November 24, 2017

The rewards for delivering a stellar customer experience (CX) today are high. But the stakes are rising too. In hidden corners of your organization, enthusiastic teams may be working on CX initiatives that they believe will give your company a competitive edge. But to make that happen, they will likely need the unwavering support of the CEO.

Exactly how can CEOs play key roles in the success of a CX initiative? From our research and client work, I’ve identified five key roles: consensus builder, unifier, influential designer, customer advocate, and thought leader. Each role shapes the initiative and provides momentum. I’ll illustrate one of the roles – influential designer – through the examples of Pepsi and Airbnb.

Putting design thinking at the heart of the enterprise.

Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, has overhauled the company’s CX as an influential designer. In 2010, Pepsi’s revenue growth had flattened, in part, Nooyi believed, because its products failed to excite customers as they walked by them in stores. To Nooyi, design had been viewed as no more than a question of colors and logos on packaging, rather than about how customers experienced Pepsi’s products across multiple touch points. She came to the realization that design had to be at the forefront of the company’s thinking. And so she appointed the company’s first-ever design officer. “In the past, user experience wasn’t part of our lexicon,” Nooyi said in a Harvard Business Review  interview.

Today, design has a voice in almost every decision Pepsi makes, Nooyi said in the article. Putting design thinking at the heart of the enterprise has helped the company accelerate growth.

At Airbnb, CEO Brian Chesky used design thinking to map the experience of three key stakeholders: people who rent out their properties, guests of those properties, and employees. He hired a former Pixar illustrator and together they storyboarded the experiences of each type of stakeholder. The results gave Chesky and his team valuable insights and kick-started the company’s hyper growth to $1.7 billion in revenue last year, according to one media report.

Other CEOs have played different roles in their firms’ CX initiatives. In my Perspectives article How the CEO Can Propel a CX Initiative, you can learn about the roles played by Sir Richard Branson at Virgin Group, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Angela Ahrendts at Burberry, and Patrick Doyle at Domino’s Pizza Inc.

With more than 20 years of global consulting experience, Krishnan Ramanujam is an expert in the execution of complex, global transformational initiatives for Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies.Krishnan focusses on driving profitability for organizations by spearheading their evolution from IT-centric to customer-centric models that streamline and align business functions. With a keen understanding and deep knowledge of key industries, market changes and client needs, he has directed the development of new products and solutions that successfully facilitate this transition to realize maximum business value.