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The CEO Should Be The Chief Experience Officer

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on November 15, 2011 in strategy management 86 Comments

Earlier this week, I was chatting with my friend, co-founder and CEO of HubSpot, Brian Halligan. We were doing one of our ad-hoc strategy sessions about the business, and working through some things.

After that conversation, as I was driving to a dinner meeting, an idea occurred to me. The phrase “Chief Executive Officer” doesn't convey much, if anything. There's a better way to describe the role.ceo wrench

I will posit that in a technology company, the CEO should be the Chief Experience Officer.

If the CEO can make the following set of experiences amazing, by definition, she will make an amazing company.

1. Product Experience: What is the experience like using the product and getting value from it? Does it solve the problem simply? Does it make users happy, productive and hopeful when they're using it, or does it make them frustrated, angry, agitated and depressed?

2. Purchasing Experience: What is it like to go through the sales process and buy the product? Was it easy to figure out whether the product was the right fit? Was the pricing straight-forward? Was the buying process smooth without unnecessary steps and complexity?

3. Brand Experience: What is it like to interact with the company's brand? Does talking about the company with others ignite passion? What kind of emotions does it evoke? When people see the logo online or offline, what's the visceral reaction?

4. Support Experience: What is it like to receive support from the company? Do people dread having to call in and get help? When they do make contact, do they feel like the company cares not just about appeasing and pleasing — but that the actual problem is addressed?

5. Exit Experience: What is it like to leave the company, return the product, or cancel the subscription and no longer be a customer? Sometimes you can tell more about a company by how it treats customers on their way out, than on their way in.

6. Employee Experience: What's it like being recruited by the company? Working for the company? Being let go from the company? If you have a terrible employee experience, you will not attract the kinds of people that will make the customer experience amazing. It just doesn't work.

Notice that most of the above experiences are all about the customer. How does the customer experience the company? I think that's the primary set of experiences the CEO should worry about. The reason is simple, by improving the overall customer experience, everyone wins. Including the investors/shareholders (and yes, the CEO also needs to manage the shareholder experience too).

So, Don't just improve the product, improve the experience. This is one of the points I made in my Business of Software (2010) presentation (I think it was one of my better ones, full video and transcript available).

What do you think? Am I over-thinking the importance of the overall experience? Any lessons learned or tips on how to measure and improve the end-to-end experience?