Critical Success Factors for Chief Customer Officers

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CCO tenure often falls casualty to the “Results right now!” syndrome that ignores a critical fact: like great wine, strong relationships take time to develop and grow more profitable with age. Many of these relationships cannot take root without a strategic plan to transmit the voice of the customer into the c-suite, thereby positioning the company to succeed and the CCO to thrive. Based on my ten years of work with more than 150 CCOs, here are seven critical success factors that will ensure CCOs meet or exceed strategic plans for their careers and for their customers.

Authoritative title and reporting structure: Title and reporting structure of the CCO are powerful signals of the company’s commitment to customer centricity. The successful customer executive will have the title of CCO and report to the CEO or to an individual no more than one level below the CEO (e.g., chief marketing officer, chief operating officer, etc.).

Unwavering executive support: Continuous, vocal, and visible support from the CEO, the board, and the c-suite is critical to growth and stability for the CCO. The leadership team cannot abdicate involvement in customer centricity just because the company hired a CCO.

Earned Authority: Above and beyond positional authority derived from the job title and borrowed authority derived from the explicit, visible support of the CEO, CCOs must earn authority and credibility of their own. They do so by leading peers, executives, and employees to recognize how customer insight and customer centricity can be valuable aids in achieving their business goals.

Alignment with the CEO: By aligning priorities with the CEO and the rest of the c-suite, CCOs secure visibility at the highest level of the company and maintain involvement in key strategic corporate decisions.

Metrics that tie customer centricity to revenue growth and profitability: It is critical for CCOs to correlate customer centric programs to revenue growth and profitability, as challenging as that may be. There is growing evidence that customer loyalty and degree of customer engagement are tied to revenue. CCOs must lead their companies to determine and validate the evidence for themselves.

Support from internal and external allies: Without the support of peers, community leaders, industry analysts, and the customer, CCO initiatives will have limited results and impact. Critical to the future of the CCO is developing these alliances and being explicit about defining and communicating successes.

Compensation commensurate with customer centricity: All executives and senior leaders should have customer measures (e.g. satisfaction, loyalty) as part of their Management by Objectives (MBO). As part of this process, CCOs need to lead managers to recognize the impact their department has on customers and customer centricity.

These critical success factors are guideposts on your path to realizing your career goals as a CCO. Create a plan around those goals and use these success factors as self-evaluation criteria to maintain focus and improve your chances for success.

*This article is excerpted from The Bingham Advisory: Eight Imperatives for Chief Customer Officers, available for free download from the CCO Council website here.

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