That's CXO as in "Chief Experience Officer" though perhaps more often called Chief Customer Officer.

A quick check on LinkedIn shows very few CXOs outside of agencies though many more Chief Customer Officers.

But job title semantics aside, the key theme is 'customer experience'. Is it overhyped? Or is it the future of marketing?

The importance of customer experience

There are many reasons for the rise of the customer and their experience. Competitive advantage and sources of success have moved over the decades from manufacturing and distribution (Ford, Tesco etc), through information advantages (Google, MBNA etc) to where we are now where, arguably, customer experience is the differentiating source of success and dominance (Apple?).

In the world of digital marketing it is clear that the criteria for success have moved over the years from essentially gaming the system, or just being first to market, to needing to provide an outstanding customer experience to deliver a return on investment. 

In the early days of SEO (search engine optimisation), for example, it used to be enough to buy links or stuff keywords onto the page to rank top. Now it is about earning links and social media approval through useful content and outstanding customer experiences.

Likewise, the brave new world of CRO (conversion rate optimisation) is all about fine-tuning the customer experience to optimise performance. 

Econsultancy recently polled senior digital marketers to discover what they felt were the most critical criteria to be successful in digital marketing: a relentless focus on optimising the customer experience came out top.   

So should the CMO be responsible for this all-important customer experience?

Certainly in some areas, not least marketing itself. The experience customers have of a brand’s marketing is incredibly important, particularly as we move into an era of ‘owned’ and ‘earned’ media where marketing assets are multichannel content, applications, utility, experiences and not ‘ads’ or ‘press releases’ or ‘direct mail’. 

But what about the total customer experience? If you are marketing a museum then should the CMO be responsible for the state of the toilets, the parking facilities, the music being played in the café?

In the digital world, should the CMO be responsible for on-site conversion rates, site speed, device compatibility and so on, which, again, are clearly part of the customer experience?

What about comments on Twitter about the brand that appear in search results, impacting the customer’s total experience of the brand… are they for marketing or customer service? 

CMOs are entering a new era that is challenging but exciting. Gartner recently said that most CMOs will soon have a bigger IT budget than their CTO colleagues because of all the digital-related growth that typically sits under marketing.

I see no reason why CMOs shouldn’t take customer experience under their wing. The total customer experience. Online and offline. (Then they should become CEO but that’s another article…).  

But what do we really mean by ‘customer experience’?

In terms of the total customer experience you need to look at all the customer touchpoints, digital and physical, and make sure they work together so that the customer journey is as pleasurable, as easy and as useful as possible. 

However, the opportunity to surprise and delight customers through experience can be done with surprisingly small details and nice touches.

The latter has been done well in the real world for years. Luxury brands are good at this, as are some hotel and travel brands; and remember those car ads based on ‘door clunk’?

But it has been harder to find digital moments of customer experience delight. Is this because the medium is less mature? Is it because the CMO hasn’t been involved enough with online? Is it just not possible to do online?

The recent Olympic games may not have been a perfect total customer experience. There were some ticketing issues. But given their complexity, it was an impressive all round customer experience.

The details delighted too. The warmth and friendliness of the Games Makers made a real impression on attendees. A smile, a kind word, it transformed the customer experience. 

What great customer experiences come to mind to you, either online or offline?

A few of mine recently:

    • Google’s Doodles continue to be a delicatessen of ephemeral delights online. Most recently their Star Trek anniversary doodle.

      I also enjoyed a recent alert message. The copywriting, the simplicity, the transition light box effect. These are the ‘door clunks’ of online that reinforce a brand in a thousand small but very important ways.

    • Amazon’s delivery experience still blows my mind. The logistics behind it must be awesome. Others are now catching up (one-hour delivery slots from Oasis and others) but Amazon is a relentless machine of customer experience optimisation awesomeness.  
    • Old Spice’s latest Muscle Music ‘ad’. A brilliant example of what ‘advertising’ can become as an online experience. The Econsultancy office favourite is “We on the internet”: 

And is it possible to create great customer experiences in sectors as apparently uninspiring as, say, financial services? I believe so. 

A long time ago there was indeed a CXO I talked to, at the then fresh, exciting, and internet-y, Egg. His idea was to send customers a case of champagne on the day they finally paid off their mortgage.

A small cost to Egg given the value of the mortgage customer to them, but surely a big talking point and moment of experiential delight for the customer. Sadly he has long since left and who knows whether Egg will even last as long as one of those mortgages being paid off. But it was a nice idea and one really the CMO should be steward of? 

I don’t think CXO needs to exist as a job title but only because the CMO should own the total customer experience across online and offline.

What do you think? Are CMOs up to it? Is customer experience really any more important than it ever was?

This article originally appeared in Marketing Week.

Ashley Friedlein

Published 5 December, 2012 by Ashley Friedlein @ Econsultancy

Ashley Friedlein is Founder of Econsultancy and President of Centaur Marketing. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (6)

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Excellent stuff with wonderful information! I'm new here and loving the post! Thanks for sharing this great info!

over 5 years ago

Matt Isaacs

Matt Isaacs, Founding Partner & CEO at Essence

As ever, great article Ashley. Some really thought provoking stuff in here.

Your comments re. Egg brought back many memories for me. In my previous career as a strategy consultant I was advisor to the Executive team at Egg from pre launch through to their IPO. Having a member of the Executive team responsible for Customer Experience was undoubtedly very powerful. However, the real power was not the title or the individual but the fact that the entire organisation was customer centric from CEO down. Ultimately Egg has not managed to deliver on its vision which is sad. But Egg's challenges were primarily down to commercial issues that had nothing to do with customer experience. You could argue that it was their customer centricity itself that meant they were less focussed on commercial management than they should have been - but that would be a trivialisation of a variety of complex issues and events.

Key Learning: Balance customer AND business imperatives to deliver long term success.

In my view, somewhere along the way marketing services has largely lost sight of this. Our goal at Essence is to bring it back. And its not something new - it's called strategy.

over 5 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at EconsultancyStaff

@Matt I'd forgotten about your Egg links ;) Yes, it's an interesting one. Hopefully it didn't fail *because* it was overly customer centric but rather because it didn't get the balance right as you say. Someone like first direct seems to have achieved both?

Your point about strategy is spot on. I think too that culture is very important here. I don't know nearly enough about the detail but how much of Egg's woes are down to its various owners over the years? And the biggest danger for first direct, arguably, is its parent HSBC killing its culture?

over 5 years ago

Matt Isaacs

Matt Isaacs, Founding Partner & CEO at Essence

@Ashley I agree re. culture. A strategy written on paper is worthless. It is only when a great strategy is translated into the fabric of an organisation as a crystal clear and shared sense of purpose that it becomes truly powerful. Old but still brilliant, I love Simon Sinek's TED talk on this.

Did you realise that the Mike Harris, who was the founding CEO of First Direct was also the founding CEO of Egg? Mike was great at distilling strategy into purpose into culture. Many of the early senior management team of Egg were ex First Direct too. Might explain why you see the similarity...

over 5 years ago


Dan W, Digital Marketing / Ecommerce / Optimisation Professional at Personal

Interesting - two of your articles today have conflicting views on Google's UX. The positive view above is very different to the view on Google's e-commerce efforts.

over 5 years ago


Matthew Treagus, Managing Director at rtobjects

Do we think there will ever be a day that the DA&D will had out Golden Pencils for business process design?

over 5 years ago

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