Have you ever noticed if you don’t make something official and you assume someone will take care of it, it never gets done? That’s my view on customer experience. When we say “customer experience is everyone’s job,” and it’s technically not, the customer experience will get lost.
It’s an interesting time to study and talk about customer experience because there’s still no one size fits all approach. In fact most people don’t even agree on who should drive customer experience, let alone “own it.”
But most people and companies love to talk about it. In fact last year 75% of companies said their number one priority was to improve customer experience.
But what’s the say/do ratio of these companies? Many companies say customer experience is important but don’t actually put someone in charge of driving it. To add insult to injury they often don’t support that customer experience effort with proper resources.
I bet that as a customer of a company you had a bad experience with – if you were to go into their corporate headquarters with a microphone and ask “who here is responsible for customer experience” the employees would look around and finally – in concert say “we all are responsible for customer experience!”
Lack Of CX Leadership Is A Problem
It’s nice to think that everyone knows customer experience is important – but what happens when there’s a lack of leadership? A leader of customer experience can make it a priority. A leader can create a governance structure around customer experience, match it to business strategy, and implement it across the company.
When I asked my network on LinkedIn who should be responsible for customer experience, many responded that the CEO should be. Others thought the CEO was too busy, and the COO would be the best leader to operationalize customer experience across the company. Others felt the CMO, but some believe the initiative is seen as purely a marketing ploy when it is owned by the CMO. Some said the CCO.
What is clear to me is someone should drive customer experience at the very highest level of the company. And the other c-level executives need to support it. For example the CFO’s treatment of customer focused programs has a major impact on these programs. Does the CFO treat customer service as a cost center? The CFO must support the other c-level executive’s efforts.
While having a strong culture is important – what matters is putting a structure in place to support that culture. The metrics reflect the culture, and the culture reflects the metrics.
By Appointing A Leader, You Create Accountability
Many of us are idealists, we think employees will always do the right thing when the manager isn’t looking. Or maybe it just feels too hard to change an entire culture, to change the entire way employees are measured at the company. However just think about how much your company can improve when these things are explicit.
I recently asked my community on LinkedIn who they believed should drive customer experience, and got a variety of responses. I was surprised to see so much variation on who should own customer experience!
To my surprise, many people believe everyone should own customer experience. In my own view, this nice sounding business mantra has gotten out of control. Saying “everyone owns customer experience” is like saying, of course we care about our customers, without putting anything behind it. It’s easy to say, but it’s not easy to practice.
I believe when you say “everyone is responsible for customer experience,” you are leaving your company vulnerable. How can governance be put in place around customer experience? I believe one influential heavy hitter must define what customer experience is at your company and operationalize it. Every employee should know how their role impacts customer experience.
In my post on LinkedIn (that I just mentioned) asking who should drive customer experience I received over 110 responses and they were all over the map. Many respondents felt a COO should drive customer experience. These respondents believe the COO has the ability to execute and operationalize customer experience. Here were a handful of responses to the question “Who should drive customer experience?” Please feel free to add yours to the comments section of this article.
“Put the word ‘drive’ aside in the thinking – outside of that the experiences I have had in this space tell me it is not about the defined role (CEO,CMO,CXO etc) it is about the passion within the individual who has the credibility and empowerment to take the organisation on the journey that will make this successful for customer and employee alike.”
–Michael Young, Head of Customer Service Delivery, Mercer
“Unless the CMO/CEO has the skillsets, it’s a Customer Experience Officer. There are skillsets like User Experience/Human Computer Interaction – that are rare in C-Suite. These are professionals that can define and refine customer experiences in both physical and digital spaces. And there aren’t enough of them. We are one of two teams in the NBA with a Customer Experience Specialist and beyond the digital team – few grasp how critical that role is. Can all participate in CX, sure, but few can drive the vision.”
-Douglas O’Donnell, Senior Director Digital communications, Spur Sports & Entertainment
“COO. What most companies struggle with is execution to bring CX to life. Limiting it to CMO or Service prevents real substantive change. Certainly the research, marketing, service and finance all are essential but without leadership to drive execution of the strategy, the rest are just ideas.”
–Jennifer Battalin, Director, Customer Experience, Marketing & Communications at Cigna
“From my experience it is very difficult to get funding for a project based on customer experience so it is very important for the CEO to emphasize the customer experience.”
-Jeremy Auskings, Customer Experience Manager, Prepaid Wireless
“It starts at the very top. The executive team would need to commit to making CX the true north. With that commitment comes a commitment to measurement. Would need to be measured with same intensity and focus as say revenue and incorporated in success evaluations. Will require interconnected measurement across groups. It’s a shared responsibility. Shared commitment. We’ve invested in a CX team who helps bind it all together. A work in progress. Progress nevertheless.”
-Heidi Anderson, Senior Director Global Sales, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn
Blake Morgan is an author, keynote speaker and customer experience futurist. Sign up for her newsletter here.
First published on Forbes.com