The Goals and Focus of the Chief Customer Officer

Wanted – Chief Customer Officer !

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The above posting for a Chief Customer Officer has been seen in increasing numbers in the past 10 year.  Why you might ask? The reason is simple in that many companies are starting to realize that if the customer is elated with their customer experience, they will transition themselves into unpaid sales and marketing {free} viral agents for the company, telling everybody they encounter how great the company is, how much the company cares about their customers, how they truly deliver wonderful customer experiences. The company then becomes a market leader with a cult-like and rapidly growing customer following while having virtually no sales and marketing budgets.

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Costco wholesale club, which is a membership-only warehouse club store chain has done exactly that and has grown to over 785 locations and nearly 100 million members despite having a minimal marketing and advertising budget. The reason is that they have become a leader in their industry in customer satisfaction and have grown cult-like customer loyalty.

Costco has grown by being a leader in customer service

Costco has grown by being a leader in customer service

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Another firm experiencing dramatic growth with minimal marketing & advertising spend is Chick-fil-A.  Again, there are countless stories about how Chick-fil-A has become a model for delivering legendary customer service and the resulting customer satisfaction.

Chick-fil-A has grown by being a leader in customer service

Chick-fil-A has grown by being a leader in customer service

Due to the success of companies like Costco and Chick-fil-A, companies are now staffing a new position at the CxO level to oversee the holistic development of customer service and experience excellence programs. This relatively new position is called the “Chief Customer Officer” and most top tier companies now have staffed this position.

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Evidence of the growth in this role can be found everywhere like this excerpt from Wikipedia: “A 2010 study by the Chief Customer Officer Council documented that there are approximately 450 executives worldwide with the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) title or having comparable authority and responsibilities under a different title. While growing from fewer than 30 in 2003, CCOs are the newest, and by far the smallest, component of the C-suite. With an average tenure of just 29 months, the chief customer officer has the shortest lifespan among all C-suite executives.[1]

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In addition, Forrester reports that 76% of executives say improving CX is a high or critical priority and many companies have established a C-level position to oversee it. Great read, source: “Why every company needs a Chief Customer Experience Officer”, Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2019/06/why-every-company-needs-a-chief-experience-officer

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Here is the definition of role of the Chief Customer {Experience} Officer (CCO) also from Wikipedia: “the CCO is properly defined as an executive who provides the comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer and creates corporate and customer strategy at the highest levels of the company to maximize customer acquisition, retention, and profitability.”

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In other words, the Chief Customer Officer or Chief Customer Experience Officer is first and foremost a strategist, developing new methods, standards, tools, techniques to develop and deliver world-class customer relationships and experiences. This means the Chief Customer Experience Officer is generally not tactically oriented, focused on customer day-to-day operations or oriented toward Quarterly sales, helping to drive shorter-term customer service cost reductions, etc. These roles are more geared toward customer operations, customer support and/or a process improvement leader.

Chief Customer Officer Humor

Chief Customer Officer Humor

Here is a high-level description of the typical major goals of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO):

  1. Engage the organization in developing and maintaining meaningful and valuable customer relationships

  2. Develop customer service standards that define and deliver consistent levels of legendary superb levels of customer service

  3. Create a customer first mindset in every decision the company makes.

  4. Breakdown organizational and departmental silos as to deliver consistent superb levels of customer service across all customer touch-points (point of purchase, payment, returns, etc.)

  5. Champion cultural change to focus on aligning the company around the customer as well as improving the satisfaction levels of both employees and customers alike._

While the Chief Customer Experience Officer’s primary role is strategic, here are the excerpted requirements from an array of recent Chief Customer Experience Office positions posted on LinkedIn:

  1. Strike the perfect balance between managing a high-performing customer experience team and prospecting/pitching/closing your team’s sales targets –a CCO role should not be oriented toward shorter-term sales!

  2. Directing and overseeing customer support work-flow through Directors, Managers, and Supervisors. –a CCO role should not be geared toward shorter-term tactical operations or be responsible for tactical and current state detailed process.

  3. Handling customer escalations. CCO role should not be geared toward becoming a tactical contact center manager as these tactical duties will consume them and de-focus them from the long-term strategic improvement of the overall customer experience.

  4. Creating a long-term vision for delivering an efficient customer-centric service and support –If the CCO is seeking to drive costs out of the business, then often the customer experience will be sub-optimized, which is contrary to their longer-term customer experience improvement goals. For example, the goal of reducing average call handling time (keep the call as short as possible) often undermines the goal of improving the delivery quality of customer service (staying on the phone longer to find out more about the customer’s needs, information, etc.).

