April 21, 2016

5 Ways to Love or Hate the Chief Experience Officer

From the chaos and rubble of changing consumer demands, a new force is rising in boardrooms across every major industry: The Chief Experience Officer, also known as the CXO.

As Forbes described in the October 2015 edition of their CMO Network:

“The idea of a Chief Experience Officer is new in modern business, but is in fact as old of a function as is sales. A Chief Experience Officer is in charge of making sure that the user experience from engagement to end of business is consistent and manageable throughout. In short, a CXO finds discrepancies in the user experience and makes moves to change them to make an experience seamless.“

As more health systems are starting to recognize the true power of a unique and rewarding patient experience, more health systems are flirting with the idea of adding a CXO to their executive ranks. A few have already done so.

If you are a Chief Marketing Officer, how could bringing a CXO to your health system impact your job and your brand?

THE CXO CAN EMPOWER YOUR MESSAGING WITH PROMISES YOU CAN KEEP.

Any marketer knows they can get burned if they pepper the marketplace with offers that your operations can’t fulfill. Most of us have at least one horror story about spending heaps of cash on a campaign that ultimately resulted in nothing more than ticking off our customers. More often, we know our system’s weaknesses and it impacts what we can sell.

“I’d love to bring more volume to our ER but they can’t handle the volume we have now.” —Every Other Health System Chief Marketing Officer I Ever Met

In healthcare the stakes are even higher because complaining about your experience at a hospital has become high art in American cultural dialogue. If you’re out to dinner and one friend mentions a terrible experience at the local ER, stand by to hear four more stories from the rest of the group, each one trying to best the last in the magnitude of horror. If they are Baby Boomers, I suggest you start reading the back of the A-1 Steak Sauce bottle, because you won’t be talking about anything else for a really long time.

If your CXO is effectively improving the patient experience at finite pinch points, you might one day feel more confident in touting the expertise at your ER. And when those Baby Boomers get together again they may have a different story to tell.

THE CXO CAN PROVIDE NEW ROI MEASUREMENTS FOR YOUR CAMPAIGN.

In order to do their job, the CXO will have to be diving deeper into the mindset of patients and how they feel about their experience. Surveying at the point of care, aftercare and at various other points of patient contact are crucial to fact-finding for a CXO. These surveys offer stellar opportunities to gather insights about how your patients are finding you and the perceptions they have of your brand at those first moments they are considering trusting your health system.

THE CXO CAN BE ANOTHER VOICE FOR THE POWER OF BRAND IN YOUR BOARDROOM.

If your new CXO is a capable operator, he or she will understand that patient trust is the currency of your brand. Your health system’s brand is how you will express the promises that the CXO is charged to keep. It’s in your CXO’s interests to have a genuine, strong and dynamic brand platform. To paraphrase Star Wars, the CXO may be a powerful new disturbance in the force, but if they can be turned… the CXO can be a powerful ally.

THE DARK SIDE

Much of the impact your CXO will have on your work life will of course depend on how their role is structured and of course, the individual character and capabilities of the person who is your CXO. If your Chief Experience Officer is NOT empowered by your CEO or they are NOT energized by real power to make changes, the CXO could bring the following dark clouds to your C-Suite table.

THE CXO COULD RELEGATE YOUR DEPARTMENT INTO AN AD SHOP.

We’ve long been advocates that marketing should play a central role in the patient experience and ultimately serve as the chief advocate for patient perceptions in your boardroom. When this happens, we’ve seen it reap great benefits for organizations both inside and outside of the healthcare industry.

If your CXO doesn’t see marketing’s role in this game, your department will be relegated into a cost-leader that spits out advertising. This is bad for you personally but it could also be a contributor to an even larger problem.

THE CXO CAN ENABLE IMPOTENT LEADERSHIP.

Sophisticated “new approaches” are sometimes actually overcomplicated replacements for the lost arts of the basic fundamentals of human leadership. A good argument can be made that the CXO should actually be your Chief Executive Officer.

The patient experience is so important to the financial, cultural and brand health of an organization that outsourcing that responsibility may actually do more damage to the cause. In the ultimate service industry of health care, shouldn’t the CEOs primary job be to ensure our patients are having an optimal experience?

What takes precedent over the patient experience? Should the CEO of Apple really personally oversee if his product actually works?

These are vexing questions.

While we are thrilled that health systems have elevated the importance of the patient experience to a C-Suite level, the devil as always will be in the details of how the CXO functions. Those details require a healthy amount of playing devil’s advocate with your CEO to ensure they are properly engaged in the patient experience. The CXO should be your CEOs tool to elevate the patient experience and not an excuse to give it less attention.

16TH CENTURY ADVICE FOR A 21ST CENTURY PROBLEM

Whomever the type of person and whatever the shape of your CXO’s role, as a Chief Marketing Officer you should remember the sage advice of Niccolo Machiavelli, who authored a handbook for politicians on the use of ruthless, self-serving tactics that today we call office politics.

And that is, whether your CXO is a savior or The Devil, get close to your CXO right away, or as Machiavelli put it, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Ultimately if there is a CXO in your organization, you’ll want them to be successful. Imagine a world where you can make new promises to patients while keeping the old ones. You should do all you can to help your CXO take that imagination and make it a reality.

Are you making the right promise?

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