What is a Chief Experience Officer (CXO)?

We all know about CEOs, CTOs, CMOs, and even C-3POs (wait, that may be something different . . .), but have you ever heard of a CXO? A Chief Experience Officer is an executive-level position dedicated solely to monitoring and optimizing all user experiences. While a seemingly niche role, a CXO plays a crucial part in improving a customer’s experience in your product, which in turn ensures low rates of churn and high rates of satisfaction and renewal. It’s the CXO’s job to maintain a positive relationship between a business and its customers and employees–and they’ll work with leadership and front-line employees to develop a strategy that ensures every interaction delivers a positive outcome.

More organizations are realizing that creating seamless, connected customer journeys is both incredibly difficult and critically important—and are responding by bringing on a CXO who can lead the charge.  But what exactly does a CXO do in order to improve this journey, and when’s the most strategic time for your business to make the hire?

What Does a CXO Do?

One of the CXO’s primary goals is continuously working to improve the organization’s relationship with its customers. They need to be excellent communicators—able to understand and explain the company’s core value proposition in terms that resonate with customers. That means, a CXO must be able to effectively capture and analyze customer feedback and behavioral data and use those insights to drive improvements, eliminate friction from the overall experience, and ensure that future products and services align with what consumers care about in the moment. The CXO is also responsible for fostering a customer-centric internal culture – with their focus entirely on optimizing the customer journey, the only way to do so is to put the user at the heart of their planning. This means that they must be able to translate all departmental goals from wide-reaching to user-specific, and ensure that each team is contributing to the big picture plan. For example, if the product team has a goal to release three new features by the end of the year, it’s up to the CXO to determine how those features affect their current and prospective users’ experiences within the product, and understand how to best communicate with everyone to ensure a seamless transition to the new functionality.

As a relative newcomer to the C-suite, the CXO role doesn’t yet have a standard set of qualifications. However, here are some general responsibilities you can expect to see in a typical job posting:

  • Identifying buyer personas and ideal customer profiles (ICPs).
  • Working with internal stakeholders to identify gaps in the customer experience and opportunities to improve. That means working with high-level decision-makers like the CMO or the VP of sales, as well as  customer-facing teams like the Customer Success team or the IT support desk.
  • Mapping the customer journey across all touchpoints and channels.
  • Making sure the customer experience strategy aligns with the big-picture business strategy. That means making sure that marketing, sales, service, and success strategies all come together to create a unified experience across all touchpoints.
  • Working closely with the IT team to ensure that the organization is investing in the right technologies to support future CX strategies. In other words, looking ahead to ensure that the company is prepared to evolve alongside the customer to remain competitive.
  • Capturing, monitoring, and analyzing customer feedback. That includes tracking how NPS, CES, and CSAT scores change over time, analyzing customer sentiment, and identifying themes across all feedback channels.
  • Raising alarm bells when there’s a problem. The CXO needs to keep a close watch on all strategies in progress and be able to notify the appropriate parties when there’s an issue that could undermine the customer experience. Think problems with the product, bugs, and influx of complaints, etc.

Why Hire a Chief Experience Officer (CXO)?

So you may be saying to yourself at this point, “So what? I’ve got a Customer Success team, I’ve got a Product team, I’ve got a support team. I don’t need a dedicated executive to manage it all, they’ve got it under control.” And while it’s true that this may work in the short term, it’s not a sustainable plan. All of these teams have their own priorities, plans, and goals that they’re following; optimizing the customer experience just isn’t always going to be at the top of their minds. But focusing on the customer experience has proven time and time again to be the best defense against churn, so that’s why it’s so crucial to have a dedicated executive setting the example and leading the charge for improving customer experience.

Not to mention, the customer experience has evolved into an expansive, complex strategy that involves every department inside an organization and tight coordination between every employee and initiative within each department. It’s no longer a simple question of whether or not a user was ‘satisfied’ with your product, but includes questions of how they were using the product, what did they expect to get with the product, how much they’re paying versus how much value they’re getting, and much much more.

In a 2020 report, Forrester predicted that, the number of CX executives were projected to increase by as much as 25% as companies across the globe start to realize the emphasis that needs to be placed on user experience. It’s a data-driven, holistic strategy that needs to be placed at the heart of an organization’s culture and impact every aspect of the business in order to effectively pull it off.

To better drive home the importance of the CXO, here’s a look at some of the things a qualified CX leader can do for your organization. 

