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The Role of the Chief Customer Officer

Posted: Dec 08, 2022
Read time: 5 minutes
#CX Strategy
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My starting point should be explaining why the CCO role is necessary in the organization and how it fits next to the other established positions. There are roles in the organization that their scope is clear to everyone, no one needs a detailed explanation on what a CFO, CMO, CRO, or CEO does. They simply exist long enough to be known, many people on the market occupy these positions and networks are full of vacancies that provide detailed job descriptions. The Chief Customer Officer, however, is a relatively new role that has been used for various purposes, thus creating confusion on its perimeter.

I would like to use this article to try and clarify the mission of the CCO and the way I think its department needs to be structured to fulfill the mission successfully.

Providing good customer experience is a group effort. Everyone's involvement is necessary: employees, managers, executives, etc., those who have direct contact with customers and those who don’t but create an indirect impact on customer perception of the brand.

The title of a Chief Customer Officer

The first challenge CCOs encounter is in their title, simply because it gives the impression that they are the ones responsible for the customer in the organization. But being responsible for a customer is vague and can mean many things that are already done by other functions like marketeers, account managers, customer service department, etc. And after all, isn’t everyone responsible for making the customer happy? So where does it fit?

If I need to give a short mission statement to a CCO role it would be: oversee the relationship cycle between the brand and its customers to improve their experience while generating revenue and reducing operational costs. This will be done through the launching of initiatives that will fix experience frictions in the priority journeys of the organization and transform the corporate culture to be a customer-centric one.

To successfully accomplish this mission, the CCO needs to have a structured department and collaborate with other business units that will promote change and leverage business transformation. This implies that Chief Customer Officers have both an outside-in and inside-out perspective, they need to play on both sides of the court to align customer needs and expectations with the business goals they serve.

What is a Chief Customer Officer?

A Chief Customer Officer (CCO) is a top-tier executive role within a company, responsible for overseeing and coordinating customer-related activities across all departments. The CCO ensures that the company’s product, sales, and service teams work together to deliver a seamless and positive experience for the customers. This officer plays a crucial role in companies, especially in today’s customer-centric business environment, where the focus is on building strong relationships with customers. The CCO’s responsibilities extend to all aspects of customer interaction, from product development to sales strategies and customer service management. By aligning the efforts of various teams, the Chief Customer Officer helps companies achieve their customer-related goals and objectives.  Ultimately, the CCO’s mission is to create a customer-centric culture within the company, driving growth and success.

The CCO department

The CCO department is the basic establishment that needs to be in place to start fulfilling the mission. The department has to cover several domains of responsibility that contribute to the establishment of a processed way of manag the experience provided to customers, so it is something intentional and not random. 

The CCO department is covering 6 areas, that are aligned with what we call a Customer Experience Program, which should answer fundamental questions related to the way the organization manages its relationship with new and existing customers, including defining the brand promise, the persona segments that are addressed, the customer journeys that are mapped, the process to collect and analyze customer feedback, the measurement of the business performance and last, but not least, the transformation of the organizational culture to a customer-centric one.

Collaboration is the name of the game

While it is clear customer satisfaction is the natural aim of any type of business, in reality it risks being diluted due to the way organizations are structured in silos. This classic business structure, where each department navigates on its own, is the enemy of successful customer experiences, because it promotes the self-interest over the interests of the brand, as well as lacking the global view. We say that customer experience isn’t owned by a specific function in the organization, which is true, but when no one has the distinct responsibility to oversee the relationship cycle between a brand and its customers, anomalies occur.

Therefore, next to the CCO department, a CX Committee needs to exist that will include managers from different business units, where their role is to promote the program internally as ambassadors, as well as arbitrate on issues related to the course of the program.

In addition, journey committees need to be established per group of customer journeys including a cross-functional team that will be responsible to manage the customer journeys over time.

Lastly, in international organizations, there needs to be a local CX Director in every region/country that will serve as a bridge to the central team to execute things locally.

Closing the feedback loop in CX

In practice a Customer Experience program translates into a repetitive cycle of feedback collection, analysis and the execution of changes in the operating model that will reflect in the communication channels used by the customers.

All these actions are aimed at providing a more personalized experience which is the outcome of the feedback analysis. Hence it is up to the Chief Customer Officer to set up this virtuous relationship cycle between the brand and its customers where the collection of feedback feeds the constant improvement of the offer.

Collecting customer feedback without acting upon it is probably worse than doing nothing. In this scenario, we give the customer the impression that we are going to listen to them, they take the time to respond and if nothing changes afterwards, disappointment instils and the brand is damaged. Either you put something complete in place or wait to be ready, don’t implement a partial loop.

CCO as a customer experience fixer

The Chief Customer Officer, as a facilitator that can work across silos, to detect experience frictions and help fix them, is leading the change by injecting the CX best practices into the organization. CCOs need to combine two types of skills: the ability to encode the voice of the customer by developing an intimate understanding of customer needs and expectations, as well as play an operational role and have the means to help the organization fix the issues, especially when they are cross-functional and require the ability to work transversely.

To prevent the work of the CCO department ending up as a one-off exercise, there needs to be in place a repetitive cycle of journey governance that will surface the most up-to-date issues to fix in the priority journeys. Some will be considered as easy fixes that can be executed short term and others will go through a cost/benefit prioritization analysis and will result with long-term CX initiatives that will transform the organization in the longer run.

Show me the money

A Customer Experience program requires funding, someone needs to finance the CX team and the initiatives carried out across the organization. Monetizing Customer Experience is not an easy task, but is absolutely necessary in order to get budget from your CEO every year. You have to be able to translate the contribution of the program to the improvement of customer experience into business values such as revenue, profitability, conversion rate, churn rate, etc.

The demonstration of the business value is done through the definition of a business case for each of the initiatives launched in a way that will create the connection between the experience metrics and the business goals. You can translate any experience friction into money and business value with a simple thought process that is backed by data. Working this way puts the focus on the real value the program is generating for the company and helps CCOs to explain to the executive committee the return on investment of this activity.

Chief Customer Officer Challenges

A Chief Customer Officer (CCO) role comes with its unique set of challenges. One of the main challenges is ensuring that the voice of the customer permeates all levels of the company. This requires fostering a customer-centric culture within the company, which can be difficult in companies where such a culture or operational structure does not already exist. Additionally, the CCO must work closely with different teams to ensure that the company’s products and services meet and exceed customer expectations. This involves coordinating with various departments, which can be complex and time-consuming.

Yes, we can

The Chief Customer Officer responsibility is to never lose sight of the interests of the customer, regardless of the organizational silos, and to guarantee the quality of interactions throughout the customer journey. This outside-in perspective and knowledge of the operations allow them to ensure that the customer remains everyone's priority, from frontline employees to executive committee members hopping through the silos and connecting them, to work together for the benefit of the customer.

Providing good customer experience is a group effort. Everyone's involvement is necessary: employees, managers, executives, etc., those who have direct contact with customers and those who don’t but create an indirect impact on customer perception of the brand. Placing this perception at the center is decisive, because the risk for everyone is significant: that of waking up too late, having missed out on market trends or shifts in customer preferences. This was the case of Nokia with smartphones or Microsoft with mobile operating systems, Kodak with digital cameras, and others that stayed in the comfort zone.

The role of Chief Customer Officer disrupts habits, but also allows ambitious companies to remain agile and take the necessary turns to adapt to the constant changes in our society. The advantage of making this move goes along with what every company is trying to achieve: customer relationships that last over time and are fruitful for both sides.

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