Key Role: SVP of Cross-Channel Customer Experience (or Equivalent)

Patty's Dream Team: Roles and Responsibilities You'll Need for Your Customer-Centric Organization

July 28, 2011

What’s the one role that makes the most difference in a company’s ability to “make it easy for your customers to do business with you”? An SVP of customer experience (or equivalent). You need a highly placed and highly respected pragmatic visionary with clout who can improve customers’ end-to-end experience in dealing across channels, touchpoints, and functional silos. Where do you find such a person? Look inside your organization. And look for someone who has a deep understanding of your customers, someone who is a well-respected “old-timer” with your company, and someone who is recognized as a successful “go to” person—someone who gets things done and executes flawlessly.


In this series of reports, we offer a set of roles and responsibilities that we’ve found to be essential to transform companies from being inward-facing to being customer-adaptive. If you want your company to be easy to do business with, it’s time to rethink the way you have organized to fulfill that mission.

We realize that few companies have a clean slate with which to start an entirely new organizational structure. Yet we are often asked by clients to paint a picture of the “ideal” organizational structure to deliver a great end-to-end customer experience, while at the same time increasing revenues and profits.

Your Customer Experience executive is responsible for the Quality of the Customer Experience (QCE) that your customers encounter as they do business with your firm and its representatives. He or she is also the “buck stops here” person responsible for ensuring that your customers are able to get things done and to reach their outcomes. He should coordinate closely with your User Experience Leader who is responsible for the design and delivery of the experience that all end-users have with your firm’s products and services. Think of this way: your CX executive worries about the experience your customers have with your company; your UX executive worries about the experience your customers have enjoying the use of the products they purchase from you.

Where the CX leader role sits in your organization is important. We’ve learned the hard way that having your Customer Experience executive report to your Chief Marketing Officer may not be the best idea (although it ostensibly makes sense from a brand experience standpoint). Instead, we recommend that your CX leader be housed in Operations. He or she needs to fund and to lead major business process and IT initiatives in order to execute.

It’s also imperative that he or she have certain personality traits and a huge amount of well-deserved credibility. In this article, you’ll find a composite portrait of the personality traits you’ll want in your ideal customer experience leader.

Our recommendation: Hire from within, and give this person P&L and budget responsibilities for improving the quality of the customer experience you deliver and the profitability of your customers. Your customer experience leader needs to have purview over all customer touchpoints, channels, and customer-impacting business processes.


How do you make it easy for customers to do business with you? One of the critical success factors we’ve found in assessing companies’ customer-centric competencies is the presence or absence of a senior executive who is ultimately responsible for the quality of the end-to-end customer experience. As your organization tries to redesign itself from the outside in—from your customers’ points of view—you’ll discover lots of crevices between your functional business units—holes that trap your customers, leave them frustrated, and slow them down. These holes occur between customer touchpoints—between your Web site, your contact centers, and your stores or branches, for example. These gaps appear between your go-to-market organizations—between your direct sales and your partner, OEM or retail sales, and support channels. These cracks gape between your functional departments—between your sales representatives and your legal department, or between your product development and your customer support organizations. These crevices yawn between your business processes—between your credit authorization and your inventory allocation processes, for example.

To address and eradicate customer experience gaps proactively, you’ll need someone highly placed in the organization who has the clout to make policy changes and business process changes, to recommend pricing changes or contractual changes, and to insist on addressing the root cause of customer dissatisfiers.

You May Already Have an Executive Who Fills This Role
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” You may be one of the lucky organizations that already has a senior level executive who has enough leverage to be successful in continuously improving the customer experience, even beyond that person’s ostensible functional charter.

EBUSINESS VP? The person who runs your company’s ebusiness/ecommerce organization may in fact be your company’s de facto customer experience executive. Why? Enabling customer self-service on the Web for pre-sales support, sales, support, maintenance, renewals, and upgrades across customer segments and product lines gives your ebusiness executive a pretty good picture of what’s broken in other parts of the company. By “fixing” or at least addressing issues online, she often finds herself redesigning underlying business processes, mandating changes in internal IT systems, and/or surfacing and resolving policy discrepancies across organizational boundaries. If your ebusiness executive is already doing a great job, don’t change her focus, but you might consider expanding her charter to subsume other interaction touchpoints and channels.

CUSTOMER ADVOCACY VP? If you have a VP or director of customer advocacy, you may already be covered. Often, customer advocacy executives have arisen out of the customer support organization, but they have been correctly (in our opinion) empowered to address any customer-impacting issues throughout the organization. The nice thing about the customer advocacy title, from customers’ perspectives, is that they feel they have someone in your organization they can turn to in order to get results—someone in their corner. If you have a customer advocate with the budget and the clout to make real operational changes, then you’re probably covered. But if this role is a staff position with no real budget or clout, you’ll want to rethink how you’ve positioned customer advocacy in your organization.

In some companies, customer advocates are Six Sigma Black Belts—they lead business process redesign activities and prioritize which processes to address based on customer-critical issues. While we believe that it makes sense to include customer process design (what we call Customer Scenario® design) and business process design in your customer experience organization, don’t limit the purview of your customer advocacy group to a facilitation role. The head of customer advocacy needs to have a seat in the executive suite and a budget and purview to get things done.

OPERATIONS & STRATEGY VP? If you’re lucky enough to have a powerful, combined Operations and Strategic Planning organization, its head may actually be your de facto CX executive. The person in this role typically designs and leads all cross-organizational strategic initiatives. At the same time, she is usually responsible for setting operational metrics that everyone in the company strives to meet or beat. Operational metrics are different from customer satisfaction and loyalty scores. They’re not rear view mirror (how did we do in our customers’ eyes?), but rather predictive, proactive metrics (how are we doing on the things that matter to customers and make a difference to our bottom line?). An example of a customer loyalty score is a Net Promoter score (how many of our customers say they would refer us to a friend or colleague, vs. how many would tell people not to buy our stuff). Examples of customer experience operational metrics are “time from quote to productive use” and “customer down-time.” They are observable and can be directly addressed.


CXO; SVP Customer Advocacy; SVP Customer Experience
The title this person has isn’t as important for the outside world as it is for your own organization. Although we favor putting “Customer Experience” in the title, use a title that you know will garner respect and have some clout in your corporate culture. In many companies, “customer experience” means “customer support” and is regarded as a cost center.

Titles that we have seen for the people who have assumed this role include ones as varied as SVP ebusiness, director of CRM, co-chairman, and even chief technology officer, as well as SVP customer advocacy, SVP customer experience, chief customer officer, or customer experience officer (CXO), and COO.

We actually favor an SVP or EVP title, rather than an “officer” title. In most organizations, an SVP is considered to be part of the senior executive team and to have P&L responsibility, whereas an officer, like a CFO or CIO, is a highly placed staff position. Since profitability begins with customers, we favor the SVP title, along with clear P&L responsibility. So SVP customer experience is our first choice; SVP customer advocacy is our second choice. (SVP customer profitability is equally accurate, but not as customer friendly).

Hire from Within!

We have yet to find a senior level customer experience executive who has been successfully transplanted into an organization. These jobs require three things...


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