Under The Microscope – Who Is A Chief Customer Officer?

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This article was originally published here.

The Chief Customer Officer (CCO) is one of the newest members of the C-suite. However, the importance of their role has increased massively in the past few decades. A couple of decades back, this was an obscure term that not many in the business circles had heard. However, today, almost every successful organization has a dedicated CCO.

In this blog, we’d discuss why CCOs are important and what their roles and responsibilities are.

Who is a Chief Customer Officer?

According to the Chief Customer Officer Council, a CCO is defined as “an executive that provides the comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer and creates corporate and customer strategy at the highest levels of the company to maximize customer acquisition, retention, and profitability.”

Simply put, CCOs are the champions for customers in an organization. They are the executives responsible for the relationship an organization has with its customers. In short, they know the customer better than customers would know themselves!

Why is a CCO important?

Customer experience is the only differentiator today

In today’s ultra-competitive world, customer experience is the only factor that differentiates one business from another. So, if customer experience is the battleground, businesses need a commander-in-chief that leads the battle. A CCO plays this role. He gives a direction to the entire organization in terms of its customer-centric initiatives, much like a commander mobilizes his forces, gives them the right strategy to attack the army, and leads them to victory.

Customers are demanding it

Today’s customers are omnipotent. With the myriad choices available to them, they have become more demanding and do not think twice before deflecting. Further, they interact with a brand at multiple touchpoints and want a consistent experience across.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that that today’s customers require a dedicated resource that ensures that business decisions are taken in a manner that benefits them most. A CCO does exactly this.

A CCO is heard

The sheer fact that CCOs are part of the executive board of an organization ensures that they are heard and that their decisions are respected. They exert a substantial control and influence over the business decisions and allocation of resources. This entails that customer-centric initiatives are not on the backburner but are rather acted upon promptly and efficiently.

Their presence is correlated with increased revenues

According to a research by Curtis Bingham, Founder and Executive Director of Chief Customer Officer Council, “businesses demonstrated measurable improvements in revenues and profits while employing a CCO. In some cases, overall revenue drops after the CCO’s departure. In some industries that experienced negative growth, the presence of the CCO helped stem the decline suffered through competitors and maintain revenues/profits through stronger customer relationships and trust.”

How has the role evolved with time?

The rise of the CCO has been nothing short of meteoric. Two decades back, this term was never heard in the business circles.

Google has recorded an upward trend in the number of times people have searched for the term ‘Chief Customer Officer’ over the past few years. Although this does not imply that companies started recruiting CCOs or professionals started pursuing this role as their career, this indicates that people increasingly became interested in this subject.

The first CCO was hired at Texas Power and Light way back in 1999. In 2003, there were fewer than 30 CCOs across the world. But, according to the 2014 CCO study, 22% of Fortune 100 companies and 10% of Fortune 500 companies have adopted the role.

2014 CCO study

Source: Chief Customer Officer Council | The CCO Council Annual Chief Customer Officer Study

There are also many that perform the same roles as that of a CCO without holding the formal title.

Over the past five years, job seekers on Indeed have also portrayed an increasing interest in the role of a CCO.

CCO job seekers interest Indeed

Source: Indeed | Job Category Trends

Roles and Responsibilities of a CCO

Because this role is still a fledgling one, the roles and responsibilities of a CCO are not clearly defined. However, here is a list of the key areas that a CCO focuses on.

Facilitating cross-functional collaboration

One major area that the CCO must work on is to break the silos within an organization to develop a customer-first outlook. Many times, the various departments in an organization are so focused on their own initiatives that they tend to forget the most valuable asset of the organization – the customer. Unfortunately, a seamless, one-company experience cannot be provided to the customer unless these silos are dissolved. There is a need to align all these departments into a single cohesive unit and bring about a more centralized approach to customer experience – the CCO plays the role of that uniting force.

Further, the varied departments in an organization many times consider customer experience initiatives less important. This could be due to various reasons, which include being overloaded with their own agendas and tasks to considering CX as only a peripheral aspect of their jobs. For instance, the sales department specifically takes care of sales in a business; the marketing team takes care of only that aspect of the business. Who then caters to the most important entity of a business?

In such a scenario, the CCO unites these silos and ensures that all these functions are aligned with one goal – to keep the customer at the heart of all business decisions.

Making the customer relationship more valuable

The CCO makes the relationship of an organization with its customers more valuable by providing the data and insights on why the most significant person in the business is the customer. He is an advocate of the customer – in board meetings, he occupies the seat reserved for the customer. By ensuring that the customer is at the core of all business decisions, he strengthens the relationship of a business with the customer.

The CCO establishes various customer experience metrics within the organization that is aimed not at just showing high ratings but also at resolving customer issues. These metrics help businesses in drawing actionable insights that can wow customers. Further, he develops robust data-driven systems and processes that enhance the experience of the customer. His expertise on the entire lifecycle of the customer helps him add value to every touchpoint of the customer with the organization.

Developing the right training programs for employees

Developing a customer-centric culture is easier said than done. It requires retraining and rehiring employees so that the organization builds the right competencies to deliver the expected customer experience. Without a robust training program, it would be extremely difficult for an organization to percolate the culture change down to every employee. The CCO, therefore, drives the development and execution of employee education workshops to bring about this alignment. The CCO must also conduct vision-centric workshops to ensure everybody in the organization is working towards a common goal of customer centricity.

Developing a voice of customer initiative

The CCO conceptualizes, designs, and oversees the implementation of the voice of customer initiatives in an organization. He also ensures that the right tools are used to capture customer feedback and effective systems are set up to close the loop on feedback. Without a feedback loop in place, customer-centric initiatives are shots in the dark with no clear impact measurement metric. The voice of the customer helps keep an organization aligned with customer expectations. With the CCO overlooking such initiatives, the boardroom decisions are also well aligned with customer expectation.

Creating a customer-centric culture

It is frequently said that the most successful companies are those that make customer experience the DNA of their organization. The CCO is responsible for creating a customer-first culture across the organization, ensuring that all stakeholders are aligned with customer centricity.

Accelerating the growth of an organization

At the end of the day, the job of the CCO is crucial not just because they create happy customers but also because these happy customers help in increasing the revenues of a business. The success of an organization is determined by the revenues it generates. By bringing in repeat business from existing customers, multiplying the customer base due to effective CX strategies, owning retention, reducing churn, and enhancing loyalty, a CCO helps businesses grow.

Creating a sustainable competitive advantage

As earlier discussed, the only differentiator for the businesses today is customer experience. By enhancing this aspect of the business, a CCO ensures that organizations have an edge over their competitors. Really, the only aspect of a business that cannot be copied is the customer experience that it offers; products and features can all be aped.

Conclusion

While this role is gradually gaining importance, its importance will only keep increasing in the years to come. True, customer experience should be the job of every employee in a business; however, having a person at the helm will only make things better.

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