The Role of Experience Management: Interview with the CEO of the Customer Experience Professionals Association

(Spanish version of this interview can be found at this link)

Customer experience management is crucial for businesses, and one of the features that organizations excelling in this area typically have is a specific role within their structure responsible for carrying out this management. This role—which can go by names such as Customer Experience Manager, Chief Experience Officer, or Chief Customer Officer—is relatively new in the business world, and in Latin America, it is still in a very nascent stage, almost non-existent. Of course, not all organizations have the scale to assign a person exclusively to this task, but understanding what the role entails is the first step in comprehending how we can implement its core aspects, adapting them to the reality of our organization. As with other cross-functional roles (such as HR, for example), there are often questions about the responsibilities of the role and how these relate to the responsibilities of operational area leaders. To help clarify some of these doubts, we had a conversation with Greg Melia, CEO of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), in which we asked him the following questions related to the role:

XnWhy is customer experience management important?

Greg: Organizations have seen the success of companies like Amazon and Apple and want to replicate the benefits of delivering strong, positive experiences for customers through having a strong customer experience management program.  Customer Experience is the perception that customers have of an organization – one that is formed based on interactions across all touchpoints, people, and technology over time.  Organizations want customer perceptions to be positive so that the customer will not only be happy with purchases, but will come back to do more business with the organization time after time – and encourage others to do so as well.  Positive customer opinions don’t just happen by chance.  Customer Experience management is the set of practices that an organization employs to meet (or exceed) customers’ expectations.  A strong well executed customer experience management program helps to deliver better results for both the customer (happiness) and the organization (long-term sustainable profit).

XnCould you briefly describe the role of the CXO or CCO?

Greg: More and more organizations are assigning a senior leader to oversee their customer experience management.  This reflects the importance of customer experience as a trusted business discipline that drives sustainable organization growth. Whether called the Chief Experience Officer, Chief Customer Officer, Head of Customer Experience or another title, the role of a senior CX leader is to ensure that the CX management team serves as catalysts who enhance an organization’s results by understanding, designing, and improving experiences across the entire customer relationship. The CX Leader serves as the representative of the customer in the C-Suite and interdepartmental conversations and works to ensure that every department and employee is united in the quest for customer experience excellence. This includes ensuring that:

– Cross-functional departments are connected to create frictionless customer experiences.

– Issues are prevented rather than fixed.

– Gaps are closed.

– Employees are involved and recognized.

– Employees have the tools and resources they need to deliver the customer experience.

– Employees gain skills necessary for CX competency.

– Employees are treated like customers.  

XnHow has the evolution of customer experience management led to the creation of this role in organizations?

Greg: Customer experience management has roots in customer service. Because of that connection, a common misperception about the purpose of CX leaders is the expectation that the CX department is solely or directly responsible for the experience of a customer.  In this misperception, the CX professional is often viewed as a superhero who intervenes when there is a problem or as a “SWAT team” that intervenes to correct failing operations that threaten a positive customer experience.  While being responsive to what has happened and directly intervening with a customer or department may have occasional truth, the reality is that the CX leader works as a consultative change leader, bringing forward data and insights in collaborative discussions across multiple departments to proactively improve the customer experience through intentional design with the customer perspective in mind. 

XnWhat are the main challenges or barriers that a CCO faces in achieving the objectives of their role?

Greg: There are many personal rewards for CX leaders – but there are also many challenges.  It is a sense of great pride to introduce a new process or policy that increases customer happiness and business sustainability – but it is likely not too long before another customer pain point demands attention.  Therefore, a senior CX leader needs to be prepared to be empathic, patient and resilient. The CX leader needs to remember that CX management is a marathon run as a team – sometimes shoulder-to-shoulder and other times in relay fashion.  Across the many miles, the CX leader needs to keep positive momentum for the entire organization working toward the same goal: meeting or exceeding customer expectations.

XnWhat are the main conflicts that often arise between the CCO role and functional managers? How can they be minimized?

Greg: The greatest challenges for CX leaders are often a result of traditional organization structures and practices.  In most organizations, departments are established to accomplish a specific task and the effectiveness of that department is assessed based on metrics relevant to that task.  For example, a department that is charged to make widgets is assessed on the number of widgets produced; the department charged to deliver the widgets is assessed on the delivery statistics; and the sales department is charged with generating orders for widgets.  When the systems are well aligned, the customer makes a purchase with a good understanding of the widget and the delivery process, and if everyone does their job well, customer expectations are usually met.  But, as an example, if the sales function maximizes their output to their own advantage by promising faster production and delivery than is possible, the customer (and employees in the other departments) is unlikely to have a favorable experience.  Extend that analogy to include the design, branding, accounting, product support, product quality, etc and you have a sense of the complicated challenge faced by CX professionals.  When there is great design and delivery, it all seems simple from the customer perspective – but behind the scenes, it requires exceptional collaboration and alignment.

CX professionals face another challenge in working across departments.  Because customer experience is a newer discipline, customer experience management is often met with greater skepticism or resistance than more established disciplines such as finance and marketing. The CX professional has to teach colleagues about CX at the same time they are trying to build support for new ways of working together.   To help support CX professionals on that challenge, CXPA has published a series of monographs about effective collaboration between functional departments and the CX team.  Each monograph creates a common vocabulary including relevant metrics and terms from each department; outlines areas that can inhibit progress if not properly addressed; and provides suggested ways for the functional area and CX teams to work together in service of better customer experience outcomes.

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