Armed with new data from a recent study, I discuss why hiring a chief customer officer is becoming more and more of a strategic imperative if companies want to maintain competitive advantage in their markets.
Recently, there’s been increased interest in the role of the chief customer officer. To take a look at where these chief customer officers have been and what their history has been, I undertook an exercise to go through and conducted a study of the historical and the current views and placement of chief customer officers from around the world.
I conducted an exhaustive analysis of industry and press clippings, SEC filings from various companies in various different industries looking for chief customer officers since the very beginning back in 1994. I was looking specifically at the title of chief customer officer or those executives in companies where I have personally confirmed their role as the chief customer officer even if they didn’t have the title.
And the role of the chief customer officers is defined according to two things. The first is that they have the authoritative view of the customers and they’re driving customer strategy at the highest level of the company.
Historically, since 1994 when the very first chief customer officer was appointed, there have been 509 chief customer officers appointed and/or active in their roles today; and, at present, there are 329 active CCOs functioning in the companies in various different industries.
I’ve looked at the historical distribution by company size and broken them up into enterprise versus midsize versus small size. And for the purposes of this exercise, enterprise companies are those with revenues greater than 2 billion dollars and midsize greater than 250 million dollars.
The distribution of chief customer offices amongst these different company sizes is fairly evenly split with about 47 percent enterprise, about 38 percent small, and a mere 15 percent in midsize.
I’ve looked at the chief customer officers who are currently in their roles and broken them up by industry to see what industries have been adopting the chief customer officer role at a higher rate than others. It’s fascinating to see that the largest concentration of chief customer officers is in the technology industry.
Companies like Teradata, Level 3, and Xerox are notable Fortune 500 companies that have chief customer officers.
The next highest is in the food and beverage industry, and this includes companies like Hershey’s, Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Frito Lay.
Other industries that have a higher density of chief customer officers are software and Internet including companies like Oracle, Yahoo, Intuit, and Computer Associates.
The one that’s most interesting of all, I believe, is the utility industry in that this one here has, perhaps, the highest density of chief customer officers of any industry in there; and these are utilities such as Arizona Public Service, PG&E, NSTAR, and BGE.
So it’s interesting to look and see which industries are adopting the chief customer officer role more rapidly than others. And it’s fascinating to see that the technology and the software industries are at the forefront of adoption; but the utility industry, while there may be fewer CCOs overall in there, are the ones that “get it” the best and are those that have the highest density of chief customer officers in any industry.
So it’s fascinating to look at this and see—where are we within our industry? What is it that we should be doing? If so many others of our competitors in our industry are adopting the role of the chief customer officer, then, perhaps, it’s worth looking at how we can go about appointing an executive in charge of becoming more customer centric so that we can maintain a competitive advantage.