5 Tips for CEOs: A Practical Guide to Hiring a Chief Experience Officer

Stephanie Thum and I had a great time collaborating as co-authors on this post. Stephanie is the founding principal of Practical CX. Read more about Stephanie here and follow me on Twitter here.

Do a Google search for “Chief Customer Officer” and you’ll find almost every day that another company has hired their first, or promoted from within, a new Chief Customer or Chief Experience Officer.  It makes sense to see the continued rise of Chief Customer and Experience Officers (CXOs). The experience economy demands that companies put an intense focus on customers at the senior-most levels of their companies—the same as financial affairs, risk, legal issues, information systems, and human resources.  But customer experience is a newer business discipline. It is not the same as other customer-facing disciplines like business development, sales, marketing, website development, or public relations. Because it isn’t the same, it is important to think differently about skills, competencies, on-boarding, and how you will support this new executive.

Here are some tips.

1. Decide if you’re ready. Really ready.

Bringing on a CXO is a big deal. Just the hiring gesture alone will send a message to your senior team, employees, customers, shareholders, and stakeholders. If your response to that probability is, “Yes, it should send a bold message!” then you’re ready for the next questions. Ask yourself:

  • What level of air cover and support am I willing to give to this new executive as they build the work, their team, and they interact with colleagues and customers?
  • Are we willing to leave no stone unturned regarding this transformation? Customer experience isn’t about one department or part of your company. The CXO’s work will take them into many “swim lanes” in your company, which can cause turf issues.
  • What will I need to do to “walk the talk” in demonstrating our commitment to customers and to the new practices a CXO will bring to our organization?
  • What are the pitfalls and resistance I need to watch out for in the first 1-3 years?

One mistake companies make is they hire a CXO and then senior teams, management, and employees resist new practices and approaches that come with it. Or, they hire at a level that doesn’t bring the clout necessary to influence change. Customer experience improvement work is difficult and uncomfortable. You and your existing management team will need to stand together with your new hire to get the ball rolling.

2. Credentials are everything.

The Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) credential is the best example of a CX credential. Anyone can say they are a CX expert. But the CCXP credential means that person has the experience and skills necessary to pass a test on multiple CX core competencies and skills—one administered by the premier global nonprofit professional association for the CX profession. After earning the CCXP, the credential holder must maintain it through continuing education. Make sure your job description, salary, and opportunity are designed to attract that caliber of professional. Requiring a CCXP means your pool of candidates may be smaller, but their levels of expertise will be bigger. Requiring a CCXP also says to the candidate, “We see your expertise, and we are serious about wanting it.”

You can find a database of current CCXPs here. Use this resource to validate the credentials of someone who claims to carry the CCXP.

3. Look for non-technical skills, too.

Technical competency is important, but the non-technical is just as important. More questions to ask when you’re assessing candidates:

  • Is this person customer-centric? Imagine a scenario where you and your team are discussing how to improve sales. Does your Chief Experience Officer then round out that conversation with what it will take to actually sell something to customers, from the customer’s perspective?
  • Are they operationally savvy? Meaning, can they build the institutional knowledge, cultural awareness, and company-specific skills and relationships they will need to design and execute experience management strategy?
  • Are they technologically and technology savvy? This goes way beyond being good with a smartphone! How much do they understand about data silos, new technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning, and how customers adopt technology?
  • Does this person have a keen eye for trends and talent that doesn’t exist yet? CX is evolving into competing with itself. Customers want an ever-developing experience. They want to be wowed for their entire journey, not just as new customers. Your best candidates will be able to demonstrate a history of innovation, an awareness of how the legal landscape ripples into the work, and an ability to lead through changes, improvements, and upgrades.


4. Be transparent with your candidates.

Tell candidates where you, your senior team, and company are in your experience management evolution. If you’re at the beginning of the work, say that. If you can predict where resistance will come from, articulate that. You’ll score big points with your candidate if you do. If you’re upgrading talent or approaches, be transparent about why you are or have been stuck.

5. Be fair about how you will measure success.

If you can’t or don’t tie other senior roles to bottom-line results, then it isn’t fair to hold the CXO to that level. However, you should ask your top candidates how they will solve—or contribute to solving—company problems through tools and principles that come with practicing discipline of customer experience, including financial, technology, policy, or employee issues.

Hiring your first CXO is a big deal that requires you to seek out different skills and competencies than you may have encountered for others on your senior team in the past. These are just a few things to think about as you get started.  Cheers to hiring that candidate that will make you proud to have your company at the top of Google search results for “Chief Customer Officers.”


All views belong to Stephanie and me. Reach out to either of us for more information or counsel. Read more about me here, and follow me on Twitter here.

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