Organizations do not become customer-centric overnight. Customer experience (CX) transformation requires organizations to maintain a systematic focus on making changes over multiple years and across a number of different projects and teams. In order to architect, align, and sustain successful CX efforts, organizations need to build the skills and actions associated with the Lead Competency, one of the six core competencies necessary for mastering the discipline of Experience Management. 

One of the essential skills associated with the Lead Competency is Governance. To coordinate the various efforts that catalyze customer-centric change, organizations must create CX teams and governance structures that provide the appropriate decision-making, alignment, accountability, and conflict resolution. When structured and leveraged effectively, a CX governance model will ignite initial momentum and overcome the inevitable inertia that sets in during large-scale change efforts. A strong CX governance model is made up of five elements: CX Core Team, Executive Sponsor, Steering Committee, Working Group, and CX Ambassadors.


CX Core Team

The CX core team is the primary group of employees who are dedicated full-time to the day-to-day execution of the CX strategy. Members of this team are the internal subject-matter experts on customer experience, voice of the customer programs, and other capabilities needed to catalyze organizational change around CX.

  • Why it’s needed: Working with the executive sponsor and steering committee, this is the cohesive team that sets direction and sustains CX efforts across the organization.
  • What it does: This team can fill many roles based on which skills members of the team possess. It oversees all CX processes, including the Voice of Customer (VoC) program, CX improvements, and customer-centric change. This team also works with the executive sponsor to define the CX strategy and roadmap, and it spearheads efforts with any CX working groups and CX Ambassador programs.

Here are three tips to maximize the impact of the CX core team:

  • Have the right talent on the team. An effective core team needs to possess more than just subject matter expertise on customer experience, voice of customer insights, and change management. It also requires the right soft skills to complement their technical knowledge and gain institutional wisdom to understand how work really gets done across the business and to identify key influencers who may fall outside the visible chain of command.  
  • Be able to access and contribute to internal processes and programs outside the core team’s direct control. CX doesn’t happen in a vacuum. To catalyze change across the entire organization, members of the core team must be able to engage with and provide input or expertise into areas such as product development, process improvement, HR and employee feedback, and annual/strategic planning processes. These same functions should strive for reciprocal engagement with the core team.
  • Invest in building strong working relationships across the organization. The success of a core team ultimately depends on their ability to get others across the organization to embrace CX and change the way they make decisions and operate within their part of the business. Strong relationships open the lines of communication, build a deeper understanding of the business, and establish trust between others and the CX core team members – all of which are crucial for propelling the CX transformation. 

Executive Sponsor

Most CX core teams report to a primary executive. This executive sponsor represents the team at the highest level of the organization, raising awareness and support of CX through those efforts. Sometimes this role is filled by an individual who’s entirely dedicated to CX, while in other instances, the executive sponsor may be taking on this role in addition to his or her primary responsibilities. 

  • Why it’s needed: The executive sponsor builds buy-in for the CX strategy among his or her peers at the executive level and oversees the development of the CX core team’s charter, which defines the mandate and scope of its work. This sponsor then ensures the team has the organizational support necessary to deliver on their charter.
  • What it does: This individual is the primary advisor and reporting executive of the CX core team, representing the team in senior executive meetings. He or she advocates for customer-centricity at the highest levels of the organization and works with the Steering Committee to clear obstacles and secure the resources needed to execute on the CX roadmap.

Here are three tips for operating as an effective executive sponsor:

  • Have the right positioning and influence with senior leaders. The executive sponsor should be an integral member of the management team, with frequent, regular interactions with other senior executives. This seat at the table allows the sponsor to share critical CX information and analysis with management, ensuring these leaders factor customer experience into their strategic and operational decisions. Being well-positioned also sets the executive sponsor up to build buy-in, change opinions, and clear obstacles with other senior executives.
  • Ensure the CX strategy is aligned with the organization’s strategic priorities. While the CX program should have a distinctive identity within the organization, its strategy must clearly and strongly support the overall business and brand strategy. The executive sponsor should work with the CX core team to develop a compelling customer experience strategy and then collaborate with them to set appropriate metrics, enact necessary changes, and drive enterprise-wide accountability for CX performance – accountability that is ultimately upheld by senior executives.
  • Define a clear CX program charter that is well-understood and appropriately resourced by senior leaders. The executive sponsor should lead the creation of a CX program charter, which should be as much about emphasizing that the entire organization is responsible for driving CX changes as it is about defining boundaries around the CX core team’s scope of work. Developing a strong charter is essential for long-term CX success as it makes it easier for the executive sponsor to hire the right talent, secure the appropriate budget, and access the resources needed to deliver on the CX strategic roadmap.

