Blog : Leadership

Does Healthcare Need a Chief Experience Officer (CXO)?

Does Healthcare Need a Chief Experience Officer (CXO)?

Do Healthcare Companies need a Chief Exp. Officer?

What do I mean by Experience? Great customer-focused companies have built their business around the voice and perspectives of their customers. Healthcare companies, more specifically health insurance companies, are typically not primarily viewed as consumer-centric entities. The Affordable Care Act is a major impetus in changing healthcare from an almost industrialized, business-to-business modality to a retail one. This change is also driving healthcare companies to adopt the best practices of big box retailers and banks. One of those practices, albeit still somewhat new, is to have a C-level position dedicated to bringing emphasis on the customer to the forefront, as well as to govern the traditional business in how they “go retail.”

I advocate that all healthcare companies follow suit – provider, payers, and everyone in between – and create a Chief Experience Officer or Chief Customer Experience Officer.

Forrester has done some great research (April 2011 “Customer Experience Index, 2011: Health Insurance Plans”) on how customers feel about various industries. In 2009 health insurance ranked near the bottom at 51% – in 2011, it remained relatively unchanged – at 53%. What makes it worse is that other forms of insurance, like auto and life, rank much higher at 72%, so there should be no excuse for the healthcare companies to be satisfied with status quo. To also be perceived as lower than the cable companies is shocking, as it is nearly impossible in my experience to find someone who thinks they create great customer experiences.

Source Forrester Research
Source Forrester Research

Too many companies equate customer experience with customer service (or support). Service is a part of what makes a great overall customer experience. Experience is a lot more than just service and is certainly more than just a measure of your “first call resolution.” If you are more worried about solving the problems you create, as opposed to ceasing to cause problems altogether, you have missed the boat. Furthermore, if you consider “first call resolution” to technically be a good experience when the customer stays on the same phone call but talks with 3 or 4 “support specialists” and managers then you have again missed the boat.

WIKI defines “customer experience” as: “the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. From awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.”

This works for me. What is to be understood from this is that many single experiences accumulated together provide an overall customer experience, which in turn drives the attitudes and behaviors of a customer towards a company. Let’s take a look at what this might look like for an average healthcare consumer.

A Consumer’s Healthcare Vignette

Sam is employed and has his benefits through his employer. His company has sponsored an annual worksite wellness event where Sam gets his blood glucose and cholesterol checked. Sam also plans to get a full diagnostic screening using ultrasound technology sometime this year from his in-network primary care provider.   He also scheduled an annual physical that includes a full blood lipid panel workup. Additionally, Sam has access to a kiosk located in his worksite clinic to check and report on his glucose levels. He also has a WebMD account through his employer but chooses not to use it because he perceives it as too complex. Sam’s wife gets a mailer from their insurance company inviting them to come in at the newly opened insurance retail center. If they do so – they get a free screening.

None of these experiences communicate to each other electronically, and none of them automatically or conveniently store Sam’s data in his Microsoft Health Vault account.

Because his previous annual physical showed a high glucose score, Sam was identified as pre-diabetic. He has received messages and calls about pre-diabetes care options from a “consultant” at his insurance provider. He wonders if this nurse works for his doctor and if not, does his doctor know she is calling and what she is saying. He wonders if his doctor would agree?

This only gets more confusing the more we go on. Consumer oriented or consumer focused companies understand and plan for an intentional customer experience. To drive a consistent customer experience (a branded experience) across all of your channels, you need someone in control who has both the purview and the spine to get things done. This example is where a Chief Experience/Customer Experience Officer comes in.

What is a Chief Experience Officer?

Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate ActionThis C-level position is most commonly referred to as the Chief Customer Officer (CXO), though other titles are used: Chief Client Officer (at OptumHealth), Chief Experience Officer (at Cigna), or Executive Vice President, Member Experience (at USAA). What is important to note is that these individuals are empowered to design, orchestrate, and improve customer experiences across every customer interaction.

In The Rise Of The Chief Customer Officer, a report by Forrester Research, they looked closely at this growing corporate trend. In summary, the report found that the role is far beyond just fixing the problems of unhappy customers. It is ultimately responsible for determining how to accelerate the practice of customer-centricity throughout an organization by teaching the techniques and building the capabilities that are needed to serve a consumer. This report, like many reports that deal with change management, also echoes the need for change to stem from the executive management team, which brings the impetus for change to the company and the customer’s voice into the boardroom.

