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In today’s world, customer service is just as important to a business’s success as traditional marketing is—if not more so. More companies than ever are committed to customer service goals, and Grand View Research reports that the global customer experience management market is expected to grow 17.5 percent from 2021 to 2028.

As focus on customer experience (CX) grows, more and more companies are adding the position of chief experience officer (CXO) to head up their efforts in this area. According to Gartner’s 2019 Customer Experience Management Survey, nearly 90 percent of organizations had a CXO or equivalent, which is up from 65 percent in 2017.

What exactly is a CXO? This article reviews the responsibilities, skills, and salaries of the CXO—and explains why every company should hire one.

Responsibilities of a Chief Experience Officer

As the head of customer experience, a CXO is responsible for representing the voice of the customer. They work closely with the chief executive officer (CEO), chief operating officer (COO), and chief management officer (CMO). 

Though their primary responsibilities are understanding and representing customer feedback, a CXO’s duties go beyond those of a typical customer service manager. CXOs drive company culture on a fundamental level. They orient companies toward customer needs in every aspect of the organization, including the company’s marketing, values, digital experience, and social media presence.

The CXO is an internal representative for the customer, but their work doesn’t end there. The CXO promotes and guides employee experience (EX) as well. To empower both customers and employees, the CXO must develop an understanding of both CX and EX needs. Moreover, the CXO must track how EX and CX affect company KPIs and each other.

CX and EX are two sides of the same coin. A disengaged employee, feeling unvalued and underpaid, has no incentive to provide the best customer experience, especially if their own experience with the company is subpar. In turn, a customer who has a negative interaction with the company may lose trust for that company and stop using its services or products.

Alternately, under the direction of a successful CXO, employees become more engaged in their work and better understand customer needs, prompting them to provide better customer service and ultimately increasing both employee productivity and customer satisfaction. Moreover, employees become more innovative in their work. 

According to a 2016 survey from MIT’s Center for Information Research, companies that had high ratings for EX were twice as innovative as those with poor EX, based on the percentage of revenue from new products/services in the past two years.

Gallup research found that engaged employees produce better outcomes, are more productive, increase customer loyalty, and grow a company’s profitability. And in companies with engaged employees, there’s less theft, absenteeism, workplace incidents, and employee turnover.

No matter how you slice it, EX and CX are intertwined. The strength of a CX strategy is derived from employee empowerment and focus, and EX strategy is designed to boost CX through higher employee engagement. A CXO must unite CX and EX teams to maximize everyone’s experience with the company.

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Top skills for a Chief Experience Officer

When stepping into a CXO role, an individual assumes responsibility for a number of tasks. Specific education and work experience, along with both technical and soft skills, serve a CXO well. On a company level, the CXO must understand the current EX and CX strategy and what gaps exist in each.

Experience Needed to be a Chief Experience Officer

A combination of education, work experience, and certifications make up the typical experience held by a CXO. Most CXO positions require a master’s degree in one of several fields, such as the following:

  • Marketing and sales
  • Public relations
  • Business administration
  • Media and communications
  • User experience (UX)

Additionally, most positions require at least ten years of proven relevant work experience. To bolster their experience and grow their skills, candidates may also take part in customer experience certifications. These range from self-paced online seminars to the Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) exam, which awards successful candidates with CX certification from the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA).

Qualities to look for when hiring a Chief Experience Officer

The work of a CXO is a balancing act between technical and soft skills. Success as a CXO requires leadership skills, an understanding of customer experience management, and internal company knowledge on products, services, and employees. Sharp communication skills are critical in all three areas. 

On a leadership level, the CXO must understand the company’s daily operations, what’s expected of each department, and how the departments and teams interact with each other. To keep a department cohesive, focused, and motivated, CXOs must demonstrate leadership prowess, active listening skills, and the ability to delegate.

To best represent the customer and provide feedback to development teams, CXOs must understand the company’s products and services. They must analyze customer feedback and have the creativity and problem-solving skills to implement necessary changes.

Data analysis, attention to detail, and an understanding of customer and employee needs are necessary to determine how well the company is meeting its KPIs. Meanwhile, organizational skills are necessary to keep teams on track and align the work that’s being done with company goals.

Verbal and written communications skills are crucial to both the CXO’s leadership duties overseeing the teams responsible for improving customer experience and their ability to advocate for both employee and customer needs.

Salary range for a chief experience officer

The salary range for CXOs varies based on a few factors. Salary varies from city to city and is influenced, to an extent, by education. The higher the education, the higher the expected salary. For the hiring manager who needs help finding a CXO within a budget, learn the salary requirements of a range of qualified people to determine realistic expectations.

Robert Half puts the midpoint of a CXO’s base salary at about $165,000 a year. Payscale estimates the average salary of a CXO is $195,000 per year based on a salary range from $93,000 to over $300,000. estimates the salary of a CXO is a range between $176,000 to over $281,000. Looking at top (C-level) executives overall, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that median pay is $107,680 per year.

Importance of hiring a chief experience officer

CXOs are vital to company success, particularly for shifting to a customer-oriented business style, improving customer loyalty, sustaining CX efforts over time, and increasing employee engagement.

Without a CXO, CX and EX departments face challenges over the division of company resources that can lead to miscommunication, disconnect between teams, and misaligned priorities. The threatening imbalance between CX and EX creates a lack of support that often leads to employee disengagement and customer dissatisfaction.

Case study: Adobe

In a 2018 interview with Forbes, Donna Morris, then-EVP of Customer and Employee Experience at Adobe, discussed how she combined CX and EX to drive a customer-centric culture.

To make employees’ contributions to the customer experience more tangible, Morris set up a short-term cash incentive plan. The compensation plan reflected revenue performance and customer ratings and, according to Morris, encouraged synergy as everyone worked toward the same goals.

In addition, Morris set up what she called “listening stations.” Employees could hear from customers directly, either online or in person. As a result, Adobe employees gained a better understanding of how customers used their products.

The last change implemented was the “experience-a-thon,” wherein employees without technical know-how rated products that were still in development. By offering new perspectives, the effort helped engineers and designers create products that were more accessible to the average customer.

As a result, Adobe reported a 25 percent annual revenue gain, its net income grew by 45 percent, and it earned a #26 rating on Fortune’s 2018 100 Best Companies to Work For list.

What do you think?

While Adobe’s success cannot solely be attributed to the work of its CXO, unifying and fortifying CX and EX clearly helped the company align its goals with the needs of its customers and improve the experience of its employees.

Especially in this digital age, where customers can more easily interact with businesses, leave reviews, and recommend services to friends, customer experience is an integral part of any successful business strategy.

By Hannah Clark

Hannah Clark is the Editor of The CX Lead. After serving over 12 years working in front-line customer experience for major brands, Hannah pivoted to a career in digital publishing and media production. Having gained a holistic view of the challenges and intricacies of delivering exceptional experiences, Hannah aims to help CX practitioners 'level up' their skills by amplifying the voices of today's thought leaders in the space.