Steering Committee

Steering committee members are typically senior, decision-making executives who represent a cross-section of the organization’s critical functions, including business units, service/support, product management, finance, HR, IT, sales, and marketing. This group provides the highest level of oversight in shaping and approving the CX strategy and roadmap.

  • Why it’s needed: This committee, working with the executive sponsor, can be a key mechanism for overcoming obstacles and driving organizational accountability. Through their actions and decisions – even more so than through the messages they are often recruited to communicate – this group of influential leads sets the tone for the CX program, both inside their own departments and across the entire organization.
  • What it does: The steering committee drives the organization’s CX vision forward by advising and guiding the CX core team on essential issues, such as aligning CX to organizational strategy, defining critical objectives, setting CX goals, and allocating resources. This group meets on an ongoing basis to review metrics and customer insights, assess progress against the CX roadmap, and track the value CX is delivering for the organization overall. 

Here are three tips for building an effective steering committee:

  • Engage with the steering committee as true business partners. Interactions with the steering committee members cannot be isolated to periodic discussions or meetings. The executive sponsor and appropriate members of the core team should invest time with the steering committee, building this group’s understanding of and comfort with using experience data (X-data) and operational data (O-data) to make decisions, elevating their familiarity with the moving parts of the CX roadmap, and supporting their development as credible voices endorsing CX transformation from the top-down. In return, the core team needs to learn from steering committee members as well. The steering committee should help them understand the organization’s critical business and brand objectives along with any organizational headwinds and tailwinds that will affect how the core team should shepherd the overall organization towards its desired CX outcomes.
  • Create opportunities for the steering committee to actively support CX. Employees pay attention to what leaders do. Steering committee members can demonstrate their own commitment to customer experience by meaningfully engaging in CX activities, such as joining the organization’s CX Day celebrations, contributing to CX-centric internal communications, and participating in CX workshops or listening programs. In addition to visibly supporting broader customer-centric activities, steering committee members should also show support for CX through their everyday behaviors. This includes holding themselves and their direct reports accountable for driving CX change as well as regularly discussing the organization’s progress towards achieving its CX objectives in their conversations and meetings.
  • Use steering committee members to clear blockers to progress. Of all the people in the organization, the steering committee can be the most useful in the stickiest of situations that slow down CX transformation efforts. This group is especially well-positioned to push through any necessary changes to established business policies, processes, or other organizational norms that are no longer supportive of the desired CX vision. They can also be valuable allies for keeping attention and investment focused on CX in the face of other competing organizational priorities.

Working Group

Working group members are influential managers from across the organization. A working group may meet regularly and focus on multiple initiatives within the CX strategy, or it may form on a project-by-project basis to tackle a specific objective and then disband.

  • Why it’s needed: The individuals who make up this group are subject matter experts or change leaders in their own right and lend their influence, expertise, and effort to make meaningful progress on the CX strategy – both at an enterprise-wide level and within their own business units or functions.
  • What it does: This group comes together under the guidance of the CX core team to collaborate on CX initiatives that require their expertise and involvement. Members of the working group are visible change leaders who are able to align and motivate employees across the organization to adopt the mindsets and behaviors required to support CX.

Here are three tips for establishing a productive working group:

  • Get the “best” representatives involved as members of the working group. To be effective, working group members must have the authority to make decisions and commitments on behalf of the departments they represent. They also need the requisite influence to motivate employees on their teams to change their behaviors and adapt processes to support CX. None of these are easy tasks – hence the word “best.” The CX core team and executive sponsor need to be ready to push the steering committee and other executives to recruit the overall best representatives across the business – not just the “best available right now.”
  • Be sure working group members have the support they need. Typically working group members take on this assignment above and beyond their day job because they are intrinsically motivated to be part of transforming their organization to better serve its customers. Therefore, when recruiting members, it’s important that the executive sponsor and core team educate the executives who are selecting members of the working group about what exactly this role demands. These executives also need to help ensure their respective working group members have the capacity to fulfill their responsibilities by reallocating other assignments. 
  • Actively direct their efforts, working from a clear plan and agreed-upon objectives. Working group members commit to “putting in the work,” but it’s imperative that the core team articulates exactly what that work involves. In addition to defining the work, the team must also make sure that members are aligned to clear goals and plans and understand their individual roles supporting those goals and plans. Without this explicit direction, members of this group may simply do nothing or forge their own path, one which may or may not correspond with the organization’s CX strategy or business objectives.

