Rethinking The CEO Title

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The title “Chief Executive Officer” doesn’t really say very much about what the person is supposed to do. Yes, they’re an officer. Got that. They’re an “executive” — got that too, whatever that means. And of all the executive officers, they’re the “chief”. Sure. But, I’d still argue that overall, the title doesn’t really work anymore. It doesn’t convey anything. CFOs are about finance. CMOs are about marketing. CIOs are about information. But, a CEO? They’re about being an executive?

Instead, here’s what I propose:

CEO should mean “Chief Experience Officer”

If the CEO can make the following set of experiences amazing, she will have created an amazing company — and done her job.

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 people happyproductive and hopeful when they’re using it, or does it make them confused, frustrated, angry, agitated or 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? How does experiencing it feel? 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? Does the company take the time to educate or does it focus on ending the support conversation as quickly and cheaply as possible?

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? What’s it like having worked for the company? Do people proudly put it on their resumes and online profiles? 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).

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 experience?

Hi, I’m Dharmesh Shah, the founder/CTO at HubSpot and infrequent blogger at OnStartups.com. I will confess I get a cheap thrill when someone likes/favorites/shares my posts. Turns out, I’m human. (But, I’m furiously working on building a bot. Seriously.)

Andrew Edwards