Role of Chief Customer Officer: Ensuring that Customer-Centricity is at the Heart of Business

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The role of CCO has historically been viewed as a bridge between the customer and the business, primarily focusing on customer service and corporate feedback. However, the digital revolution and subsequent acceleration of consumer expectations have expanded the CCO’s role to include not just customer service but also experience (CX), loyalty, and long-term engagement strategies.

Based on my experience as COO of Enterprise Solutions at EngageSmart, a leading provider of vertically tailored customer engagement software and integrated payments solutions, I’d describe the evolution of the position as being marked by a shift from reactive customer service to proactive customer experience management. CCOs are now expected to have a deeper understanding of customer behaviors, preferences, and expectations. They are tasked with using this knowledge to influence and shape company policies and strategies, ensuring that customer-centricity is at the heart of all business decisions.

Redefining the CCO in Today’s Business Landscape

In the current corporate world, the CCO’s role is multifaceted and strategic, as they are not simply advocates for customers but also strategists and innovators. Akin to subject matter experts, CCOs today are tasked with understanding the nuanced needs of various customer segments and translating these insights into actionable strategies that drive business growth and customer loyalty. They are also instrumental in breaking down silos within organizations, ensuring that all departments work together towards a unified goal of exceptional customer experience.

For truly customer-centric organizations, the unique perspective of a CCO can influence every aspect of the business. At each company where I have played a role in leading Customer Success teams, orchestrating the unique journey for each customer profile to maximize value has been critical to the company’s success. The customer journey typically touches every department in an organization and clarifies the unique value each team brings to the customer experience. Without this map, companies can sometimes operate blindly, with one role overlapping another or large gaps without any customer engagement. The outcome, even with the best of intentions of all involved, is a customer experience that’s confusing or alienating. Like a great sports team running a play, the members of every team must understand the importance of the customer experience and the unique value each role brings to the customer. From product development to marketing and sales, let’s explore a few critical ways the modern CCO helps shape a cohesive customer journey.

Championing Change Management

One of the critical areas where CCOs make a significant impact is in leading change management initiatives. This involves introducing new strategies and ensuring their smooth implementation. CCOs play a business-critical role in guiding both prospective and existing customers through these times of change, making essential transitions as seamless as possible.

COOs leading change management strategies should consistently put the customer’s interests first and empower team members and colleagues across departments to do the same. It’s important that changes to products and workflow aren’t just for the streamlining of our processes, but are ultimately about perfecting the customer experience.

For example, I recently took a look at our customer journey map with fresh eyes. I realized that from our customers’ point of view, there were too many “handoffs” during their journey with us. Handoffs can sometimes work great for us as folks feel they fully own one discrete part of the journey, but it can make customers feel jostled about. It’s not a small undertaking to attempt to simplify the process and decrease the number of handoffs. It can require cross-training, org changes, etc., but in the end, it’s worth it to make the customer’s experience as seamless as possible. It’s an investment in our customers’ success, which is an investment in our success.

Change management under the guidance of a CCO benefits from a deep understanding of customer expectations and the ability to anticipate how change will impact customer trust and loyalty. By effectively managing these transitional times, CCOs help organizations adapt to market shifts while maintaining a strong customer focus.

Data-Driven Customer Insights

In today’s data-rich environment, CCOs must leverage in-depth customer data to drive strategy — even though that data is constantly changing. The CCO role has shifted from intuition-based decision-making to a more evidence-based approach that heavily relies on data analytics. This involves analyzing customer interactions, feedback, and behaviors to gain insights that can inform business strategies.

A data-rooted approach paves the way for a customer experience that’s both personalized and impactful. By diving into the finer details of customer needs, CCOs can help their organization customize services and products to match these requirements. This not only boosts customer happiness but fosters loyalty and engenders positive sentiment. Moreover, with a data-centric focus, success is measurable with metrics like improved customer satisfaction scores, higher rates of customer retention, and overall greater profitability.

