The rise of the chief experience officer

As companies bear down on customer experience as a key differentiator, they are carving out a new CxO role. Are CIOs a natural fit for the new post? The answer is, it depends.

The rise of the chief experience officer
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John Morhous came up through the ranks on the traditional technology track. After graduating Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with B.S. in information technology, he served in a number of tech-related roles, including director of IT engineering and eventually CIO. In his latest gig, Morhous puts a whole new spin on the trajectory for top IT execs: He’s now the first chief experience officer (CxO) at Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) where he has soup-to-nuts responsibility for delivering customer-facing products and services for the travel agency group’s corporate brands.

Outside of his technology chops, Morhous credits his commercial orientation, ability to comfortably immerse with customers, and serve as a translator of sorts between IT, business, and clients as the springboard for landing the new position.

“Our customers don’t need technology solutions, they need products and services,” says Morhous, who stepped into the newly-created role a year and a half ago after spending more than a decade in IT at FCTG. “Today, it’s less about the guts of how technology operates and more about what business capabilities your customers and company need. Some CIOs can make the transition well to focus on experience while others will struggle.”

CxO is the latest in a slew of new C-suite titles that include chief data officer, chief digital officer, chief transformation officer, among many others. CxO has been elevated to the leadership table because of the growing emphasis on customer experience as a competitive differentiator. A Walker study found that by the end of 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, while Gartner calls customer experience the new battlefield with 80 percent of companies expecting to compete mostly or completely on the basis of customer experience by 2020. In a PwC report on the subject, 73 percent of people pointed to customer experience as a key factor in their purchasing decisions, and one in three consumers (32%) said they’d walk away from a much loved brand after just one bad experience.

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