In Chief Customer Officer – Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action, the role of the CXO is defined as:

  • Influence agreement on what and how to deliver the greatest value to customers
  • Establish metrics for defining relationships and value creation with customers
  • Drive accountability through the organization for those data and metrics
  • Clarify a common approach and process for driving the work across the organization

The Key Takeaways

So what should you get if your take the leap and create your own CXO role?

Better Design

You cannot have a good experience without good design. The CXO must be a believer in the principles of User Centered Design and invest in bringing those techniques into their company. In this role, creativity – not productivity is the key to business success. In my opinion, the incumbent should serve as the chief design officer as well. It does not mean that the CXO has to be a great designer, but they must appreciate the need for great design, recognize when they do not have it, and push to ensure they get it across all touch-points. This consistency can also be served by having a strong partnership with the brand team and brand officer.

Better Consistency

Consistently clear messages and appealing design only come when a company has a common design language and consistent design principles. If your company does not integrate the communications and consumer experience efforts, you will send mixed and probably confusing signals to your customers – without even trying. Brand is brand, and should stay that way. But ensuring the promise of the brand is delivered in a consistent and clear way, across channels, synchronized for maximum effectiveness, requires a CXO, in partnership with business operations and the brand team, to bring it to action.

Better Transparency

Consumers’ standards for clarity have changed. Regardless of what industry you are in, the best-in-class retailers are setting your customers’ expectations for a clear understanding of your products, their price, and what you are going to do when something goes wrong. But it is complex to deliver a good customer experience. Forrester analyst Liz Boehm says it best when she states the goal “it is not simply to provide what the consumer wants but provide it in a way that gives them information about something they might not want to understand.” Your customers expect you to have access to the same information about them as Amazon does, and the same winning attitude as Zappos does. Chances are that you are probably not there on either count right now. The role of the CXO is to bridge the communication gap and close the consumer’s disconnect between expectations and reality.

Can it work at a legacy Healthcare company?

How do we make it (customer experience focus) work?  This question is a far better question for healthcare companies to ask then- can it work? For any healthcare company that is preparing to conduct business in an environment impacted by reform, the voice of the customer is, and should be, a priority. I advocate here to create the role and office of a CXO to drive, help lead, and manage your company’s journey towards ensuring that the customer’s perspective is always brought to the forefront, storefront, and boardroom for consideration in all business decisions.

It bears repeating that the CXO role is not a senior support role. A company should not, as Forrester’s research indicates, rush to appoint a CXO in the attempt to solve poor customer satisfaction ratings. As Hagan suggests in his HBR article, creating a CXO requires three preconditions for success:

  • a mandate to differentiate based on customer experience, preferably from the CEO,
  • a portfolio of successful projects that create buy-in across the organization, and
  • a uniform understanding on the leadership team for what the position can accomplish.

While all retail companies must place emphasis on their customers’ perspective, a brand new C-level position may not always be necessary. As Manning states, the work of the CXO function is vital to achieving customer-centricity, but may be able to be fulfilled by an existing executive dedicated to overseeing and linking different functional groups, with the ultimate objective of maximizing customer and corporate value. Whether you appoint a CXO or not, it is clear that healthcare companies will benefit from a single executive, sitting on the executive management team, focused exclusively on the customer experience.

Some quick tips to get started

I plan to write more on these later but should you decide to create a CXO role here is a basic

6-step plan to get you started.

  1. Announce the Role and its Premise
  2. Design the Framework in which the role it will Exist and Operate
  3. Define the Resources internal and external to the Department
  4. Explain the Process, Tools, and Techniques that will support the framework
  5. Outline the Governance model for the strategy and work
  6. Publish the Metrics for Measurement


Here are some other good sources on Customer Experience.


To your health,

The Team at imagine.G


Play to Your Personal Strengths

Play to Your Personal Strengths

Strive to know thyself!

I am a believer in the Gallup StrengthsFinder concept of self-recognition. The notion behind this bestselling book disassembles the myth that we need to be well-rounded in all aspects to be great leaders, successful business people, and happy humans. In summary, it states that we are all born with certain inherent talents, and instead of trying to improve in areas that are not natural to us, we should focus intently and intentionally on making our core talents become absolute strengths.