  5. Leading and developing a team that interacts with customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, providing quality support through online help tools, email, text, chat and phone –a CCO role should not be geared toward becoming a tactical contact center manager as the tactical and reactive management of customer issues will likely be all consuming, leaving little focus or time for the more strategic effectiveness improvements

  6. Lead for {company name} on client relationships during the sales campaign and establish appropriate relationship mapping between {company name} and the client organization through various departments (marketing, legal, operations, IT, etc.) and play a lead the sales kick off process –a CCO role should not be geared toward short-term sales, but rather on improving longer-term sales rates via improving the customer experience which will in turn drive more rapid and increasing customer acquisition, increased customer loyalty, increased same customer spend, etc._

The above requirements hint to the fact that they are not truly bought into the role of a Chief Customer Officer from a strategic standpoint and are really looking for a tactical manager to drive short-term profits.  In addition, without having the role at the CxO level, there will be minimal leverage in making strategic and longitudinal changes that dramatically improve the customer service quality to superb/legendary levels.

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Below is my viewpoint on how to best structure the office of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) whereby a better balance can be maintained between the strategic focus of the role and the tactical focus. In other words, if you are going to co-mingle both the ongoing tactical customer focus and the strategic focus of making revolutionary changes in your customer service such that the customer experience becomes legendary, then the following organizational structure is recommended.

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Optimal Chief Customer Officer Goals & Organizational Structure

Optimal Chief Customer Officer Goals & Organizational Structure

 

Only when you consistently achieve outstanding customer service ratings will you develop customer service into a competitive advantage

Only when you consistently achieve outstanding customer service ratings will you develop customer service into a competitive advantage

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Here is a company that got it mostly right with their recent posting on LinkedIn for a Chief Customer Experience Officer that will be strategic and will be truly at the CxO level:

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Chief Customer Experience Officer – NYC

What You Will Do

As the Chief Customer Experience Officer, you will play a significant role in implementing the strategic goal of providing industry-leading products and services.–Ok as it is strategic focused, but should have mentioned service quality, levels, etc. While the CCO should provide insights and customer feedback into product and service needs, deficiencies, etc., they should not be placed in charge of product or service line development as these roles require a different skill set.

As The Chief Customer Experience Officer, You Will

  • Set an inspirational vision and establish clear objectives, goals and milestones for the customer experience strategy; –Excellent, strategic (vs. tactically) focused

  • Drive continuous improvement and champion positive change to improve service levels and increase customer satisfaction; –Great: Strategic Change agent, Chief Customer Advocate

  • Act as a content expert on emerging customer experience trends and best practices; –Excellent: Longer-term focused on achieving quantum improvements in customer experience (vs. focused on smaller tactical improvements)

  • Measure and observe customer usage and satisfaction and incorporate those findings into product and service developments; –Excellent: Acts as the Steven Covey, “Sharpen the Saw” person/organization focused on continuous customer experience improvement.

  • Identify and implement industry best practices, strategies, and processes to support a best-in-class service experience; and –Perfect: Performs as a strategic center of excellence for making major holistic improvements in all things related customer experience

  • Work closely with key cross-functional stakeholders to improve customer experience, ensuring customer priorities are considered. -Great: Works strategically across groups to enact global customer experience changes vs. tactically focused on reactive customer service which will not move the needle across the enterprise.

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Other (top 10) Chief Customer responsibilities that might be found in the role description are as follows:

  1. Customer Insight Management. Develops and supports a voice of the customer program aimed at ensuring customer input, feedback and insights is incorporated into all ongoing programs that the customer experiences.

  2. Customer Experience Measurement. Create and track key customer experience metrics and related management reports and dashboards.

  3. Employee Customer-centric communications. Make sure that employees are informed and engaged in all customer programs as well as their results, shortfalls, improvements, strengths, etc.

  4. Customer Journey and Process improvement. Help the organization map customer journeys and then redesign and/or optimize the overall customer management processes.

  5. Customer Advocacy. Make sure that customers’ needs are taken into account in all key organizational decisions. Go beyond this and include the customer in the decision making process prior to any major program’s launch (practiced at world-class customer service leaders like Wells Fargo, Apple, Southwest Airlines, Marriott, etc. and is a growing practice being adopted by many market leaders)

  6. Customer Culture DevelopmentEnsure that customer excellence programs are not being created in a vacuum and that there is an ongoing continuous improvement program to ensure high levels of employee satisfaction through a supportive customer culture.

