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The CEO's Guide to How a CXO Can Enhance Your Company's Client Experience and Drive Growth

CEO Coaching Int’l

Guest: Saari Gardner, the Chief Experience Officer at CEO Coaching International. Saari is responsible for setting the client experience strategy, managing the client journey, and championing client impact.

Quick Background: While the title “Chief Experience Officer” is relatively new, the executive-level responsibilities that will fall on the CXO’s desk are not. Before considering a costly new c-suite hire, your company needs to have a holistic understanding of how touchpoints with customers and employees fulfill needs and exceed expectations. Guided by the CEO’s vision, a CXO can raise those standards, maintain consistency across every department, and build a powerful culture that will Make BIG Happen.

On today’s show, Saari Gardner discusses the CXO’s multifaceted responsibilities, from being a changemaker and a voice for the customer at the executive table to reducing internal friction that impacts customer satisfaction. Saari also highlights the link between employee experience and customer service excellence and how fostering a positive work environment translates into superior customer interactions. We also explore the strategic considerations for integrating a CXO into your company, including when to recognize the need for this role and how to measure its impact on your business’s bottom line.

Keys to Adding a CXO Chair to Your C-Suite from Saari Gardner

1. Understand what you need from the CXO role.

Adding new C-suite positions is a significant trend right now as companies adjust to new tech (Chief AI Officer), new fiscal realities (Chief Revenue Officer), and new employee and customer behaviors (Chief People Officer). The CXO role is among the most flexible of these titles, and implementation from company to company will vary.

“I think the consistent definition you’ll see is that CXOs are an executive-level individual who is charged with representing the customer’s interest at the highest level,” says Saari. “Often they are responsible for voice-of-client programs, which can include one-to-one interviewing, surveys, and service design. Some CXOs actually have responsibility for the employee experience as well. So there are a lot of different roles that a CXO can play, and I think it’s just a matter of what the company needs and maybe where the gaps are in the current leadership team that a CXO can fill.”

Some common gaps that Saari sees the CXO shoring up are:

  1. Change maker. The CXO should use feedback from customers and employees to challenge the status quo and point the company towards key experience improvements.
  2. Voice of the customer. As the C-suite builds its strategy for the company, the CXO can express potential stakeholder pain points and build a complementary strategy for engaging customers and employees in what’s coming next.
  3. Friction reducer. Identify operation inefficiencies that could be affecting how teams work and the quality of service they’re ultimately delivering.

2. Focus on the qualities of a successful CXO.

Because the CXO position is relatively new, you’re probably not going to find many candidates with decades of “experience” experience on their resumes. The range of potential responsibilities is also so BIG that CEOs need to be extremely clear about what needs the CXO will be fulfilling and what kinds of skills that executive will need to succeed.

Saari believes one characteristic that CEOs should be scouting for is curiosity. “That desire to understand, ‘What are other people doing?'” she explains, “and asking, ‘How can we do it better? How is that impacting the customer?’ A lot of people start in customer insights or voice of customer because that’s a logical place where you are getting access to all of that rich information about how customers are experiencing the organization and what would make that better.”

It’s possible you have a promising CXO candidate already working for you in a lower-level leadership position. Promoting from within could bring multilevel organizational knowledge and relationships to your c-suite, where your new CXO could use their experience to improve your overall service design. On the other hand, hiring a new executive could bring a set of fresh, curious eyes to the C-suite who will be eager to learn and open to challenging ideas.

3. Connect the customer experience to the employee experience.

“I think you would expect somebody in a CX role to really lean into the customer-first mentality,” Saari says. “I view it completely differently. I think it absolutely must be employees first. There’s a saying that I love: ‘Your customer experience will never be better than your employee experience.’ You simply can’t deliver excellence in customer service unless you’ve given consideration to that employee experience.”

If you take buying and selling out of the equation, the ways that your customers and your employees interact with your company really aren’t all that different. Someone has a problem, a need, or a want, and they knock on a door looking for help. Whether that’s a customer calling your help line or a marketer walking over to IT, how enjoyable is that interaction?

Anything that companies can do to reduce the friction between employees is only going to make the end customer experience even smoother. The CXO might help leaders across your organization eliminate redundancies, communicate more effectively, and explore ways to collaborate more meaningfully. And in the C-suite, the CXO can introduce these cultural and experiential issues to larger planning concerns, such as maintaining growth targets without stretching employees thin and rethinking hybrid work policies.

4. Establish KPIs.

Growth-related KPIs often lead a CEO to hire a CXO. The BIGGER your company gets, the BIGGER the space between the CEO and individual customers and workers, and the more important it is to have an executive who’s in charge of keeping all those people happy.

But the ROI on a CXO hire has to be more concrete than an uptick in warm feelings and smiles.

The C-suite reorganization movement is really about connecting everything that company does to one metric: growth. Eye-catching marketing is worthless if it doesn’t attract more paying customers. Higher profits evaporate if the cost of doing business is even higher. A revolutionary new product or service is a failure if no one wants to buy it. And storm clouds will gather over your sunny workplace if employees start whispering about missed targets and layoffs.

Don’t hire a CXO just because every other company in your space has a CXO. And don’t hire a CXO because you think one person can magically transform your company. Hire a CXO who understands what makes your company special and who can deliver that experience across the board in ways that create and sustain growth.

“When you’re considering any role on your team, you should consider, ‘What unique value is this going to bring?'” Saari says. “‘How is this going to help us be better as an organization? Why am I hiring this person? And what’s the scope of their responsibility?’ And then you’re working back to those leading activities that the CXO role is responsible for. And how are they driving improvement in those? How are they upping the company’s game on those leading activities? Because if they are doing that, then you’re going to see the improvement in attrition. You’re going to see the improvement in your client satisfaction scores. Most definitely there should be some measure of success.”

Top Takeaways

1. Know your role(s). The CXO’s responsibilities should be as clearly defined as those in any traditional C-suite seat.

2. Put your employees first. Their experience of your company is going to determine how your customers experience your company as well.

3. Track, measure, and manage. If the CXO’s work isn’t driving up KPIs, you need to rethink what the CXO’s role is.

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average revenue CAGR of 31% (2.6X the U.S. average) and an average EBITDA CAGR of 52.3% (more than 5X the U.S. average).

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