CCO Career Path: Are You Working with a North Star or ROI-Based Leader?

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In my Daily Dose video series, I explore the topics that chief customer officers must grapple with on a daily basis. Join me as I discuss what I’ve learned over the course of my 35-year career, so that you can more effectively do the work that needs to be done.

The following is a lightly edited transcript of the video below.




Today, I want to talk to you about something that continuously comes up in my podcast conversations, as well as something I recognized when I was a Chief Customer Officer. That is that there are two kinds of leaders that you could interact with as you’re trying to drive this work of customer experience.

The first one, that I know many of you are interfacing with and interacting with, is an ROI-based leader. An ROI based leader wants to know the financial outcome, the financial payout for everything.

The second one is a North Star-based leader, a North Star-focused leader starts with what your business is all about and recognizes that—by building a different kind of business, by earning the right to grow, by building and behaviors in the way that you deliver experiences—it is a path to growth.

Now, there’s not one type of leader that’s better than another. The key here for you is to know which kind of leader you’re interacting with.

Keep Your Eye on the Bottom Line with an ROI-based Leader

An ROI-based leader will always ask ask you how much is going to cost and how much you’re going to get back in return for it. With these kinds of leaders, you’re not going to be able to do the leap-of-faith work and transformation work that many of us want to do. You’re going to have to earn the right to do the work, step by step.

Here’s what I suggest: if you’re interacting with an ROI based leader, first, identify for them the bigger picture, but very quickly, give them back some money in their pocket. In other words, identify customer experience improvements that are necessary from the customer’s point of view. But also show them that, by improving the customer experience, you also improve the ROI to the business.



For example, we know that there’s a lot of reasons that drive people to your call center or online chat etc. And if you don’t give your team the permission to solve the customers problem by doing two things—giving them the information they need, training and then trusting them to make the call—guess what your customers going to do? They’re going to dial for dollars. They’re going to hang up again, and call back, where it’s going to cost you more money—not only in customers, but also employees.

So try to identify the connection between cost reduction, experience improvement, and increasing that experience. That’s what’s going to serve your work with an ROI-based leader. The powerful thing that happens over time though is that, with a problem track record, you can earn the right to some of those investment-based things.

Connect Business Growth and Purpose When Working with a North Star Leader

A North Star-based leader is someone who will be a partner with you in a broader scale.

I was very fortunate, for example, to work with Gary Comer, who is the founder of Land’s End, and some of the other leaders I worked with as early adopters in the customer experience part of the organization.

Now, the key about a North Star-based leader is that you have to prove this is about business growth. But you can start first with purpose.

When you identify with purpose, you can then connect the rest of the organization to do a more robust job of identifying opportunities across the the operation. Then focus on the critical point of improving customers goals that you can identify to grow long term.

But in this case, you’re going to have a leader who gets the process of going broad, then focusing—and focusing on customers goals versus focusing on internal goals.



Key Takeaways

So today’s “Daily Dose” is about identifying if you are working with an ROI-based leader or a North Star-based leader, recognizing which one you’re working with, and then adjusting how you approach the work to move forward.

You can have success with both but an ROI-based leader is going to take more deliberate steps to earn the right to continue to work and to earn the right to expand the work. So keep their approaches in mind in order to achieve success in building up your organization’s practice of customer experience.

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