Chief Customer Officer, cxm, customer experience

It has been more than two years since Forrester first heralded the arrival of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO). While its limited precedent makes it a daunting step to take, adding such a role to your organization provides an opportunity to get ahead of the competition. 

For companies working to create a successful Customer Experience Management (CEM) program, the CCO represents the embodiment of its aims, and with the right team and solutions behind them, they can be a real driver for change in any business.

As CEM and Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs continue to grow, the role becomes increasingly prevalent and requires clearer definition. CCOs provide ownership of CEM initiatives, and finally give customers a seat in the boardroom. Furthermore, as most companies have multiple, ad-hoc VoC and customer feedback activities running in different areas of the business, they provide a central point of control for these programs and enable a 360 degree view of the customer.

As you consider if this role makes sense for your business, remember that to be effective, a CCO must be:

  • Strategic: There will be quick-wins but much of the CCO’s role revolves around a long-term, holistic approach to ensuring your business builds and maintains a customer-focused culture.
  • Process-oriented: The strategies your CCO builds will take shape through changes in processes that will improve customer experiences and empower employees.
  • Influential: Many changes will actually take place in “someone else’s” department so the CCO must be able to push change through by using VoC data to demonstrate what matters to customers, and to the bottom line.
  • Holistic: Your CCO must be able to get clear insight into all customer touchpoints, channels and feedback to understand how customers feel about your business, which issues need to be addressed and what action is a priority.
  • Demonstrable: The CCO should be able to clearly demonstrate the impact of the changes they've implemented. As well as regular updates, this should include live, accessible reports that show the status of ongoing activity and the impact on customer loyalty, NPS or other KPI that you focus on.

But do you need a CCO? With budgets already stretched, adding a senior management position to the roster may be hard to swallow. Audit your organization to determine if your culture can support a CCO:

1. Is the Role Clear?

This is vital. Because it’s a relatively new position, there’s no standard job specification to work from when building a CCO role. This makes it all the more important that you accurately define the role for your organization. Not only do you need to provide a clear scope for a position that will impact every department in the company, but you also need to ensure everyone understands its importance. A sense amongst employees that it’s a re-badged customer service position -- or worse simply a PR exercise -- will undermine the appointed candidate and hinder the chance of success.

2. Does the Executive Team Support the Role?

The role of the CCO will touch every department in the business and will need support from stakeholders at every level, across the company. Much of the CCO’s work will require interactions with other departments (sales, billing, marketing, etc). You’ll need to establish how these departments work with, and react to, your CCO’s involvement, and how to deal with conflicts. Clear direction and support from the CEO is paramount to ensuring the CCO position isn’t just paying lip service. Ultimately, doing right by the customer, and seeing the benefits on the bottom line will ensure alignment, but getting off to the right start is crucial.

3. Can We Measure Success?

As with any senior position, you need to create metrics to define success and provide achievable milestones. Given its broad reach, a wide range of KPIs could make sense: customer loyalty, retention rates, cost savings, overall ROI, for example. There are also ‘softer’ factors such as changes in corporate culture and improvement in company reputation.

4. How Will the CCO Role Evolve?

A key objective for any customer-focused program is the need to regularly review goals. Once the quick wins are behind you, longer-term success will be key to driving the program’s success. This will be true for your CCO as well. Initially, you may need some quick wins to gain support and test working practices, but to drive business change, particularly in areas like corporate culture, you’ll need to revisit the success criteria and targets of your CCO. Consider how the role will evolve over the first 3-5 years so you can plan effectively.

These questions will help you decide where your customer journey goes tomorrow. A CCO may be the next step, or it might be a way to move your company down that road with greater speed. Or it may be a bridge too far at this point.

Image courtesy of Jirsak (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Craving more on CCO's? Check out Meet a Real Life Chief Customer Officer: Michael Idinopulos.