As hundreds of news stories tout customer service as the new marketing and organizations rush to make customer experience (CX) central to their business, it comes as no surprise to read a new Forrester Research prediction that the number of CX executives will grow by at least 25% in 2020.
But what exactly is a CX executive?
What is a CXO? Customer experience officer defined
Many companies are hiring a CXO – a chief experience officer – to take charge of the massive new CX focus in the c-suite. Toy leader Hasbro brought a CXO on board in April, while Mastercard hired its first CXO in January.
There are those who even say a move away from the CMO to the CXO should be on the table: Shep Hyken recently reported in Forbes that PwC’s Global Chief Experience Officer (CXO) David Clarke (who was hired in 2018) thinks it’s time for CMOs to replace the M with an X in their title. Clarke was hired to “evolve the firm’s approach to business transformation by bringing in experience strategy, design, and user experience (UX) capabilities.”
“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 the last couple of 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 life cycle.
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 by the end of 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, while Gartner calls customer experience the “new battlefield,” with 80 percent of companies expecting to compete mostly or completely on the basis of customer experience by 2020.
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 recent 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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