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Meaningful Role of a Chief Experience Officer

According to Forrester Research, customers and their experience are like quality -- they need to be everyone's business. So any corporate structure that offloads responsibility for customers or their experience from the broader organization to a small set of people should be avoided.

That's why there is no clear-cut answer to the question "Should a firm have a chief customer officer or chief experience officer (CC/EO)?" In some areas, a CC/EO can be incredibly valuable, acting as a change agent. In those cases, these corporate execs can:

Institutionalize the voice of the customer -- Most companies don't systematically incorporate the voice of the customer within their efforts. A CC/EO can be very valuable in setting up mechanisms for companies to incorporate customer insights throughout the business. These mechanisms can range from periodic analytical approaches, such as tracking NetPromoter survey scores, to more subjective inputs, like at Dell where the executive team regularly listens to customer calls in the call centers.

Manage a continuous improvement process -- Getting the voice of the customer into the business is one thing; acting upon it is another. A CC/EO can help define and administer a process for responding to customer insights. How? By making insights available to the right people (in the right form) and developing a process for how to define and track actions that the company takes in response to the insight.

Facilitate best-practice sharing -- Large companies often have a wide range of customer-facing practices. A CC/EO can help identify best practices in areas that are working well and disseminate those practices across the company. While this can be done through an informal communication process, it can also be more formalized -- for example, in centers of excellence for major customer-facing activities like surveys, use of personas, and product development innovations.

Drive employee communications -- If customer experience is important to a firm's strategy, then that information needs to be regularly disseminated throughout the company. The CC/EO can help develop and facilitate a communications plan for getting the messages out across the company. This plan can take advantage of existing communication mechanisms like company newsletters and intranets or create new customer experience specific communications efforts like an internal customer experience road show.

Develop corporate-wide customer programs -- Some companies try to differentiate themselves through an explicit set of promises to customers -- like Westpac Banking's "Ask Once" commitments or the Travelocity.com "Travelocity Guarantee." A CC/EO can help develop and manage the details of programs like this that typically span existing organizational boundaries.

Be the customer's long-term advocate -- Executive teams are under a lot of pressure to achieve quarterly revenue and profit goals. As a result, even the best-intentioned organization can make decisions that have an unexpected or under-appreciated impact on customer experience. A CC/EO, acting as an advocate for customers, can make sure that the impact on them is appropriately considered in every major decision.

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