Do You Need a Chief Customer Officer?

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Most CEO’s no longer need to be convinced of the importance of retaining customers and developing relationships with customers. What’s on their mind is how to accomplish this feat inside their organizations. With achievement in the customer work remaining elusive, organizations are now considering the creation of a high-level position to drive the action.

Throwing head count at the customer challenge is not necessarily the automatic solution. This should not be an automatic or easy decision.

The key to making that decision lies in first understanding what the work encompasses. Before you rush out and hire a CCO, take stock of where the company is culturally and decide if the time is right to bring someone in to make the big customer push.

Can you say yes to these statements? (Download the complete assessment)
1. There is someone in our company who clarifies what we are to accomplish with customers.
2. There is a clear process to drive alignment for what will be accomplished.
3. We have a roadmap for the customer work and know where progress will be measured.
4. Clear metrics exist for measuring progress which everyone agrees to use.
5. There is real clarity of everyone’s roles and responsibilities.
6. People really participate and care about the customer work.
7. Appropriate resources are allocated to make a real difference to customers.
8. There is an understandable process for people to work together.
9. The work is considered attainable.
10. A process exists for marketing achievements to customers and internally.
11. Recognition and reward is wired to motivate customer work.

Is anyone taking these actions?
Is anyone even thinking about them?
Does anyone have the time to?

Don’t just ask these questions, stew over them. Debate them with top leadership and board. Whatever you decide, driving customer profitability isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Is it realistic in your organization to divide and conquer these tasks? If you can, your organization is well adjusted. Having the operational areas own the responsibility and having them share the administrative parts of this work would be heaven. But I haven’t seen many evolved companies that are ready for this. It’s the pushing and prodding part of the work that most companies need someone to spearhead. That becomes the role of the Chief Customer Officer.

If you decide to proceed with a Chief Customer Officer exploration, make sure that you have consensus to go ahead with the role. The people whose sandbox the CCO will be in frequently had better agree up front to the company and to the discomfort that’s to come as a result of the work. Think hard about your appetite and aptitude for the work. Temper this with the fact that this is at minimum a five-year journey. Pace yourself.

Read More: Structuring the Chief Customer Officer Role and Team

There are four ways you can go with organizational structure:
1. Staff leader with dedicated team
2. Staff leader with dispersed team
3. Line leader with dedicated team
4. Line leader with dispersed team

Structuring the Chief Customer Officer Role and Team

Republished with author's permission from original post.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Jeanne: this is an excellent article, and you have provided valuable statements for discussion. I particularly liked your point, “Throwing head count at the customer challenge is not necessarily the automatic solution.” You could also plug technology into that sentence in place of head count, and the thought still works.

    One of the questions that senior executives must answer relative to customers are 1) what are the most significant risks, and 2) ‘who owns them? eg: “Our prospects might not buy from us,” or “Our customers might stop using our product or service.” In many cases, these issues fall in between departmental cracks. You know the rest of the story.

    Does Sales manage churn? Or Service? Or maybe Marketing? or Product development?–(after all, they’re responsible for engineering ‘switching costs.’)

    The introspection you are advocating sometimes yields a clear answer: an organizational entity that oversees the customer acquisition, retention, product and service delivery performance, and corporate revenue growth.

    Incidentally, you might enjoy an article I posted on CustomerThink, “Are Companies Hiring Too Many Chiefs?”

  2. This is a terrific article, Jeanne! I shared it on our social networks so our readers can see the true value of investing in a CCO. I strongly believe in having someone in that position! Sometimes I wish I could be a CCO… but then who would do all the marketing? 🙂

  3. ….a CCO is absolutely needed!

    Your assessment tool does an excellent job of providing both an architectural blueprint and engineering plan for the role and function of a CCO. You’re wisely recommending that companies address all the key customer-related value questions as the outset. Creating a locus of responsibility, and at a senior level, with a clear and well-articulated vision, set of action-based processes, benchmarks, and metrics, available and managed resources, and motivated, reinforced and rewarded team approach for reaching goals (which I describe as employee ambassadorship) are all essential elements for CCO success.

    In my own CustomerThink blog on this subject of a few weeks ago (http://www.customerthink.com/blog/the_evolving_chief_customer_officer_identifying_value_authority_scope_responsibilities_and_stra) I also liked what Paul Hagen of Forrester had to say about the Chief Customer Officer, namely that the CCO, serving at a senior corporate level, has "…the mandate and power to design, orchestrate, and improve customer experiences across the ever-more-complex range of customer interactions.” We’re all pretty much on the same page regarding the pivotal importance and contribution of this function in the customer-centric enterprise.

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