• September 29, 2023
  • By Liz Miller, vice president and principal analyst, Constellation Research

When It Comes to CX, HR Is MIA, and It’s Not Their Fault

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The chief experience officer (CXO) is an amalgam of marketing, customer, digital, growth, and revenue leadership roles. A relatively new player in the Battle of the C-Suite All-Stars, it doesn’t have a universally accepted job description or ascension path, despite the lineup of applicants vying for the role. Case in point, the CXO is sometimes the title for the head of a company’s contact center. Chief marketing officers, for their part, have been known to recast their remit into a CXO title, sometimes expanding the line to read “chief marketing and experience officer” when the character count allows.

Most often the role of CXO follows suit with how the organization understands, accepts, and embraces the concept of customer experience. For today’s debate, let’s expand the aperture to include the bigger picture of the various channels, engagements, and strategies involved in delivering the totality of a customer’s experience—from sales, service, commerce, and marketing—all under a single, albeit amorphous, leadership title.

When surveyed by Constellation Research, this group has some distinct views on growth mandates, pitfalls, and requirements of their roles. Top of mind for all is a noticeable talent gap that spans all functions. According to 58 percent of CX leaders, addressing the talent drain is a top priority, with 35 percent admitting they are in a rush to upskill and train their existing workforce. This talent challenge is having a direct impact on the top mandate these C-suite leaders have, namely driving growth and profitability across existing customers and markets. But in this time of opportunity, this skills gap is making it even harder to envision driving growth into new markets.

Asked to identify their closest partners in effectively executing organization-wide customer experience strategies, the leaders of CX (and the most likely candidates to take on that new CXO title) believe they are in lockstep with the chief marketing, chief digital, chief customer, and chief sales officers, as well as the entire sales, marketing, and service teams, as partners and collaborators. The CIO and IT team are also noted as partners in CX delivery.

When asked which teams or leaders were most often roadblocks to successful strategy deployment, risk, procurement, and legal topped the list, but according to 56 percent of the respondents, being a roadblock is part of those jobs. There is a sense that those teams, as confrontational as they might be, are in place to be a system of checks and balances. And then there is the matter of human resources and the chief people officer.

According to 63 percent of CX leaders, the CPO is missing in action, simply not present in the development, execution, or success of CX strategy. Only 15 percent saw the CPO as a partner or collaborator. When asked why the CPO was MIA, the top two responses included the CPO having different priorities and HR having little incentive to collaborate on CX.

HR being MIA might simply be an inconvenience if it were not for the fact that talent, reskilling, training, and filling new roles to meet a changing CX landscape are critical for today’s CX leaders. According to CX leaders, only 4 percent believe their CPO is a collaborator; 21 percent have the CPO as a roadblock. The overwhelming majority admit that more than any other role in today’s enterprise, the CPO has just vanished from CX. If the CPO was more widely perceived as a roadblock, it would at least imply there is some form of strategic relationship, even if it’s one set up to check or balance.

The CPO and the HR team at large certainly have enough on their plate, as the mandates, technologies, and processes that now represent the work of human resource management have become complex and chaotic. That doesn’t mean these leaders simply don’t want to be included in CX strategy. The truth is, they aren’t often invited to be part of the team. They certainly are not often given the critical role that would warrant taking time away from their day-to-day responsibilities.

HR is being treated, by and large, in the same way marketing was treated 15 years ago: brought to the table to take orders, then questioned why they aren’t more effective.

This must stop. Talent management, from the crafting of our teams to the training and ongoing care and feeding of our talent, is critical to CX success. The CPO, HR leadership, and the HR team are strategic partners in building, maintaining, training, and growing the strength of the front lines of CX delivery—our sellers, our service agents, and our marketers. In this age of data-driven human resource management, HR could hold the keys to building better customer experience teams, as well as better ties and relationships with other functions critical to CX delivery.


1. What role should HR play in the companywide sport called CX? All friction isn’t bad; sometimes we need roadblocks and speed bumps to slow us down enough to act strategically. The big question that must be discussed and debated is whether HR should be empowering and strategic but also postured as a gentle roadblock. Should HR challenge and question in the name of more effective team makeup and skills distribution across the CX ecosystem?

2. HR and the CPO aren’t here to take your order. Stop treating these skilled personnel like they are just there to post a job description on Indeed. If you treat them as if they are just the human conduit to an online job board, you deserve to have them go missing! Call leaders in at the point of strategy development. Discuss the experiences that will drive growth and profitability, along with the skills, attributes, and requirements you believe the CX team needs to be successful. Openly discuss management styles in an unvarnished and unapologetic way; waxing poetic about an environment that doesn’t exist or can’t be sustained doesn’t help anyone. But most importantly, time is of the essence. There isn’t a time that’s too early to call HR to the strategy table.

3. Yes, that is data. Team telemetry, insights from exit interviews, insights from candidate pools—it is all data that could be providing insights into everything from experience effectiveness to potential brand innovations. Our people are the carriers of our brand’s story. They are the storytellers who are often never trained, supported, or rewarded for their part in connecting our customers with our story. Sit and identify data points or insights that could be derived from the voice of the employee in the same way we identify points from the voice of the customer that help shape and reshape our brand’s narratives and experiences.

Sure, these seem like simplistic questions and ideas. But nothing about talent these days is simple. CX leaders are reaching a crisis point when it comes to teams and talent—and no, AI will not replace or save us. It’s time to bring the CPO to the CX table and perhaps start with writing up that definitive job description of a CXO. 

Liz Miller is vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, covering the broad landscape of customer experience strategy and technologies.

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