Monday, September 25, 2006

Chief Whatever Officer

James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pines II, authors of The Experience Economy, suggest that companies create and staff a position for a Chief Experience Officer (CXO), arguing that businesses must integrate experience management in one (or more) of four ways:
  • Experiential marketing
  • Customer experience management
  • Online user experiences
  • Experience lines of business
In their recent article Wanted: Chief Experience Officers in Event ROI they mostly advocate for the latter construct: CXOs should go off and "...develop, manage and refresh a portfolio of paid-for experiences… created specifically to generate new sources of revenue and profits in an increasingly commoditized world."

I find this to be a truly curious prescription for success. Isn't setting the bar for experience at designing paid experiences the ultimate in high-end cop-outs? E.g., a business with no chance of becoming a "paid experience" might as well not even try. We shouldn't let business owners and managers off so easily -- anyone responsible for a P+L, a customer segment or customer-facing process should be able to articulate how they are improving the overall economics of their business by improving the experience. Creating a new title with a new mandate to create new businesses that may or may not link to the core mission of the enterprise itself is nothing but an exercise in distraction from the hard and sometime dull work of making your business better.

Think about it this way... suppose Home Depot decided to create paid experiences... how about trips to the Pacific Northwest to cut and mill your own lumber? It's a facetious example, but how far would you have to go with it to be able to calculate the difference in return between that exercise, and an alternative in which you optimized the Home Depot experience for the tens of millions of customers in the store every day -- actually, you'd just have to go to Lowes, who have found that women prefer a slightly more comfortable and well-organized store with bathrooms that don't look like they belong on a construction site.

Experience can be a real differentiator, but the notion that there is an infinitely scalable market in paid experiences in our real-world service economy is, well, a setup to a relatively painful experience for the CEO who approves it.