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What is a CXO and why impact start-ups need one to scale

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

We are in an Experience economy. User experience has become the key differentiator, and when combined with positive social and environmental impact, it’s got block buster potential.

Simply put by Forrester, Better Customer Experience = Higher Revenue Growth.

But while most medium and large organisations are committing more resources to it with leadership Experience roles – Chief Experience officer (CXO), Chief Customer Officer (CCO) or equivalents - the impact start-up space is not there yet.

Photo by Leon on Unsplash

A lack of User Experience leadership in the impact start-up space

There is often a strong technical background and product centric culture among entrepreneurs. They are so excited by their tech that they sometimes fail to empathize with users.

The other bias which is specific to people and planet friendly founders is to think most people are willing to compromise on user experience aspects to buy a product with a positive impact.

Despite overwhelming good intentions to consume sustainably, the single digit market shares of sustainable product categories prove that only innovators and some early adopters are willing to trade off experience for impact.

Intention - action gap in sustainable technology adoption


As a consequence, in most impact start-ups, the investment in user experience skills is not a priority or at best limited to specific projects such as website design. This doesn’t allow for a holistic experience strategy and implementation for the benefit of clients, employees and other key stakeholders.

CXO, a crucial transversal role for regenerative businesses

In any type of organisation, a Chief Experience Officer (CXO) is responsible for holistically designing and optimizing the end to end User Experience, which we define as the result of a sequence of interactions between an organisation and its users across different channels. The CXO is in charge of how an organisation makes their users FEEL by triggering positive or negative emotions.

Because the users can be prospects, clients, non-paying users, employees/talents, investors, influencers or partners, the CXO should be a transversal role. For instance, if separate roles lead the Employee and Customer Experiences, the organisation might not fully empower their staff to deliver the top-notch customer experiences it envisions.

“Customers are only a part of the complex experience equation.”

In impact driven organisations, things get a bit more complicated with the shift to Circular / Regenerative design practices. Re-introducing Nature in the equation sometimes leads to overlooking the human factor - i.e. desirability for clients, employees and other external stakeholders.

This is where a cross-organisation Experience leadership role can help fully design and deliver a regenerative business model.

design thinking circular regenerative design graph

The CXO job desc

A CXO’s key missions can vary but will usually revolve around the following.

Communicating user’s needs throughout the business

  • Deeply understanding the needs, pain points and motivations of the organisations’ external stakeholders, continuously communicating them to leaders and employees so they can put themselves in the shoes of the users.

  • Deeply understanding the needs, pain points and motivations of talents / employees and communicating them to the management so they can empathise with them and empower them to deliver the company’s target external user experience.

  • This is done through user research and documentation of findings through personas and user journeys.

Designing and delivering seamless experiences

  • Overseeing the design and delivery of experiences for employees and external users. This encompasses all touchpoints and processes incl. strategic storytelling, website, customer success programs, referrals, employee’s recruitment, onboarding and training, sales processes…

  • Making sure what needs to happen on the front stage is properly supported by backstage people, processes and systems.

Measuring user experience

Monitoring engagement along various users’ journeys with qualitative and quantitative KPIS.

  • Customer experience KPIs: acquisition costs, website engagement metrics, churn, customer referrals, NPS...

  • Employee experience KPIs: employee turnover, satisfaction survey, productivity...

Championing employees and users across the organization

  • Being the voice of customers and staff at all levels, across functions

  • Making sure to put their foot down to align internal stakeholders for the sake of users when needed.

Why you need a CXO more than a CMO

Many people just say Customer Experience is the new, better marketing.

Entrepreneurs need to embrace this shift of paradigm from promoting products/services to building experiences around users’ needs.

Chief Marketing Officers are often more focused on customer acquisition and less on influencing the product experience to delight and retain hard earned customers. But focusing too much on early stages of the buying comes at a price. First, you can burn a lot of cash in growth marketing to generate leads which are not properly followed up by sales and not onboarded well when they become clients. This results in high Customer Acquisition Costs, high churn rates and low customer lifetime value, directly hitting the bottom line.

“It’s not so much about the M or the X in the job title, it’s more about striking the balance between hunting vs farming mindsets.”

Alternatively, with a holistic view of the end to end buying journey, crafting the right experience at each stage to remove friction and optimize engagement can reap huge benefits.

Why hiring a CXO can seriously boost growth and performance

Have you heard about the sales lead black hole? It’s the 70% of leads generated by marketing which don't get picked up by sales.

70% of marketing effort and budget going to waste? That doesn't sound right in our circular business space.

From an organisation design point of view, this is what happens when different teams have diverging objectives which are not aligned on the customer journey. This is the result of a lack of customer AND employee experience culture.

That’s why investing in a leading Experience role will help to implement seamless end to end user journeys from awareness to advocacy, and align all the organisation on them. This will result in a higher leads conversion rate, efficient client onboarding programs, upsell opportunities and free leads referred by happy clients. Similarly, on the employee side, this focus will help recruit the best talents, onboard them efficiently and empower them to deliver the great customer experience you want.

Virtuous Customer journey cycle

Now, you have a virtuous cycle where your client acquisition cost goes down and your happy customers have a higher lifetime value (CLV).

That's why research shows investing in Customer Experience (CX) and Employee Experience (EX) is incredibly worth it.

  • Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on customers (Forbes).

  • Companies who invest in Employee Experience are 4 times as profitable than those that don't (Wellable, Harvard Business Review)

"At the end of the day, the CXO function is about designing waste out of the buying journey, on the frontstage and backstage, so your business can be profitable and scale its positive impact."

>> Get in touch if you want to discuss how we can help scale your impact.


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