There was a time long, long ago when you would walk into the local village bakery/butcher/grocer/tailor and be greeted by name. You might then be offered a treat, maybe a favourite of yours or something new. You felt included in the business, your feedback was valued (and you got something for nothing!).
If you were short a few pennies, it was no problem, you could make it up another time. If you bought something and had second thoughts, it too was no problem. You'd return it and it would be resolved on your terms - or that's how it felt. What was really happening was that you were being made a client for life. You simply wouldn't go to another baker/butcher/grocer/tailor, even if the price were competitive.
Enter Big Business. All of that was gone. We’ve become used to being anonymous entities to our retailers and service providers. If things go wrong, we feel that they resolve it grudgingly – if at all. These are the stories we're all familiar with from personal experience. Automation arrived, artificial intelligence, advertising on a massive scale in every sphere of our lives, the world became smaller and business became global. And we? Who are we, the customer? But there’s hope.
The rise of the customer review
While the ethos of the local baker/butcher/grocer/tailor has gone and times have changed, awareness of the customer experience is growing. And not just as a soft skill, but there are facts, figures and stats to back it all up. And customers have become savvy: 90% of us read online reviews before we purchase anything. And 88% of us trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Forums and review sites are our new village well where gossip and news is shared.
Enter: The CXO
And this is why organisations are focusing on the customer experience through the Chief Experience Officer. They’re looking at customer experience from beginning to end. And onwards. They’re looking across platforms and across touch-points: from brand perception to interactions with the company and how these can be improved upon.
CEO Review gives a great outline of the objectives of the CXO:
Promote the culture of customer orientation internally
Develop knowledge and understanding of customers
Implement targeted campaigns to increase customer loyalty, retention, and satisfaction
Promote the customer perspective and make sure it is considered for all topics and projects of the organisation
Measure all the factors that form the customer experience through various KPIs
Where do we put it?
At first glance, you might say the CXO fits into the marketing department. That’s all the branding and advertising stuff, right? Well... The CXO also deals with the stats and information on how the customer really feels about a product or service. So maybe they belong in IT. Neither of these is ideal. The CXO should be independent, but be able to pull in the relevant data. This role should have a big picture view of the systems and processes affecting the customer and be able to work on strategies to optimise these. And by including this role in the C-suite, they would have greater access to the organisation’s strategy and also have sight of issues within the company and give them authority to change things.
Is it time?
The ‘retail apocalypse’ is in full swing and is showing no sign of abating. Things are changing rapidly for the retail world and those that lost sight of the complete customer experience are the ones who have been, or are being hardest hit. So, yes, it’s time.
The data that’s available on the customer and on customer behaviour is highly detailed now and if used correctly, can be fed into other processes of the business such as manufacturing and supply chain. It has the ability – if acted upon quickly – to keep an organisation ahead of its competitors. Because customers’ needs and wants are changing rapidly too. Think of fashion for its fast-paced way of operating. Lag and you will lose, it’s simple.
Required skills and experience
A CXO should have a range of expertise and experience, ranging from marketing to technology – although the two are so closely linked these days, it’s hardly a question anymore. The role is multi-faceted and although there is a focus on the customer, it’s important not to neglect the internal customer.
Partner relationships: Being part of the executive team means that the CXO has exposure to other areas of the business, providing a great platform for collaboration. Partnerships with the chief officers of marketing, information or technology, and innovation are vital, while HR also allows for a focus inward. Experience in internal communications is therefore also useful.
Communication skills on the whole: This is crucial to ensuring that this role is aware of and contributing to how departments are operating. This role should be networking across the business to understand the customer experience from all aspects.
Turning figures into insight: Each customer touch-point should be gathering data that can be fed back to the business. The CXO should not only understand this data, but be able to partner up with someone skilled at turning that data into effective insight. And then turning that insight into the meeting of customer expectations – at speed.
The digital lay of the land: Technology is opening up the confines of traditional trading methods at lightning speed, and it’s imperative for a CXO to have a firm grasp on this. And not just in terms of the collectable data, but in terms of purchasing channels, marketing and communication.
Marketing experience: From how the brand touches potential clients, the CXO should be able to help create the strategies and plans that can then be fulfilled further down the line, ensuring expectations are met and clients are made for life.
The CXO role is fascinating in its multifaceted skills set and one that should be prioritised right now. It’s a worthwhile investment that should be considered, if not already put in place, because without it, organisations stand to be left by the wayside.