Since 2003, the role of the Chief Customer Officer has gone from numbering under 30 to numbering in the thousands today. While still new and evolving, this role holds promise for significance in building true customer-centric businesses. An interesting development during the past ten years is counterintuitive. The role sounds logical for large enterprises. According to Curtis Bingham, the Executive Director of the Chief Customer Officer Council, the largest concentration of CCO’s has been in mid-size companies.
Bob Thompson, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of CustomerThink, recently covered Forrester’s report on How Chief Customer Officers Orchestrate Experiences by Forrester Principal Analyst Paul Hagan. One of Paul’s key findings is the primary role of the Chief Customer Officer as the orchestrator of customer experiences. Bob echoed a concern I have also. Despite Paul Hagan’s report noting 85% of CCO’s sit on executive teams, I believe they do not yet have the “necessary clout” as Bob stated.
In the new digital age, the Chief Customer Officer can play a central role in two big areas. One, be the organization’s core buyer and customer insight function. Two, be the organization’s principal map builder of the buyer and customer journey. In addition to being the orchestrator of customer experiences, it can create the hub for executive teams to develop the spokes of buyer and customer insight-driven strategies.
The outcome for Chief Customer Officers is they will have the necessary clout in organizations to propel real change. While customer experience should be one of the main elements of this role, I also believe it can evolve to a new level of prominence. How ? By being the key to buyer and customer insight executives hunger for.
A New Charter
Chief Customer Officers can be pivotal in redefining how companies should map the journey buyers and customers can take with their organization. Note I use the word map. This means truly understanding the critical paths to purchase and repurchase which are taken from the buyer and customer’s perspective. Aligning as well as innovating new engagement strategies based on buyer and customer insights.
This represents a new charter for Chief Customer Officers. What can happen often, with good intentions, new customer journeys and touchpoints are established with a focus on experiences. They may not be well grounded in deep profound buyer and customer insights. And, they do not represent a hub and spoke connection to strategies. New customer experience programs are announced with trumpets yet after the meeting – everyone goes back to their way of doing business. Yes, there are metrics. But metrics have a funny way of sometimes trying to force compliance. No doubt a continuing source of frustration.
In Bob Thompson’s commentary, he mentions Forrester’s call for a strategic mandate:
Forrester says one precondition for success is a “strategic mandate,” which means “the executive team must define the purpose for appointing a CCO, build customer experience into the company strategy, and adopt companywide customer experience metrics that correlate with key business performance outcomes.”
I agree with Bob, it is a mouthful. It is a focus however on one element of the CCO purpose. Customer experience. This is also the place where I have a different view. This focus is faced with the difficult challenge of “build…into.” What do I mean? It means you have compartmental thinking of various strategies taking place. The CCO struggles with attempting to get inside each of these strategies and implanting customer experience.
My perspective is one of a hub and spoke imagery. The hub of the CCO function informing and offering the connective means for each department to plug their spoke of strategies into. Strategies related to marketing, sales, support, and operations are informed by continual deep buyer and customer insight. Good customer experience is the result. The hub serves as the common insights and communications platform for knowledge about buyers and customers. To me, this is real clout and a real purpose.
Credibility is going to be a major issue soon if not already. Buyers and customers are being bombarded daily with the new fondness of content marketing. I believe for those not doing it effectively, which are many according to several reports, it is chipping away at credibility rapidly. The Chief Customer Officer role and function, as the hub of insights and informing knowledge of customers, can shape insight-driven customer strategies related to marketing, sales, support, and operations. Which the byproduct becomes experiences buyers and customers marvel at. This is what will help companies to restore credibility being lost.
(I am tackling a tough topic here. I welcome further conversations with CCO’s, CMO’s, and CSO’s to offer help and gain further perspectives. Please share this widely – it may offer the perspective a CCO and his/her peers have been seeking.)