As the Chief Customer Officer or Customer Experience Leadership role becomes more prevalent, people in these roles run the risk of being put in them prematurely, without ensuring conditions are ideal for success in the role.
When this occurs, this executive role that should be uniting the C-Suite to lead and grow the business differently instead finds themselves in a role where they inadvertently have the monkey on their back to fix the company. Instead of bringing the leadership team together to change leadership behavior and the conditions for business success, they are asked to “pitch” projects, present ideas and report on results.
And this moves the CCO from strategic leader… to beggar.
When the Chief Customer Officer role is one that only garners the attention of the leadership team in what I call “situational commitment” — they are always in a position of asking for commitment, of asking for time on the agenda. Many CX leaders find that these roles become something to report out progress on, or get commitment for… but fellow members of the C-Suite’s skin in the game and personal actions for driving change don’t go outside the boundaries of the meetings where they are pitched and presented. If you have ever had to ask (implore) fellow leaders to please attend your meeting, please provide resources, or please participate in key improvement actions…you’ve lived this situation. This experience of being a beggar. And that diminishes this role.
Here are three actions to ensure that the Chief Customer Officer performs at an equal level of the rest of the C-Suite and is considered a peer and a partner in driving customer-driven change and business growth:
1. Set the Conditions for C-suite involvement. Ideally before you take the role this should be done, but you can also course-correct. These conditions are that the CCO or CX Executive role exists to facilitate the C-Suite to work together in changing how the company makes decisions, grows the business, develops products, and enables people in the company to deliver value. The role of the CCO is not to do the work and report back. This effort must be done in unison with the C-Suite taking an active role.
2. Level Set So All Leaders Know the Work Ahead, and Silo Busting Occurs. This work unravels because every leader in the C-Suite has a different opinion on how far the company is in customer experience, or how “good” the experience is — often based on their point of view from within the silo that they are responsible for. While you will have leaders’ attention and agreement as you are meeting as a team, without level setting, each will then go back to their own operating area and guide their operation separately. You must align leaders that the work at hand is to unite to deliver a one-company reliable experience. This means that the C- Suite must band together to provide resources to solve for and improve complete customer experiences. Create clarity that your role as the CCO is to give that prospective and understanding so that as a leadership team you can make united decisions on areas of priority, focus and how you will work together to provide resources to make improvements.
I suggest an exercise to unite the C-Suite where you name the stages of your customer journey and rate the reliability of the experience by stage from a one-company standpoint for each stage. Is it always reliable, sometimes reliable, or rarely reliable that a one-compnay consistent experience is delivered in each stage? Most of my clients have a real ‘aha’ moment when leaders as a collective leadership team rate and realize that the experience being delivered is ‘rarely’ or ‘sometimes’ reliable for every stage. This clarifies the work ahead, and puts more clarity on your role as uniting them and their teams – moving you further from being a beggar to hear what you have to report — to that of an enabler, facilitator and developer of repeating organizationals CX competencies.
3. Assign Leaders in Your C-suite Accountability for Specific Actions. In the work that I do with the C-Suite we work to embed five competencies into the business operation and leadership behavior. The old “beggar” model for the CCO would be for the CCO to build a team and do the work and present intermittently on the progress. We abandoned that approach about five years ago with astounding results. Instead, we now assign a couple members of the C-Suite and a small working group of high potential employees to build out the “beta” version of each of the five competencies to get the company to their first customer room, usually within 4-6 months. Now leaders are personally involved. They are not recipients of the report-out by the CCO, but rather, active participants in the work.
As a result of these actions, you can take the role of the CCO or CX leader from the inadvertent “beggar” situation that this role sometimes falls into, to elevating it to its rightful place as facilitator of the C-Suite to changing behaviors to earn the right to customer-driven growth.
What has your experience been as a CX leader or CCO? Can you relate?