As consumers gain more power in a global market flooded with options, organizations are shifting in droves toward customer-centric business models that allow them to remain competitive and boost their bottom line.
But crafting an engaging and seamless customer experience (CX) isn’t as simple as installing software and collecting data. To help devise high-level strategies to attract and retain customers, a growing number of businesses are hiring Chief Experience Officers (CXOs).
CXOs are a relatively new breed of C-suite executive that possess a unique set of leadership skills. The CEO Magazine sat down with three leading CXOs to uncover the critical qualities required to be successful in their field.
To gain a deep understanding of their customers’ needs, CXOs have to – sometimes literally – walk a mile in their shoes while keeping their company’s profitability front of mind.
"You have to really care about reducing friction points for the customer," says Anton Brown, who has been CXO of Cricket New South Wales since 2021 and was formerly CXO at Virgin Active in London.
"I spend time with customers out in the field whenever I can to understand what their pain points are. You have to be a people person and get inside the customers’ heads to understand how they tick."
"You have to really care about reducing friction points for the customer." – Anton Brown
For Amanda Allen, CXO of Maryland-based medication adherence platform Scene Health, being empathetic means thinking about the experience from multiple vantage points.
Scene Health’s solutions combine video technology, clinical coaching and validated interventions to help patients stay on top of their medications.
"We focus on patient experience, provider experience, customer experience and even employee experience," Allen explains.
"My team improves experience through design, and this approach ensures we’re building something people want to use while also allowing us to communicate better internally and externally."
With more than 250 hairdressing franchises across Australia, the United Kingdom, Taiwan and Singapore, Just Cuts has two customer bases to consider – its franchisees and its clients.
"Our franchisees are small business owners, and we need to be empathetic to their needs and challenges when it comes to running their business and being involved in their local community," says Just Cuts CEO Amber Manning, who also acts as CXO.
"But we also have to consider our stylists’ and clients’ needs to constantly improve our customer experience."
"As a CXO, you need to be inquisitive," Brown says. "You have to be driven to understand the ‘why’ behind the customer experience you’re creating and look for ways to continuously improve it."
"Having access to real users for quick feedback and ideation has been a game changer." – Amanda Allen
Allen harnesses her natural curiosity about customer pain points and challenges to analyze the data Scene Health collects and inform her decisions.
"We invite our customers and patients to join our Advisory Councils to give our design teams feedback on new product features or marketing assets," she explains.
"They consistently challenge our assumptions and provide us with new ideas. Having access to real users for quick feedback and ideation has been a game changer."
Big Picture Thinking
"The CXO is at the intersection of everything in the organization – people, culture, product development and delivery, and marketing," Brown acknowledges. "You have to have a really good grasp on the big picture."
With franchisees, stylists and clients to consider, Manning maintains a constant bird’s-eye view of all her stakeholders’ wants and needs.
"We have to make sure our franchisees are happy and continue to grow with us," she explains. "On the front line, we engage real-life clients and stylists to pilot any campaign we plan to run to ensure it complements everyone.
"On the front line, we engage real-life clients and stylists to pilot any campaign we plan to run to ensure it complements everyone." – Amber Manning
"I also oversee our marketing, communications and PR teams to make sure we’re getting our messaging out there, and the experience is what our customers are asking for."
Allen brings her teams of interdisciplinary designers together twice a week to foster collaboration, problem-solving and creative thinking.
"Half are UI/UX [user interface/user experience] designers embedded into product pods, while the other half are brand designers focused on customer and patient marketing," she says.
"Our regular meetings give us the opportunity to zoom out and make sure the different pieces of the overall experience are evolving cohesively."
"You can’t deliver an excellent customer experience without educating and training your team," Manning says.
"I’ve learned the importance of getting into stores to make sure your team members are empowered. You need to communicate to them what the campaign is and what it means for the customer so you get the best outcome."
When you’re leading an organization through a change process, Brown believes you have to be a strong influencer, coach and mentor and that excellent communication skills are critical.
"Change can be uncomfortable and you have to get everyone on board, especially the CEO, because it won’t work otherwise," he says. "You need to bring together all the pieces of information you’ve learned and connect the dots for other people. You have to be able to take them on the journey with you."
How to become a CXO
- A bachelor’s degree in business, commerce, public relations, marketing or a similar discipline is a good starting point.
- A master’s degree in a relevant discipline, such as an MBA, can further your skills and give you a leg up.
- There are also several programs designed to build your leadership skills, such as Wharton Executive Education’s Global C-Suite Program and Deloitte’s SheXO Program.