CX Ambassadors

The CX core team may want to tap into a network of employees from across the company to serve as CX Ambassadors. Ambassadors are usually mid-level and/or frontline employees who either volunteer or are nominated to serve in this assignment, often on a rotating basis.

  • Why it’s needed: A CX Ambassador program involves employees from across the organization who provide input and engage in propelling the CX strategy and roadmap forward. Ambassadors help to refine transformation efforts from the ground up and represent the voice of their peers and customers to the CX core team and others within the program governance structure.
  • What it does: Ambassadors can play many roles depending on the needs of the organization, from CX project team members to evangelists of CX to their peers to sources of employee feedback on CX tactics. They work under the guidance of the CX core team, which uses a defined engagement plan to plug CX Ambassadors into its roadmap where most needed. 

Here are three tips for creating a powerful CX Ambassador program:

  • Don’t start an ambassador program until the core team is able to actively manage its efforts. While grass-roots mobilization is important in any change effort, starting an ambassador program too early can backfire if there is not a clear action plan and operating cadence to guide their efforts and keep them engaged. Before starting the program, the core team should clarify the role ambassadors will play and confirm that there is sufficient capacity on the core team to actively manage their involvement.
  • Capitalize on ambassadors to extend the reach of the CX core team across the organization. Ambassadors bring more than just their own experiences to their work; they can also bring the perspectives of the people in their networks across the organization. They are thus a useful asset for channeling feedback about new CX tactics, like training programs or communication themes, from their teams to the CX core team. Ambassadors can also translate the CX vision into behaviors and guidance that will resonate with their peers as well as surface “local” customer pain points and solution ideas.
  • Make the program a rewarding experience for participants. Participating in an ambassador program can positively affect those employees’ engagement levels. Ambassadors not only get to support something they are passionate about, but they also benefit from professional development opportunities, targeted learning, and wider exposure that can raise their profile inside the organization. To help these employees get the most of the experience, the core team should design the program to be somewhat flexible so ambassadors can participate in ways that match their interests, skills, and personal development goals.

CX Governance Evolves as Programs Mature

As an organization’s CX programs advance through the five stages of maturity, its governance model needs to evolve as well:

  • Stage 1: Investigate. Organizations in this first stage of maturity are not yet focused on CX as a strategic opportunity, which means there is no strong CX program governance in place. 
  • Stage 2: Initiate. As leaders begin to see the potential value in customer experience, they start to investigate how CX can help their organization and kick off pockets of CX activities. This stage often kicks off with the formation of an ad-hoc cross-functional team – governed by a single point person – which is tasked with developing a better understanding of what the organization needs to focus on to improve the experience it delivers to customers. 
  • Stage 3: Mobilize. Once executives view CX as a strategic priority, the organization taps into a full-time CX staff who distribute insights and drive experience improvements. To support this core CX team, the organization expands governance by putting a dedicated executive sponsor in charge of this CX core team and establishes a steering committee and working group to help provide input as the organization formalizes its strategy, roadmap, and resource requirements. 
  • Stage 4: Scale. With strong CX practices in place, the organization systematically uses insights to identify and improve experiences and invests in engaging the entire workforce in CX. In this advanced stage, program governance is firmly in place, and the executive sponsor and CX core team have established processes to coordinate the efforts of the working group and its CX Ambassadors. Here the steering committee is still actively involved in driving change, establishing priorities, and vetting issues.
  • Stage 5: Embed. In the final stage of maturity, CX skills are engrained across the organization, and experience is the basis for its ongoing differentiation. With CX wholly integrated into everyday decisions and practices, it is now governed through the existing organizational hierarchy, rather than through a separate steering committee. As CX capabilities are distributed across the organization and embedded into core processes, the working group responsibilities may be assumed by existing teams responsible for continuous improvement, innovation, and culture reinforcement.

The bottom line: To coordinate and catalyze successful CX transformation efforts, establish a program governance model with five essential elements. 

Aimee Lucas, XMP, CCXP, is the Director of Qualtrics’ CX Center of Excellence

Isabelle Zdatny, XMP, CCXP, is an XM Catalyst for Qualtrics XM Institute

Bruce Temkin, XMP, CCXP, is the Head of Qualtrics XM Institute