The COVID-19 pandemic has galvanized companies to reorganize their business around delivering exceptional experiences, as many, even the ones known for delivering exceptional customer service, were caught off-guard. Even product fulfilment rose to crisis levels as manufacturing stalled and supplies dwindled.
The crisis presented a choice for businesses to build a next-gen customer experience, to adapt to customers’ expectations and build response agility.
And the person at the centre of the evolutionary change — to pivot processes and strategies to adapt to customers’ expectations and build lifelong relationships with consumers by communicating what they really care about and in a voice that resonates — is the Chief Experience Officer (CXO).
In the new world where customer experience dominates the business, CXOs are expected to bring the human experience back in the house, with an arsenal of experience-focused marketing tools.
CXO is a relatively new position, but becoming one of the most valuable roles in a business. Not a week goes by without more businesses joining the bandwagon. In fact, Gartner found that nearly 90% of organizations now have a CXO. A testament to the necessity of the role when it comes to grappling with modern business where customers expect personalized and engaging experiences, and seamless transition between channels, and instant results.
Just as a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) drives digital transformation, a CXO drives customer experience transformation, from changing products and value propositions to deploying new applications. A CXO brings a cultural and operational change.
Despite its recent emergence, the CXO role has already undergone a major shift in responsibility. Previously, customer experience efforts emphasised meeting people’s contemporary needs and expectations, and customer experience was limited to the CMO or COO’s purview. Now, like divisions of organizations, the roles of the CMO and the CXO are certainly beginning to merge and overlap. In an interview, PwC’s Global CXO David Clarke said it’s time for CMOs to replace the M with an X in their title.
With focus on customer experience as a way to build the brand and attract and keep customers, the CXO position has evolved to represent the customer voice in organization-wide initiatives and among peers in their business. The CXO is expected to keep a real-time pulse on changing customer preferences and rapidly innovate to redesign journeys to changing context.
Reinvent Core Experiences
The pandemic made businesses aware of the need to be prepared to boldly reinvent core experiences, and a CXO is expected to ensure it happens.
Case in point: In 2020, when quarantine created unprecedented demand for at-home hair products and changed beauty routines in ways no one could have expected, L’Oréal Paris, which saw a 40% increase in hair color inquires to their consumer care center, responded to the need by launching a 24/7 hair color platform. From texting or video chatting with a trained color professional seven days a week to testing out a new color with virtual try-on tools, the global beauty brand got it covered – literally.
Also, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Best Buy rolled out several new customer experience tools, including forming a team skilled in human-centered design and embedded them into various departments at the company. The team designed a curbside pick-up process rolled out across the US less than 48 hours after stores closed to foot traffic. Designers then worked with retail leaders to make the experience more seamless for customers.
The company was able to see how many orders needed to be fulfilled online and also how many pickup orders were requested by geography. Next, Best Buy opened up stores only for one-on-one “in-store consultation services,” whereby customers would schedule appointments online with in-store Best Buy sales associates.
This experience reimagining is the most sure-fire strategy for growth, and the pandemic, without a doubt, boosted the popularity of CXO’s roles.
A CXO is expected not just to reimagine customer engagement by ensuring best-in-class marketing, sales and service journeys but to leverage Artificial intelligence and machine learning, and seamlessly connect the physical and digital worlds across the customer journey.
Channel-focused solutions such as websites, social and mobile platforms, content management tools, and search engine optimisation are fast becoming obsolete.
To grow beyond marketing trends, organizations are adopting martech tools that deliver exceptional levels of customer intimacy, targeted engagement, and precision impact. And now, a CXO is expected to help organizations deploy new approaches to data gathering, decisioning, and delivery to create personalized and dynamic end-to-end experiences for customers.
Some companies see the CXO as a bridge between product design and customer service and hire someone fluent in the language of both, while others have blended various C-suite roles — CIOs and CMOs — in the CXO post while also overseeing the customer and agent experience.
Put simply, the role is a mix of marketing, digital and customer management, making a shift away from product-centric strategies toward customer outcomes, and defining a holistic customer experience that aligns the organisation into a cohesive customer-focused whole. A CXO is essential to drive the company-wide cultural shift by which businesses develop a fundamental understanding of who they are and what they provide.
But in the end, there is only one boss. The customer. Simply by spending their money somewhere else, customers can shake up a business. According to Harvard Business Review, a good experience makes a customer five times more likely to recommend a brand and more likely to purchase in the future, and PwC found that 32% of all customers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad experience.
If businesses structure their priorities with the customer’s interest at the very top, perhaps there wouldn’t even be a need for a CXO to champion the needs of customers. Everyone in the business, not just the CXO, needs to focus on that ultimate goal — building a better customer experience.
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