Last week, I described recent research conducted by the CCO Council into the impact of the chief customer officer on company financials. This week, I discuss the findings in detail and provide recommendations for managing them.
1. Customer Centricity is a two-year investment
Developing and improving customer strategy is a profitable but longer-term investment. It takes at least two years for the CCO’s activities to flow through the company and make a significant impact on top- and bottom-line results. Once these results materialize, however, they appear to continue to grow commensurate with the investment. B2C industries tend to see results more rapidly than B2B. Industries with intense competition show heightened impact from the CCO.
Recommendation: CEOs and Boards must commit from the outset to support and invest in the CCO and his/her initiatives for a minimum of two years to ensure the highest ROI. In turn, CCOs must manage the expectations of the CEO and Board to allow for this two-year probationary period.
2. The CCO must show contribution to long-term revenue and profitability improvements
Companies have demonstrated measurable improvements in revenues and profits while employing a CCO. In some cases, overall revenue drops after the CCO’s departure. This research shows that the CCO can and should be accountable for improving top-and bottom-line results, although the impact may not be measurable on a quarterly basis.
Recommendation: CEOs should expect the CCO to provide, in addition to intermediate metrics, quantifiable impact on revenue and profits, and ensure the systems are in place to properly track the CCO’s contribution. The CCO should begin by providing a clear line of sight from his or her actions to revenue and profitability. In some cases, the CEO and CCO may need to begin by agreeing upon an intermediate goal of driving loyalty and accept academic research proving that loyalty drives revenue and profit. However, this can only be temporary.
3. In absence of growth, the CCO may help prevent a slide
In some industries that experienced negative growth, the presence of the CCO helped stem the decline suffered through competitors and maintain revenues/profits through stronger customer relationships and trust.
Recommendation: The CCO must “bank” customer trust and loyalty to protect customers against hard times. CEOs need to take a less transactional view of activities that may pay dividends at a later date.
4. Everyone says they are customer centric…
Every company claims to be customer centric, but fewer actually are. Many publicly-stated company policies remain company centric rather than customer centric, and in the end, those whose actions are aligned with their customer needs are more successful.
Recommendation: The CCO should, with the support of the CEO, examine the policies, actions, and restrictions to ensure that customer needs are met on balance with business needs.
This study clearly shows one thing: CCO’s are adding value to the bottom line. While growing steadily from fewer than 30 in 2003, CCOs are the newest, and by far the smallest, component of the C-suite. Many companies look at the CCO position and question if they can afford to add it to their C-Suite team, but the numbers turn that question on its head and ask how they can afford NOT to do so.
Whether you are a company looking to create a CCO position or currently a CCO looking for resources, we invite to you to explore the CCO Council (www.ccocouncil.org) to give you and your company a true competitive advantage.