Who Owns the Customer Experience?

By Roy Barnes, Bob Kelleher

Does your organization have a chief customer officer — one person who is responsible for ensuring that your customers enjoy a great customer experience? Or is there an ombudsman of sorts — someone who has the power and “air cover” to strongly advocate for the customer’s best interest? Probably not.

Only a very few organizations have this role, but most should. In most companies, no one is responsible for managing customer experience in its entirety. In fact, most businesses are so siloed, so internally focused, that the customer — his issues, perspectives, and problems — is rarely even discussed!

Typical employees — whether they’re in the executive suite or deep in the trenches — are paid to focus on their discrete slice of the business. Whether they’re in IT, HR, operations, sales, marketing, accounting, or what have you, their job is to optimize their piece of the pie, becoming more efficient and effective.

This naturally leads to an inside-out, company-centric view, rather than an outside-in, customer-centric focus. If there’s no individual or team to formally steward the customer’s interest, then over time, customers — individually or collectively — will find themselves neglected or abused.

Customers are a common resource/asset and must be managed as such. Just as most organizations have dedicated asset managers to manage their inventories, physical structures, portfolios, and so on, so, too, should they have employees dedicated to managing customers — making sure their needs are met and their long-term sustainability is ensured.

The bottom line? Someone in your organization has to “own” the customer experience. Someone must have a vision of what the customer experience will be and the tools to execute that vision. That’s the only way to ensure that the experience will be consistently great.

Think of this person as being like a film director — similar to Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, or Nora Ephron. Just as a film director is responsible for producing a cohesive and engaging film, your “director” of customer experience is in charge of building a cohesive and engaging customer experience program. (Like a film director, some “directors” of customer experience even use storyboards to help others visualize the customer journey.)