1. Become more customer-centric

Many companies still focus more on developing a product-first experience, as opposed to a customer-centric one—despite the fact that the benefits of customer-centricity are well known. Companies experience lower churn rates, greater customer loyalty, and generate more revenue when they focus on putting the customer at the center of everything they do. 

The challenge is, without a champion at the top, it’s hard to create a unified company culture across many departments and functions—each with their own goals and perception of what the customer wants. The CXO is responsible for making sure the entire organization is on the same page when it comes to how they’ll deliver the most value possible to the customer. 

The ideal CXO works closely with marketing, sales, product teams, and the C-suite to:

  • Define what “value” means to customers
  • Establish a common language for talking about the customer experience
  • Differentiate their products/services from their competitors’
  • Determine which customer segments are worth investing in

Because alignment and unity are critical to customer-centricity, CXOs also focus on the employee experience. The logic there is, satisfied, engaged employees are more invested in the brand’s success and pass along some of that positivity during customer interactions. The CXO continuously monitors employee satisfaction metrics, against customer satisfaction levels and more traditional productivity measures to identify opportunities to improve certain aspects of working life. For example, they might automate routine tasks so that employees can dedicate more time on activities that provide more value to the customer.

2. Deliver a consistent customer experience

Consistency is huge when it comes to driving customer loyalty. Customers expect a consistent, friction-free experience regardless of channel or touchpoint. When customers know they can count on your brand to deliver a great experience, they’ll keep coming back. The CXO ensures that every strategy, channel, and touchpoint works together as a unified strategy and that the brand message remains consistent throughout the entire customer journey.

CXOs are experts at creating data-driven customer journey maps and identifying friction points and gaps in the buying process that could potentially damage brand perception or prompt consumers to seek out a competitive solution. And don’t forget, consistency isn’t just about what’s happening on your website or in your social feeds; it’s also about making sure that the in-person experience matches what’s happening online, and establishing a throughline between every potential interaction a customer might have with your brand. 

The CXO has to work cross-functionally with different teams across the organization to coordinate sharing data, information, and strategies- ensuring that all customer-facing teams and messaging are working from the same playbook and a shared understanding of what your company does, who it helps, and why people should care.

3. Refine the product roadmap

While building and maintaining the product roadmap is generally the product manager’s responsibility, the CXO bridges the gap between customer expectations, the business strategy, and the roadmap. While strategies vary between organizations, CXOs might focus on improving satisfaction within a specific user group or aligning product themes by customer journey phases and the metrics that represent success at each stage. The CXO is there to ensure that all future planned product priorities are validated with legitimate customer feedback and align with what customers actually want—not what employees want or think customers should want. That means the strategy needs to be both connected to a specific set of business goals and flexible enough to reprioritize as quickly as consumer needs–and wants–evolve.

If you’re using a tool like Parlor’s User Relationship Management platform, both your product team and the CXO can analyze and manage feedback trends across multiple data sources–and from there, use those insights to validate and prioritize the features consumers care about most.

Another reason the Chief Customer Experience Officer plays an important role in the product strategy is, in order to get it right,  the product roadmap must include input from all internal stakeholders and the customers themselves. When product managers are forced to deal with the feedback gathering process–as well as trying to establish consensus among various (and often siloed) groups, they don’t have as much time to focus on helping their team build the best possible product.

4. Improve customer retention

Another key responsibility for CXOs is improving customer retention rates. You’ve seen the stats: it’s cheaper to sell to existing customers than it is to keep chasing after new ones. According to Fundera, an estimated 65% of business comes from current customers, while 80% of future profits will likely come from existing consumers.

According to Zendesk’s 2021 CX Trends report, customers increasingly want to buy from companies that share the same values: 

  • 63% say they want to buy from socially responsible companies
  • 54% say they want to buy from companies that prioritize diversity and inclusion in their communities 
  • 49% say they want to interact with empathetic agents

CXOs need to be aware of these shifts and respond accordingly–or else, customers won’t hesitate to abandon ship.

5. Increase customer lifetime value

One of the CXO’s core goals is finding ways to increase customer loyalty–which by extension, increases customer lifetime value (CLV)–or the amount a customer spends over the course of their entire relationship with a brand. 

You can increase CLV by first benchmarking loyalty–using CSAT surveys, reviews, ratings, and NPS, and from there, performing detailed research into your most loyal customers and your biggest detractors. The goal is to uncover patterns among both groups and use those insights to increase the number of promoters and reduce the number of detractors.

