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The Customer Experience Director Dilemma

By Bruce Bolger, Managing Director, EEA

Although I don’t actually have the statistics to back it up, it appears that more companies are creating the position of Customer Experience Director. I believe this position will eventually be the critical driver of Enterprise Engagement.

Based on what we’re hearing, companies aren’t quite sure of the qualifications for this new position. Since it has never existed before, what exactly should this person do? What kind of “experience” should they have? Ordinarily, organizations have guidelines for hiring different types of people that include background,  training, job history, perspective, but clear guidelines haven’t yet emerged for the Customer Experience Director.

Still, the need for this position is vital. Organizations can now see more than ever the economic benefits of having engaged customers. By definition, they buy more than other people; they’re often less sensitive to price; they regularly become advocates; they sometimes even volunteer. But how do we actually engage customers? Where is it taught in schools? What science does one rely on? What does it take to deliver a brand promise? Clearly, it’s as much about people as it is about process, but ironically it’s the people part that gets overlooked.

The dirty little secret is that while there’s a significant body of knowledge addressing all areas of customer engagement or what constitutes the customer experience, some organizations may not have clearly defined the parameters to identify precisely the right qualifications because there’s no clear framework defining what this person does. All of the research related to Enterprise Engagement indicates that connecting people to the brand is the defining element of the Customer Experience, and that this requires a unique set of qualifications all related to understanding the role of people (as well as processes) in the customer experience. 

Here’s the ad for a Customer Experience Director the way we would define the job based on all the research identifying what actually goes into maximizing the customer experience:

This senior level executive is in charge of engaging customers at all levels of the organization by helping to consistently fulfill the brand promise at every point of contact. The ideal candidate will have experience achieving specific customer engagement goals by addressing all of the factors that affect the customer experience. This individual must have a firm grasp of marketing, human resources, analytics, business processes and return-on-investment measurement, as well as a demonstrable understanding of the human element involved with the customer experience. This position requires strong consensus-building and people skills to unite constituents across the organization, experience in strategic planning, branding, communications, rewards & recognition and integrating key engagement tools with all forms of assessment, as well as overseeing a staff of project managers to address specific internal and external audiences and objectives.  The candidate preferably has personal front-line management experience dealing with customers with the ability to clearly articulate a strategy for connecting a brand to the customer through the people who will deliver it…

I’m sure you already see the problem.  How many candidates come to mind for that position? It’s much easier to find someone qualified to tackle the process element of the customer experience. How could it be otherwise when, ironically, the process-focused management born of the industrial revolution is only slowly giving way to a new people-focused approach where organizations embrace the people factor rather than try to minimize it?

As a nation, we actually lack the kind of management with cross-organizational and tactical skills that’s required to truly address all of the factors that affect the customer experience, both internally and externally.  There’s simply no way one executive can master all of the nuances of all of the engagement tools, but we at least need executives who understand their key features and how they can apply.

This is why major companies will inevitably have turn to outside help from agencies or consultants that know how to address all of the factors involved with not just having a good customer experience, but translating it into bottom-line results for everyone in the organization.

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