Before we begin talking about where CX should sit in the organization, I want to clarify one thing. Customer Experience is not a single person.
A company cannot hire one customer experience professional and expect that in a year that company will have a customer-centric corporate culture in place. CX also is not a team that has no visibility and no budget. No one has ever heard of a business successful transformation without extensive change management implications done and without vision and strategy. CX requires individuals and teams with cross functional workshops, new products and processes and heavy communications across the organization.
A CX team needs the leadership support to deliver all of those to the brand and the organization. So where in the organization should CX sit? Leadership teams across industries and geographies are trying different suboptimal approaches.
Last year a non-profit health insurance company in New York approached me to ask for feedback on their CX set up. They were planning to set the CX team under the CIO. Since the corporate staff was not big, the role of CX would have been fairly elevated. Still, I advised against that organizational structure.
A customer experience transformation cannot be led by IT for several reasons. Although the world today is more and more digital, brands still are in the business of making the human, long lasting connection with the customers that will drive more sales. Our IT partners are excellent at executing a program and can definitely help with the UX part of the job, but they are not marketers or operators. Asking IT to drive CX is just not the right choice. There is no doubt that CX cannot exist without IT. But that does not mean IT needs to lead it.
Marketing (or in some organizations “product”) is the most common set up for CX in brands’ corporate organizations. Media and consumer goods companies usually take this approach. At first look it makes sense to set CX in marketing. After all the purpose of CX is to deliver on the brand promises made by marketing.
This could almost work if brands did not bury my CX peers deep down in the organization so they turn into journey mapping documentation gatherers with no real impact. One fast food brand in Europe actually had the role of Head of Brand Engagement under the CMO and then had four other leaders reporting to that role, one of which was the CX Director. That CX Director was competing with the other three directors with similar roles for a piece of the authority pie. This is equivalent to giving somebody a problem to solve with no tools to do so.
One Financial Services institution in the US had arguably the least impactful set up. They actually put CX under HR! Please, do not mix customer experience with HR. I know that we all talk about the importance of employee engagement to the successful delivery of exceptional brand experiences. Although happy employees and customer-centric culture are requirements for a CX driven organization, CX is much more than that.
For a CX group to have impact and drive change, it needs to be in the customer facing part of the organization. The CX professionals need access to the customer to learn what is working and what is not. They need access to the operations to change processes and procedures. Lastly, CX professionals need tools like IT and Marketing to deliver new solutions and communicate those solutions to the customer. HR offers none of those enablers to a CX transformation.
An organization that is really committed to putting the customer at its center will build (reorg) the governance structure to reflect that commitment. That means having a Customer Experience Executive that has all the customer facing divisions under him/her and funding this organization appropriately.
If that means taking funding from other parts of the organization, so be it. As a brand this signals to both the investors and the employees that a real shift of the corporate mindset is taking place. With that set up, customers also will feel the change and will reciprocate with their loyalty. To do CX right, that is the way to do it – not by hiring one person buried in the org with no seat at the table, just to check off a mark.