The C-Suite’s Cheat Sheet to Optimizing Customer Experience

November 30, 2016 by Chris Snook in User Experience


This week a client emailed the request below asking for some information on how we think about CX governance and organizational design. 


 I created the content below in response to that and decided it would serve well to repurpose it into a blog for everyone to see. I hope you enjoy.

The C-Suite’s Cheat Sheet:

The steps in any successful journey begin with getting clear on where you are starting from, knowing where you want to go, getting clear on what you need to do to prepare for the trip, identifying your options for getting there and acquiring a reliable map/framework to plan and execute.

As you attempt to lead your company through a digital transformation that centers around delivering a world-class customer experience, you have to start with a clear understanding of the five core competencies needed and how you can know if you are doing them well.

Five core competencies you must achieve:

  1. Manage the customer as an asset and connect ROI to experience.
  2. Align the organization around CX and shift from silo priorities to customer journey map priorities.
  3. Develop and manage focused customer listening systems (muscle).
  4. Reliability driven through proactive operational accountability to the customer touch points as a mechanism for predicting future business health.
  5. One-company accountability, leadership and culture with a united clarity of purpose (“why” and “how” you will grow) and deep employee engagement (i.e. leadership permission regardless of title or position).

Success begins with establishing these five core competencies to build a growth engine that delivers a highly defensible, differentiated and digitally enabled customer experience. This begins by assigning a person or working group to your customer experience that will be tasked with working across the silos to drive one-company accountability around customer experience.


Source: Adapted and excerpted from Jeanne Bliss’ Chief Customer Officer 2.0 “Five Core Competencies” model

The five capabilities of modern marketing organizations:

As part of your overall annual planning and assessments, you should audit (using a SWOT) the following five capabilities within your marketing domain. These five capabilities will be critical to your success as a modern marketing organization. (2)

1) Agile Product Management

What to evaluate:
– How talented is the team responsible for developing your portfolio of offerings?
– How nimble and collaborative are your teams that reconcile the risk premiums of each offering against the existing or expansive market opportunity and customer base?

2) Marketing Operations

What to evaluate:
– How current is your infrastructure and analytics department?
– Who serves as the liaison between the IT department related to the management of technology and platforms?
– Who defines the metrics that matter and systematizes their collection and makes sense of the reporting?

3) Brand Strategy

What to evaluate:
– What is the long-term view of your brand?
– Do you have documented voice and tone guidelines and brand guidelines?
– Who is responsible for bringing the personas to life by positioning the voice and tone, visual identity, and brand values to the customers you care to attract and keep?

4) Growth Management

What to evaluate:
– How robust is the engine room of your business? (i.e. generating leads, nurturing the database and the automated workflows that convert leads to customers)
– How do you benchmark with your marketing/sales/customer service teams?
– Do you have unified metrics that apply to all those in acquisition, conversion and retention?

5) Storytelling

What to evaluate:
– What is the quality and aggregate impact of your communications, creative and content operations teams?
– Is there an established role or agency partner that focuses on creating and distributing stories and content that properly engages customers with the right content and the right time in their customer journey?

As you move from SWOTS to action, you will want to work within a framework that allows you to prioritize and calibrate opportunities to an actionable plan. That plan will include milestone dates and transparent accountability.

If you work within one of your own existing frameworks for this exercise, then add the top layer of the four guiding principles of the Experience Marketing Framework to gut-check your decision process.

Four guiding principles (from the Experience Marketing Framework in my new book, Digital Sense

  1. Direct customer knowledge drives all tactics.
  2. Focus on measurable results.*
  3. Strategy brings vision to life.
  4. Have a system for ongoing innovation.

*Channel Ethology’s core value #4: “Measure what is valued more than valuing what is measured.”

Congratulations! You are now ready to choose your approach to institutionalizing this initiative. There are three models that have been proven successful by teams from companies like Nationwide and Fidelity Investments as researched and surveyed by our friends at Forrester. They are summarized below with expanded characteristics to help guide you in the right direction based upon your stage of transformation.

Three organizational models for CX

  1. Advisory
    • – An informal individual or small group that has little direct control over the activities in each silo across the company, but derives their authority from both personal reputation and an executive mandate to influence change.
      – They typically organize small, centralized teams that provide advice to other departments and lines of business.
      – This model is well-suited for companies that are just beginning their digital transformation toward a customer-centric culture.
  2. Matrixed
    • – A named executive position (CCO or CX Working Group Chair) is given the authority through dotted-line relationships over specific activities, (i.e. enterprise-wide customer metrics, projects or outbound communications.)
      – They leverage people and budgets from across the organization, rather than having large teams or funding directly under their control.
      – This model works well for firms that have the cultural readiness to hold departments and business lines accountable for customer experience standards, and cross-function collaboration to deliver company-wide accountability.
  3. Operational
    • – A formal organization restructuring to create a C-suite position (typically CCO) that exerts direct control over all of the pieces of the organization to align them more closely with customer needs than with product lines.
      – This approach makes sense for firms transitioning from product-to service-based companies, or for service-based companies that are very advanced in their transformation.


