The CXO – or Chief Experience Officer – isn’t a new position. However, the number of CXOs – and the general focus on customer experience – has grown exponentially over the past few years. In fact, looking at an Indeed.com job trends graph, it appears that job postings for companies looking to fill CXO positions initially became popular in 2010, before exploding in 2012.
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Brad Heidemann, the CEO and Founder of Tahzoo. He is a contributor on Future CX and has decades of experience establishing customer experience programs for large brands. During our discussion, Brad shared why CXOs are becoming popular additions to the C-suite, why the role is so important today and the major challenges that are awaiting all CXOs in a convoluted and rapidly shifting marketing and customer experience landscape.
Here is what Brad had to say:
RS: Customer experience is something that we’re hearing more and more about. Why is customer experience so important today? What has changed in the past five years that is making companies focus on experience so much?
Mr. Heidemann: There are a few answers to that question.
First, there has been a proliferation of channels by which customers expect to have interactions with a company. In the past, when it was the mass-market media, all you had to do was make sure that your call center and your in-store experience was well organized and thoughtfully articulated – then you were done with your customer experience.
Now, with the rise of the Web, mobile, social channels and the increase in the number of digital touch-points that we have with the customer – whether that’s a kiosk or even a display within a bank – there is now a requirement to manage all of those experiences in a thoughtful and coherent way. As a consumer, I have choices now about how I want to engage with your company.
The second part of it is much like the personal computer wave. In the nineties, we all got computers, and it wasn’t really called a business productivity wave – it was called the personal computing wave. And, the reason why it was personal was that people had control of their desktops and control over the experience. That model worked for 10-15 years. And with the rise of the mobile devices and the proliferation of channels, those personal computing experiences became public computing experiences.
Due to social media, those experiences have moved from personal to communal. And, the idea that the shopping experience – which was always communal in the way that people shared their opinions, thoughts and ideas about a brand – also took a digital format, could become expressed in a digital environment and be more easily shared outside of the standard, traditional referral network.
Those two macroeconomic forces combined have forced large companies – in fact, all companies – to rethink how they engage consumers. Customer experience needs to be inherently personal, and you have a tremendous amount of channels that people would like to be engaged in or on.
RS: What are the major challenges facing CXOs today? Are these challenges exclusive to any one industry, or are they impacting multiple industries?
Mr. Heidemann: The challenges are completely industry related. However, that has more to do with what your business model is and how you choose to sell to consumers – do you have a direct to consumer model, or distribution model or an Internet-based business – all of which impacts your approach to digital marketing and customer experience management.
More broadly, across all businesses, there are three basic challenges as a CXO. The first one is getting a handle on the number of channels by which you’re willing to engage your clients. For example, I send emails to Starbucks complaining about their loyalty program, but I never get a return response from them. So, it’s clear that although they encourage customers to send emails, they’re not optimized to respond via that channel.
As a CXO, it’s essential to consider with what channels you’re willing to engage with your customer. If you’re going to follow people on Twitter, are you going to respond to them? It’s about being realistic about your budget and resources and your ability to intake and project commentary and communication across various channels. That’s probably the first challenge for getting started.
The next is probably identifying the brand experience that you want to deliver on that channel and how you want to engage with your customers on that channel. I’ll use the Starbucks example again. Starbucks has a loyalty card which – the best I can tell – is really part of a promotional marketing strategy and less of a loyalty program. I think a lot of the time, CXOs get confused by whether a program is about experience, or if they’re an offshoot or extension of a marketing program where they work in a promotional function rather than an attract, convert and retain model.
Also, CXOs need to be careful that the experience they give is consistent with the brand experience. For example, if you go into a Nordstrom, you expect to receive a personal experience. Similarly, if you send an email, you would expect to get a personal response from a person that you’re working with – not just a canned response.
Finally, CXOs need to understand the relationship between technologies and experiences. Large software companies are spending billions of dollars in research and development to deliver customer experience more efficiently and effectively with software that they provide. With consumer expectations shifting rapidly, CXOs need to be on the leading edge of what technology can provide and be able to tailor experiences that are up-to-date and in-line with what the consumer is expecting.
RS: As a CXO, how do you overcome these challenges?
Mr. Heidemann: If you’re going to be a CXO, it’s not just a marketing function, it’s also a service function. How you manage your customers through the life-cycle is especially important. To overcome some of the challenges, you need to make sure you have the mandate, budget and authority to help manage the delivery of that experience.
We’re helping a client in the insurance industry with their demand-side, direct-to-consumer strategy, which consists of a Website, mobile experiences, marketing automation, etc. But, the reality is, on the back-end, they have 17 different systems that manage the customer’s policies. Regardless of how much we help them on the demand-side, if they really are serious about customer experience management, they need to identify how to deliver a coherent experience – and the management and servicing of those policies. It really becomes move of an organizational development conversation.
I think it’s essential to ensure that you’re not confusing marketing with customer experience management, and that you have a clear view and mandate that is broad enough to tackle all of these problems. You can’t solve one of these problems – the attract, convert or retain – independently.
RS: How has the way enterprises interact with customers and prospects changed? What has facilitated this change?
Mr. Heidemann: As we discussed before, customers have so many more channels with which to engage businesses today. As for why companies are embracing these channels, it starts with consumer expectation. Enterprises are responding to consumer demand. Granted, there are certainly efficiencies that can be realized by engaging these customers via new channels, but many times they wind up as cost centers since companies haven’t adjusted their budgets and reorganized their marketing and service departments to take advantage of these efficiencies.
What you really have is an increase in customer expectation – like the Starbucks example where I send an email and expect a response, and when it doesn’t come, I’m unhappy with the brand. So, the consumer demand is certainly driving enterprises to embrace these other mediums.
In addition to serving as the Chief Executive Officer of Tahzoo, Brad Heidemann is also a contributor on Future CX. Be sure to check back for more articles from Brad.