But I don’t think data is limited to numbers and graphs; it can be much more human than that. Like anyone working in the modern software world, I use — and appreciate — the innovative tech developed in recent years that has made data collection and analysis the art and science it is today. But despite how helpful they are, I find they’re no substitute for meeting in person. Whenever there’s an opportunity to meet with a customer in person, I try to take it and bring key members of my team with me. Having the day-to-day team members meet with each other and build a relationship outside of a Zoom or phone call is truly invaluable. In addition to relationship-building, there’s a ton of context that is bubbled to the surface. You can begin to better understand the pain points of your customer — and once you have that you are in a better position to solve for them. A win for you and a win for them.

For our recent ’24 Sales Kickoff event, we invited three different customers, each with a different “persona” to share the good, the bad, and the ugly about their experiences with our product with 150+ of our team members. Their authentic, unscripted comments spoke volumes. Despite spanning different industries and personas, they shared very similar feedback. Hearing that kind of feedback live and in person can motivate the team and provide us with a unique opportunity to discover patterns in the challenges our customers are facing first-hand.

Fostering Cross-Functional Collaboration

The modern CCO understands the importance of a unified approach to customer success. This involves orchestrating cross-functional teams within the organization to ensure that every customer interaction is consistent and high-quality. Today’s CCO ensures that all departments, from sales to product development, are aligned in their understanding and approach to CX.

This collaboration is essential for creating a seamless customer journey, where every touchpoint reflects the organization’s commitment to customer satisfaction. By fostering a culture of cooperation and shared goals, the CCO can help ensure that the entire organization works together toward enhancing the overall CX.

Cultivating Organizational Growth and a Customer-Centric Culture

The influence of CCOs in embedding a customer-focused culture within organizations cannot be overstated. By championing the customer’s perspective in every business decision, they can ensure that customer needs are not just met but anticipated. This forward-thinking approach is crucial for cultivating long-term customer relationships and loyalty.

The CCO’s efforts in promoting a customer-centric culture directly contribute to organizational growth. Research from McKinsey indicates companies that make customer satisfaction their top priority tend to see improvements in customer retention, increased brand loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth, all of which are key drivers of business success.

Raising the Bar in Customer Engagement

Today, the role of CCO has grown beyond the narrow focus of managing customer relationships: these leaders are at the forefront of transforming how companies interact with their customers. They are continually exploring innovative and creative ways to thrill customers, harnessing the latest technology, personalized services, and cutting-edge strategies to improve the overall customer journey — and the fast-paced evolution of consumer expectations doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In an environment where what customers want and expect is always shifting, CCOs must be flexible and proactive, consistently tweaking and enhancing their strategies to align with these evolving needs.

At its inception, the CCO role had a relatively narrow focus on managing customer relationships, but today being a CCO means combining strategic thinking with data-informed decisions and a profound understanding of customer experiences, both positive and negative. In other words, it means syncing customer needs with the goals of the business.

A lot goes into running a large B2B enterprise business; most importantly it takes scores of talented people excelling in their respective specialties. When people are excited about their work, driving innovation in their silo understandably sometimes becomes their prime focus. However, a business has to consider the customer experience above all else and ensure that the customer journey is well orchestrated to drive customer value at each step along the way. The Chief Customer Officer helps the greater organization stay true to that North Star. Because we’re nothing without our customers.

Mark Daoust
Mark has 25+ years of experience in enterprise technology. He spent nearly 15 years at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise where he served as the Vice President of Operations and Services, and led a 350-person team focused on enablement, implementation, delivery, and support for seven SaaS products including digital archiving, compliance, and eDiscovery. Following, he served as the Chief Customer Success Officer at Quickbase, where he built a new Customer Success function serving 6,000+ customers. During his tenure, Quickbase grew from $80m to $180m ARR and was recapitalized under Vista Equity in 2019.

1 COMMENT

  1. Good article. To become customer centric, you must understand why customers complain and also how to look for problems that exist or potentially could exist and get rid of them

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