Of course, StrengthsFinder also states that you need to mitigate those behaviors that otherwise do not contribute to or are debilitating to your success – the equivalent of behaviorally not yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. But do not confuse something you do not do well (and some one else does) with a deficit or flaw.

Strengths Finder 2.0These are my talents, which I work every day to turn into strengths: Achiever, Strategic, Positivity, Connectedness, and Competition.

I can say unequivocally that these are me to a tee!

Here are my paraphrased definitions borrowed from Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0:

  • Achiever – I have a great deal of stamina. I love to work hard and I take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.
  • Strategic – I create alternative ways to move something forward. When I am faced with any given situation, I can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues, and see a path from A to Z.
  • Positivity – My enthusiasm is contagious, and I can get others excited and rally around a common mission. Moreover, I thrive on it.
  • Connectedness – I have an abounding faith in the links between all things. I believe there are few coincidences and that through this connection every event happens for a reason.
  • Competition – I measure progress against the performance of some mark. I revel in contests and I love to win. I will push others to be part of that pursuit of victory.


Why is this important?

It is important because no person is an island. And in business you have to assemble a team of individuals that can focus on, and be committed to, a common purpose or deliverable. As a leader, if you know yourself and your strengths, you will look to find others that can bolster that strength – and contribute other strengths for the benefit of the larger purpose. This is part of the most important puzzle facing business leaders – “how do I build the most effective team?”

To explain, I’d like to use a simple analogy.

Well-rounded people are like marbles – smooth, no sharp points, and easily moved. However, they only way they can “fit” with others in close quarters is to have a rigid structure holding them in. Think of the jar that holds a child’s marbles in place – without the jar there is chaos. As a leader of well-rounded people, you have to be the jar. That is a lot of effort and meaningless to boot. If all of your time is spent keeping the marbles stacked, how are you moving forward?

High-performers are like triangles – a secure base and an obvious point of strength. The triangle is one of the strongest shapes in nature and used often in building construction. It keeps its shape, rests on a strong footing, and can act as a strong support to other triangles stacked together. Now think of stacking triangles. Think about what you can build with lots of well-placed (high performers) triangles. The pyramids have stood the test of time. Will your team?

Don't Be Well Rounded

Understand what functions each role on your team or in your company performs. Create your teams so that the role aligns and draws on the strengths (and mitigates the weaknesses) of your team members. This means you have to hire well. Fit is part experience and part strength alignment with the rest of the team. Start with the end result in mind and build to that vision. Most importantly, do not hire when there is not a real fit or when the individual’s strengths do not contribute to the overall team – no matter the deadlines. Teams are living entities. They are the sum of the individuals within it, magnified by the relationships they have with each other.

When those relationships are based on strengths, the results will be good and they will be long lasting.

To your health,

The Team at imagine.GO

Creativity versus Best Practices

Creativity versus Best Practices

Harness Creativity Through Best Practice

I just perused a presentation that one of my team members gave me from another business pundit that thinks that best practices are a bad idea. It reminds of a book I read called Be an Orange in B-school 15 years ago, and other books I have seen since.

They all expound on the need for us each to be “different” in all ways in how we approach our work. Imagine a company where everyone does everything different – chaos and unhappiness!

This premise that to be different requires avoiding anything in the realm of wisdom or best practices is bad advice. These books seem to be written by folks who while creative have limited understanding on how to lead others.

Keep in mind, at the fundamental level, it is people that get any great idea built and people who must operate a successful company.

creativity through lens of best practice

There are certain types who are better-suited work on the “new-new” and some who prefer absolute consistency. Both are required to run a company. When you find the former, keep and nurture them. But even the ability to thrive in the ambiguity of disruption (new markets and new systems) requires a basis of predictability and consistency in the approach to getting the work done.

In my opinion, these books are outright false, or at least in-genuine. Innovators should always strive for creativity, but leaders must constantly seek a means to simplify what we do through the pragmatism of process and best practice. This makes life easier for those who help us get our ideas to market.

Final Words

Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things DoneBy the way, I went to Amazon to see if I could find that Orange book, and as I expected it was not there. Looks like the author has finally come around and has written a new book called The Simple Truth About Your Business: Why Focused and Steady Beats Business at the Speed of Light. I wondered what happened to all those oranges he made? If you want really good advice I suggest skipping the snake oil salesman and reading Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. These are innovators and leaders that are worth the listen.

To your health,

The Team at imagine.GO