A CXO understands what tools to use to uncover the right information and is able to interpret demographic, firmographic, and behavioral data–as well as the external factors that influence customer perception and behavior.

What is a Typical CXO Salary?

As with most newer roles, a CXO’s salary varies widely, and depends on a huge number of factors, including the size of the company, what industry the product is in, and previous experience and qualifications of the person applying.

According to ZipRecruiter, CXO salaries range from $25k-$190k per year ($86k median):

Source: https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Chief-Experience-Officer-Salary

Payscale estimates that CXOs typically make between $93k and $300k annually ($201k median), while Salary.com data places that range a bit higher at $150k-$350k ($226k median).

Naturally, there’s some variation between US cities, but it seems that most CXOs earn between $150k-$200k, based on the data from those three reports. 

Early-stage startups and small organizations will likely pay less and may hire someone with less experience, while large enterprises, established tech companies will be able to shell out for experienced leaders with hard-to-find credentials. 

What to Look for in a Customer Experience Officer

Given that there still aren’t many CXOs out there, requirements vary between industries–even organizations. And often, candidates are measured based on their mastery of soft skills like empathy, problem-solving, and communication–critical skills in this AI-driven era, but difficult to quantify using traditional measures.

Here are a few things to think about when hiring for this role.

Education

There aren’t any official educational requirements for this role, but candidates with a bachelor’s degree or higher are generally seen as more attractive. 

Many organizations prefer candidates with a master’s degree when hiring for C-suite roles but it’s important to remember, education is one of many factors to consider. Don’t get too hung up on specific degrees, otherwise, it might be hard to fill the role.

Unless they’re fresh out of school, you’re not likely to find many candidates with a bachelor’s degree or a specialized MBA in CX, though candidates with a background in the following areas may be a good fit:

  • Business management
  • Writing
  • English
  • Social sciences
  • History
  • Media/communications

Additionally, you might look for applicants that participated in less traditional career programs–think UX/UI or product design bootcamps, data science courses, etc.

Experience

Candidates with experience in the following areas are best-suited to this role:

  • UX/UI 
  • Product management
  • Project management
  • Customer service
  • Marketing
  • Public Relations
  • Sales
  • Other executive or senior management roles

Seem like a wide range of areas? That’s because it is. As stated above, with customer experience being a relatively new area within SaaS, it can be difficult to find someone with the exact experience you’re looking for, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified for the job, so it’s important to stay open-minded and to look for candidates in areas you may not have thought to look before.

However, this role is still a C-suite level role, and as such, many of the job listings we encountered on sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn were seeking CXOs with around  7-10 years of experience, at least within the industry they’re looking for.  On AngelList (which features startup jobs), many CXO positions required less experience but often offered lower pay. 

Skills

  • Strong communicator. The CXO must be an effective communicator, someone capable of getting all stakeholders aligned around a strategy that creates maximum value for customers. This person must be able to explain strategies/concepts to different groups (think marketing, sales, the C-suite, etc.) in a way that’s relevant to that audience.
  • Data-driven. The CXO also needs to know their way around the analytics dashboard and be able to turn CX insights into strategic action. They’ll work with business leaders to identify which metrics best measure the impact of customer interactions, track performance against established benchmarks, and course-correct as needed.
  • Team Player. CXOs work with the entire organization—front line customer service teams, IT, executive leadership, marketing, product teams, and so on. Look for candidates who can play well with others and take a collaborative, hands-on approach to managing the CX strategy throughout the entire organization.
  • Cool under pressure. CXOs understand that things don’t always go according to plan—and often, that means facing angry customers whether they’re calling with a complaint or airing their grievances on Twitter. CXOs must respond quickly and remain calm—resolving issues and restoring trust.
  • Growth mentality. Customers preferences and expectations are constantly changing, as are the market and the competitive landscape. A good CXO is always on the lookout for signs of change and eager to embrace new strategies, channels, and best practices early in the game. 

Success Starts and Ends with the Customer

Hiring a CXO to coordinate strategies across departments, channels, and touchpoints and create an internal culture that truly puts the customer first is fast becoming a critical investment in your brand’s future success. After all, it’s relationships that drive revenue–not products. 

P.S., Parlor’s User Relationship Management platform is all about aligning teams around customer-centric data and priorities. We help frontline Customer Success and Experience teams better understand their customers and make data-driven decisions at the user level, instead of the account level. Contact us today to learn more about our URM platform and how it can help you take your CX game to the next level–whether you’re ready to hire a CXO or not.