By Joe Pine & Jim Gilmore
We have long been supportive of the position of Chief Experience Officer (which we always abbreviate CXO to avoid any confusion!) as a way of pushing forward a company’s shift into experience staging.
We first wrote about it in the pages of Event ROI in 2006 with the article “Wanted: Chief eXperience Officers” where we wrote “The CXO position can be imagined by rolling up a Chief Revenue Officer and Chief Customer Officer into one position. This executive should have total responsibility for developing all revenue- and profit-generating experiences offered to paying customers.”
We followed that up in 2007 with the piece “Get Real: Hire a Chief Experience Officer” for MarketingDaily. We acknowledged that naming a CXO was “something many companies need to do, but few have yet to do,” and stressed again that the role of demand creation was key, “something that should differentiate them from all the responsibilities of Chief Marketing Officers”. We, in particular, made a plea for CXOs to ensure “that the experiences under their purview are worth an admission fee” (something we talk about more here).
We in fact incorporated this article into Chapter 8 of our 2007 book Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want where we stated (p. 175) that “The CXO should be responsible and accountable for developing, launching, and managing the rich portfolio of placemaking experiences you create in order to generate new sources of both revenue and profits in a world where authenticity is becoming the new consumer sensibility.”
And that’s pretty much where we let the concept sit!
We’ve noticed that over the past decade hundreds and hundreds of companies have named Chief Experience Officers. Many of these are “merely” UX (user experiences) designers in tech companies, while others are actually tourism guides, and a few are really Chief Executive Officers in experience businesses who simply prefer the CXO title.
That still leaves hundreds and hundreds of companies with true Chief Experience Officers as we’ve always envisioned it – most of whom still don’t know what the position should really be about!
So we’ve decided to do something about that. We looked back at our own work with hundreds of experience stagers and examined in particular how companies shifted from goods and services to experiences as the heart of the business. We interviewed a number of CXOs to see how they applied themselves. We thought long and hard about what the focus of the position should be and what roles it should take on.
And as we worked on it, it became clear that there are two key spectrums across which CXOs must work: the first defined internally by the creation of experiences within the company and externally by the needs of customers; and the second by the work of operations and the output of that work, the offerings themselves. As you can see in the figure, these demarcate the four roles CXOs must inhabit to successfully lead their companies into the Experience Economy: Catalyst, Designer, Orchestrator, and Champion.
We just published this new framework in “The Roles of the Chief Experience Officer” on the pages of the Winter Edition of the American Management Association’s journal, AMA Quarterly. (And a shout-out to Kevin Dulle of The thINKing Canvas for the wonderful drawings that do such a great job of bringing our ideas to life. Thank you, Kevin!)
So in this Thoughts post just let us summarize these four roles in brief as we do in the article:
Roles of a Chief Experience Officer
In chemistry, catalysts cause or accelerate reactions among two or more substances, releasing energy as a result.
In a similar manner, Chief Experience Officers must spark energy, excitement, and action among people throughout the company – people who rarely report directly through to the position – so that operations reorganize itself around experience staging on top of (or even rather than) the mere manufacturing of goods or delivering of services.
In fields as diverse as art and fabrication, designers take raw materials and shape them, artistically and skillfully, into a form that fulfills their intention. Likewise, Chief Experience Officers need to take the raw material of company capabilities and work with the organization to shape them into experience offerings.
In music, orchestrators compose or arrange notes, motifs, and themes and align them with instruments, parts, and players to form an audience-pleasing whole. So too must Chief Experience Officers align the various elements of operations to fit into a cohesive whole through a customer-pleasing theme.
In the social and political arenas, champions fight for a cause they believe in, or on behalf of people they believe in. In the arena of today’s Experience Economy, Chief Experience Officers must fight for the needs, wants, and desires of customers and make sure that the company’s offerings create value on behalf of each individual guest.
The fifth role of the CXO
And as we conclude the article, these four roles of the Chief Experience Officer, of course, come together into one unified whole. And from that recognition comes the fifth role of the CXO: that of Guide.
For to take a manufacturer or service provider – even an experience stager that, like Carnival, seeks new experience innovations to stand heads and shoulders above its competition – and become the stager of experiences requires a transformation of the enterprise.
In mountain climbing and other outdoor endeavors, guides equip, accompany, and propel a party to its destination. In the same way, CXOs have to propel their enterprises in transforming themselves into becoming premier experience stagers with the ongoing ability to regenerate new and wondrous economic offerings – which include the goods and services atop which experiences must be staged.
And when that happens, the position of Chief Experience Officer will have achieved its purpose of inculcating experience staging into the very fiber of the enterprise.
Do read the full article to learn more about these five roles of the CXO. Then, if you do have a CXO in your company, be sure to share this article to help this key person succeed. If your company does not yet have someone named to this position, you can use this article to help create the groundswell to do so.
If you are the Chief Experience Officer, then certainly compare what you do day-to-day with these five roles, and then embrace the principles we outline here to lead your enterprise to thrive in today’s Experience Economy!