for their company and brand, the customer demographics and personas, the high value vs non-high value customer segmentation strategy and the ‘experiences they aspire to deliver’ for every one of these combinations.

Then the CCBMX works tirelessly with his team to deliver the brand & marketing experiences in line with the agreement, and the CCSX works tirelessly with his team to deliver the customer service experiences in line with the agreement.

And between BOTH areas they share insight, analytics and feedback.

  • "Why did customers browse products and services, but fail to complete a purchase?" Was it a marketing journey failure, or a pre-sale customer service experience failure?
  • "Why do customers return so many orders or cancel free-trials?" Was it a brand marketing failure setting the wrong expectation or a fulfilment or support failure?
  • Instead of marketing sending out endless poorly designed, badly timed, generic feedback surveys, the two functions together can focus on capturing personalised feedback AND insights provided from every interaction customers have made with the brand, which can be analysed for root cause, AND follow-up on, whenever relevant.

These are just three examples within the multitude of lifecycle stages every customer and prospect experiences, and even based on my own experiences as a consumer, they remain such significant opportunities for companies and brands to stand out in their sectors, many of which are delivering record low levels of CX for their customers.

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