*Chart Adapted from Forrester Research

As an executive team, you will distill this effort down and keep your eyes focused on keeping two commitments. The first will be how reliably your organization delivers its current-state customer experience, and the second will be how efficiently you are at innovating and operationalizing the required future-state customer experience to meet your customer’s needs.

Two commitments to make, manage and keep as a customer-centric organization

1. Reliability
– Optimize the current customer experience across each touch point.
2. Innovation
– Stay ahead of your customer’s future-state needs.
– Invest and operationalize those solutions efficiently without destroying #1.

What to do next:

Before you start building your systems for governance, you must address whether your organizational design will support the planning, data/knowledge transfer and execution that will deliver a one-company alignment (no silos) around customer experience.

Step 1:

Choose one of the six common power core (1) identifiers below as your organizational DNA to figure out which path to governance and implementation makes the most sense. You may also include a second power core if you feel you are a hybrid. Be sure you think of your current state (and legacy) power core and the desired future state distinctly. Have the internal discussion about how you will leverage the strengths of your current-state power core to get you to the future state, as well as what investments and shifts are needed, and list the milestones that you will achieve to bridge those gaps.

The six power cores:

1. Product/Service Power Core (example “Uber”)
– The product is the company in the eyes of your customer.
– Product development groups get the most resources and have the most power.

2. Sales Power Core (example “BAML”)
– You are a growth/customer acquisition-focused company.
– The quest for new business pulls the weight of the company.

3. Engineering/Information Technology Power Core (example “Salesforce”)
– SaaS and IT-base businesses.
– IT wields an inordinate amount of power in determining priorities and budgets.

4. Vertical Power Core (Example “Progressive”)
– This is based upon a particular competency where deliverables to customers are akin to a vertical line of businesses highly focused on one particular area.
– In the insurance vertical, for example, historic proficiencies around the disciplines of actuarial calculations, policy development, claims execution, etc. have shifted under the consumer needs and demands as the race to wrap customer experience around the delivery of that policy takes front row center.

5. Marketing Power Core (Example “Nike”)
– Brand at the advertising and messaging level is emphasized over experience, delivery and customer service.
– Marketing teams within the organization have the pull on power and budgets to keep the brand promise front and center.

6. Customer Power Core (Example “Zappos”)
– Company decisions start with a clear understanding of what will deliver value to the customers in the short and long term.
– Leaders are united in their efforts to deliver a reliable and differentiated customer experience to drive the greatest amount of profitable customers and happy employees.
– The silos assemble for experience creation and delivery, not just silo-based projects or metrics.

Step 2:

I have provided a handful of questions below to start your internal conversations. Ask your core team to dialogue with you on these questions to help identify gaps and opportunities in your organizational design and CX governance.

Question 1: How does our current organizational chart support the transformation to a customer-centric and digitally transformed company?

Question 2: Which model for governance (Advisory, Matrixed, Operational) are we attempting to institute, and is that a fit for the stage of transformation and executive buy-in that we have in the current state?

Question 3: Have we established a multi-year milestone plan for how we will evolve the organizational chart (and the governance model) to continue to increase our ability to serve the customer?

Question 4: Who are the right people from each silo with the right internal reputations to lead the charge?

Question 5: Has the CEO bought into mandating that we become a digitally transformed, customer-centric company with milestone dates to track accountability?

Note to the reader: If you have any questions or an interest in diving deeper into any of the areas below, I would love to do a deeper dive and analysis with you on how you can customize a plan to implement this summary. With all of our digital AOR clients, we infuse this knowledge and POV into how we strategically advise and integrate our blend of services to augment your internal teams as we move through tactics and projects. I look forward to speaking with you to clarify any or all of this further. 



  1. Bliss, Jeanne Chief Customer Officer 2.0 Jossey-Bass; 2 edition (May 28, 2015)
  2. Walsh, Mike 21st Century CMO Playbook (last visited 11/16/2016)
  3. Snook, Chris; Quiroz, Tony Building the Experience Marketing Framework (January 20, 2016)
  4. Hagen Paul; Forrester Research, Three Organizational Models For Chief Customer Officers, (January 2012)
  5. Snook, Chris; Wright Travis; Digital Sense: A Common Sense Approach to Blending Social Business Strategy, Marketing Technology and Customer Experience; John Wiley and Sons, NYC January 9 2017

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About the Author

Chris is the VP of Corporate Development. His role at Ethology is to evangelize and galvanize the organization around our growth strategy, to innovate client experience, offer to win market share, and build optimal enterprise value through sustainable, explosive growth.


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