Last updated: What is a CXO: Chief Experience Officer defined, how it differs from a CMO

What is a CXO: Chief Experience Officer defined, how it differs from a CMO


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What is a CXO? What is a CMO? How do they differ?

As hundreds of news stories tout customer service as the new marketing and organizations rush to make customer experience (CX) central to their business, the number of CX executives is growing fast. At the same time, they have little margin for error. Those who don’t prove their value to the business will be quickly shown the door, according to Forrester Research.

But what exactly is a CX executive? 

What does a CXO mean, and what does it stand for? Chief experience officer defined

CXO stands for chief experience officer; this C-suite business executive is responsible for a company’s overall experience and interactions with customers. A chief experience officer (CXO) typically reports to the chief executive officer (CEO), chief operating officer (COO), or chief marketing officer (CMO).

Many companies are hiring a CXO – a chief experience officer – to take charge of the massive new CX focus in the c-suite. According to Gartner, nearly 90% of organizations have a CXO, chief customer officer or the equivalent.

Well-known brands with CXOs include General Motors, TGI Fridays, and Citizens Financial Group.

CXO responsibilities are wide-ranging; they can include:

  1. Implementing a customer-first focus throughout an organization
  2. Listening to customers and understanding their needs
  3. Setting KPIs around meeting customer expectations
  4. Managing teams focused on improving UX
  5. Developing campaigns to build customer lifetime loyalty

What does a CMO mean? Chief marketing officer definition and responsibilities

CMO stands for chief marketing officer; this is C-suite executive responsible for an organization’s marketing activities.  The chief marketing officer (CMO) typically reports to the chief executive officer (CEO).

The CMO’s primary responsibility is to generate revenue by increasing sales through:
  • Brand management
  • Marketing communications
  • Market research
  • Product marketing
  • Distribution channel management
  • Pricing
  • Customer service

There are those who say a move away from the chief marketing officer to the CXO should be on the table: Forbes reported that David Clarke, former PwC Global Chief Experience Officer (CXO) said it’s time for CMOs to replace the M with an X in their title. 

“Enlightened companies genuinely understand that experience trumps all, and that sales, marketing, and customer engagement are codependent,” Clarke said. “Experience is the endgame, not marketing.”

But does this mean that there’s going to be a winner-takes-all battle in the c-suite? Will it be the CXO vs the CMO? Probably not. But just like divisions of companies, the roles of the CMO and the CXO are certainly beginning to merge and overlap. 

The role of the CXO vs. the CMO

The CXO helps the company drive the entire customer experience, which boils down to the overall experience of an organization’s products and services.

According to an article in CEO Monthly,the scope of the CXO extends beyond a Customer Service Manager: as the spokesperson for the customer experience they are tasked with ensuring each aspect of the business contributes towards a positive engagement between the brand and the consumer.”

How does this compare to the role of the CMO? Research indicates that 88% of organizations agree that the role of the CMO has changed in recent years, and will continue to change over the next two years.

What will be a significant key to a CMO’s success? CX, of course. According to Forrester, 26% of CMOs said they had plans to make interactions “more human,” and 25% said they would focus on fostering customer engagement across the entire customer lifecycle.

As the CMO and CXO role begin to overlap, reports of the CMO’s demise are overblown, says Liz Miller, SVP of marketing at the CMO Council. She contends that titles like chief brand officer or chief experience officer are nothing more than re-brandings of the CMO position, perhaps to signal to the rest of the company that the executive has the latitude to extend their influence into other parts of the business. 

“Today’s business doesn’t operate in lanes and has become so complex, so what I think we’re seeing is a natural evolutionary grind to figure out what to call the CMO role,” said Miller, “because if you look at the job descriptions of some of these new titles, the overarching goals sound shockingly like a CMO.” 

CX is here to stay in the c-suite

CX isn’t going anywhere, of course: Experts predict that customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, while Gartner calls it the “new battlefield,” with 80% of companies expecting to compete mostly or completely on the basis of CX.

Digital transformation is also shifting customer experience, with AI and machine learning tools bringing true personalization and engagement to the entire path-to-purchase. A Deloitte report dubbed this trend “Beyond Marketing,“ showing that these technology developments move marketing away from its historical mandate—bending customer will to advance a seller’s strategy—to a new goal of adapting engagement tactics that meet specific customer expectations based on an ongoing relationship.” 

Rather than fostering dissension, companies should recognize that the worlds of the CMO and the CXO are overlapping, aligning, and merging. No matter how brands decide to organize their c-suite roles, the bottom line is that the customer experience should be front and center, with company leaders working to deliver on the customer-centric promise every day.

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