I’ve always been a customer experience (CX) professional and advocate. So when my CEO approached me to take on the role of corporate strategy and Chief of Staff, I was immediately intrigued. How would my CX skills and background translate to corporate strategy? What would that mean for my role and passion in driving the customer agenda forward?
Corporate Strategy and CX
At its core, corporate strategy requires taking an enterprise approach to strategic decision-making by looking across the business at ways to create and maximize consumer and shareholder value. The more I thought about it, the more synergies I saw between strategy and CX. When you work in a CX function or talk to fellow CX leaders, you’re constantly wrestling with strategic alignment. Misaligned goals. Unreconciled prioritization across departments. Lack of process to fully execute. No accountability for customer metrics. These are the systemic issues that often serve as barriers to CX and business enablement.
In the role of strategy officer, one of my primary responsibilities is to lead annual and long-term strategic planning with the intent of tackling those systemic issues head-on. This includes the use of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) as a goal setting framework for the enterprise. The coordination of strategy, planning, and goal setting is arguably the most critical aspect to driving improved customer and business-focused outcomes. When goals, priorities, and metrics are aligned – better yet, shared – amongst divisions and departments, amazing things happen. The level of productivity, efficiency, and coordination skyrockets. Teams work toward a shared view and roadmap of success – no longer forced to jockey between acquisition and retention goals. Individual employees see greater purpose in their work and its tie to key enterprise objectives, boosting engagement, buy-in, and personal accountability for results.
The CX Evolution
When bringing either a CX function, mindset or discipline into the Office of Strategy and CEO, CX gets an instant credibility and level boost. It’s no longer seen as purely a “Marketing” or “Operations” priority. It also begins to influence the altitude at which CX operates – evolving from a programmatic focus (“Let’s work on Project A and ‘CX’ it”) to one of true enterprise enablement (“How might we better align strategic priorities ‘A’ and ‘B’ and their measures of success for improved customer and business impact in 2021?”). Project-specific CX requests and skillsets will still be summoned, but having the winds of an aligned strategy and goal-setting framework at your back helps to ensure greater viability for projects and initiatives. Another perk? The ability to incorporate a sustained and inclusive focus on customer value as part of executive and employee measures of success – embedding the cultural norm of customer focus and accountability from the Call Center to the C-suite.
What if CX currently resides in a group like Marketing? Fear not. As long as CX has a true executive sponsor with accountability for customer outcomes and a seat at the table, you’re already ahead of the curve. What works in one organization may not work in another structurally, culturally, or otherwise. When CX sits squarely within Marketing or Operations, however, it can lead to a more narrow set of priorities and KPIs that drive funnel conversion, retention, or lower cost-to-serve. All worthwhile metrics, yet often seen as “that team’s” goals and inwardly-focused on how the customer is serving us, not how well we’re serving the customer (i.e. focused on true customer outcomes).
The focus on where CX best fits within an organization is not a new challenge. It has been a topic of discussion for years – with an increasing number of organizations finding synergies between CX and corporate strategy. In its report The Convergence of Brand, Marketing, and Customer Experience, Forrester cites a natural evolution of the chief strategist role to include CX:
“If organizations don't choose to appoint a single [CX] leader, the most integral chief in the future will be the chief strategy officer (CSO). Delivering great brand experiences requires shared visions, shared metrics, shared tools, co-creation, and shared goals. But most organizations stumble time and again when trying to overcome silos and collaborate effectively. CSOs, who naturally work cross-functionally to develop strategy, will move downstream into strategy enablement and more closely resemble a chief of staff. They will take the lead in corralling resources from across the company to address sprawling customer challenges. Their expertise will include forming networks and coalitions that include employees, customers, and partners jointly innovating in a customer-obsessed world.”
Regardless of where CX sits within your organization, a partnership with your enterprise strategy group can prove valuable in helping to influence your overall decision-making infrastructure and value delivery.
As for me, I’m enjoying the view from the strategy seat – with the seat beside me still reserved for the customer.