In 2003, there were fewer than 20 people in the world with the title of Chief Customer Officer. Almost 20 years later, the Chief Customer Officer group on Linkedin has over 6,000 members from over 100 countries.
The appearance of the Chief Customer Officer role has a lot to do with the evolution of business. In the old days, companies would differentiate their services with things like logistics or price. While some companies today distinguish themselves on product quality, customer experience has become the most competitive asset.
Chief Customer Officers can bring a lot to the table when it comes to improving the customer experience. However, their role is still relatively unknown. That's a pity: an effective CCO has the power to move the customer’s perspective onto the strategic agenda and redirect priorities to improve the customer experience. That's not just good for your customers – it's good for your business. According to Deloitte, customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than those that are not.
Before we dive in, let's develop a better understanding of what a CCO is and what the role's goals are.
What is a Chief Customer Officer?
A CCO is a key influencer within the company. Sitting on the executive board of a company, the CCO will be responsible for improving a company's customer experience. Armed with solid diplomacy skills and an innovative spirit, they create corporate and customer strategies to transform a company's operations, structure, and processes. This can happen in multiple ways, from designing a system to measure customer satisfaction to bringing together leaders from different teams for a cross-functional project.
Chief Customer Officers don't always go by the same job title. According to the Harvard Business Review, other titles include Chief Client Officer, Chief Experience Officer, Executive Vice President of Member Experience, or Chief Global Customer and Marketing Officer.
The Role of the Chief Customer Officer
What does exactly a CCO do? According to the Chief Customer Officer Council, Chief Customer Officers share three common goals regardless of the industry they work in:
- Drive profitable customer behavior: Put simply, the CCO focus is on coming up with ideas that help customers spend more. Things like profitability segmentation, customer retention, loyalty, and satisfaction are all part of this goal.
- Create a customer-centric culture: You can’t have a customer-centric strategy unless your culture aligns with it. By putting a face on customers, COOs help departments and employees (especially the non-customer-facing employees) remain focused on driving customer value. CCOs should prioritize all the initiatives that impact customers and work on those that drive the most profit and the greatest customer impact first.
- Deliver value to the CEO and employees: Being part of the C-suite means that a CCO has an authoritative view of the customer. With a customer-focused executive, there’s a much better chance that the customer’s voice can impact the company strategy. CCOs often work on customer portfolios, prioritizing customer retention and acquisition efforts, and increasing loyalty.
Now that we know what the role of a Chief Customer Officer is, let's look at why businesses need one.
Why does my organization need a Chief Customer Officer?
A lot of companies think they are customer-oriented, but they're not. Just 22% of Fortune 100 companies have a C-level customer officer responsible for improving the customer experience, according to the Chief Customer Officer Council. The CCO has the responsibility to honestly look at their company’s customer orientation and continuously improve it.
Let's look at the ways your business could benefit from having a Chief Customer Officer.
- To break down silos
- To create links between customer and strategy
- To get management buy-in to improve the customer experience
- To improve and measure the progress in customer satisfaction
One of the biggest challenges in making a company's culture more customer-centric is the effort needed to break down silos. That's why a Chief Customer Officer should act as a bridge-builders:
"A lot of companies optimize for a specific function rather than optimizing around the customer, creating bad handoffs, and exposing your customer to your organization structure. Breaking down those walls requires you to fundamentally rethink your strategy to create alignment in your organization. It's a long, complicated, hard transformation," said Yamini Rangan, Chief Customer Officer of HubSpot, in an interview with COO expert Jeanne Bliss.
A CCO has the authority needed to break down those walls because they are positioned on the executive board with the ear of the CEO. Through listening and convincing, they can be the missing piece required to align a company's different departments, so the customer is finally put first.
Your Chief Customer Officer is not just a bridge between departments; they also connect the customer and your company's overall to-do list. Ensuring that your strategy incorporates the view of the customer is as important as developing the strategy itself. Often, companies forget to add its most important stakeholder – the customer – into the equation.
Having a CCO sends a clear signal about how valuable customers are to your business. They ensure that every decision is viewed through the perspective of your customers.
Without your management team backing you up, changes can be hard to implement. Imagine you want to start collecting feedback from customers after they buy your product. What if you'd like to invest in a data-collection software, but the finance team isn’t convinced? With support from your management team, those changes could happen faster.
It's not a coincidence that the CCO sits within the C-suite of a company, as they work closely with the rest of the executive team. Using this privileged position, CCOs ensure the C-suite sees the customer's perspective on every move.
Just because you have the numbers doesn't always mean that you can use them to make decisions. Companies often have a pool of raw data, but little insight into what's actually going on. Research shows that 90% of global executives who use data analytics report that they’ve improved their ability to deliver a great customer experience. A CCO (and his team) can uncover actionable insights that really tell a story. For example, are your customers satisfied with your new release? Should you be working on reducing your response time to customers?
Companies often create reports from the company's point of view, not the customer's. Getting a company to start thinking more about the customer's perspective and less about their own when it comes to analytics requires some effort. The CCO can take on the important role of transforming reporting. Because of their unique position within a company, the Chief Customer Officer can be tactical and leverage all the unstructured data available to improve the customer's journey.
Chief Advocate For Your Customers
A Chief Customer Officer can have the internal power to break through silos and refocus the business on customers. Remember that customers are your most important stakeholders – you don't have a business without them. If you don't have someone advocating for the customer at the highest levels of the organization's strategy, you risk leaving them at the bottom of your priority list.
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