  7. Customer Service Training. Actively work on improving the organization’s customer service capability and employee service aptitude by developing and delivering training that supports the achievement of customer service standards and policy.

  8. Issue resolution management. Establish and support the process for solving customer issues that get escalated.

  9. Cross-organizational Coordination. Support the cross-functional teams and processes that govern the customer experience efforts across all organizational silos.

  10. Develop Surprise and Delight Customer Service Systems that drive exceptional and world-class customer service as to develop a cult-like brand following and advocacy from customers.

Responsibilities on the Radar of the Chief Customer Officer

Responsibilities on the Radar of the Chief Customer Officer

Beyond the typical ‘been there, done that job’ job positing information found above that you would otherwise see in a typical posting for a Chief Customer Officer, here are some additional guideposts and qualifiers to use as to what attributes and experience a great Chief Customer Officer should possess (sample-based on my own personal experience and interactions with Chief Customer Officers):

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  • Key Motivators and Drivers:

    1. Truly believes the customer comes first and when superb customer service is being delivered, then profits will follow

    2. Believes that a great culture must be developed and supported in order for great customer service to be developed and delivered

    3. Biggest career satisfaction is derived from the stories of surprise and delight exceptional customer service from both customers and the employees that made a difference in their customer’s lives

    4. Believes in receiving customer feedback and believes customers should be encouraged to provide insights, feedback, improvement ideas, etc. in addition, the truly great CCO views customer complaints as a valuable gift to the business since these insights are key customer service improvement opportunities.

    5. Is generally a people person and cares about their team and especially cares about their customers, is truly a customer advocate

    6. Believes the role of the Chief Customer Officer is to strategically develop and position the company to become the industry leader for customer service 2nd to none whereby customers are drawn to the company organically through word-of-mouth referrals.

  • Customer service related experience, attributes, skills:

    1. Has experienced first-hand what world-class customer service looks like numerous times and can provide examples

    2. Is a strategic customer visionary with the skills to bridge the gap from conceptual program visioning to customer service program implementation

    3. Has personally provided a great deal of personal customer feedback on sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, Facebook, Glassdoor, etc. (i.e. he/she has walked the walk).

    4. Has a blog or other thought leading set of materials that reflects their views on how to develop or deliver great customer service

    5. Has experienced abject poor customer service and, as a result, is on a mission to ensure customers under his/her authority experience the complete opposite – superb customer service

    6. Has experience in delivering and receiving what I call surprise and delight customer service whereby the customer is elated by the service delivery and reports being extremely satisfied (10 on a scale of 10) by their customer service experience

    7. Is skilled at breaking down organizational silos in order to create a persistent customer-first mentality across departments, locations, and all customer contact channels.

    8. Possesses natural diplomacy skills, an innovative spirit and a quantitative data-driven mind-set.

    9. Is excited about and totally motivated to change the life of the customer for the better

    10. Can reference 2-3 companies that they consider as models for how to deliver world-class customer service and customer experience and frequent these companies as a result.

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More than anything listed above, the last item is what I consider the most important. The best CCOs I have spoken to are excited about changing the customer experience for the better and become as excited when talking about the subject as they do when speaking about their own family. They have and do go on for hours when on the topic of customers and customer experience including speaking about the future of the customer experience, the major customer trends, their top customer success stories, etc. You can tell when a Chief Customer Office has truly found their calling as they are truly passionate, if not obsessed, about the topic.

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Summary:

  • The role of the Chief Customer Officer is important to ensure that the goal of making customer service a distinct competitive advantage is achieved. Having the role represented at the CxO level (along with COO, CIO, etc.) ensures the function is adequately funded and has the authority/influence to drive customer focused cross-enterprise changes and collaboration, etc.

  • Some companies are diluting the strategic focus and role of Chief Customer Office by assigning them both strategic tasks as well as tactical tasks.

  • Companies are giving the Chief Customer Officer the responsibility for developing customer service as a long-term strategic competitive advantage while simultaneously requiring them to drive short-term sales, revenue and customer operations efficiency improvements.

  • By focusing the Chief Customer Office on short-term and tactical and ongoing customer service assignments, the company will be much less likely to develop customer service into a distinct competitive advantage and attain market leader status based on service differentiation.

  • Once the CCO is able to focus strategically and make quantum improvements in service quality, it will become a distinct competitive advantage and then sales and revenue will soar over the longer-term from the grass roots customer following that will result._

If your organization is seeking a proven resource in measuring and improving your customer service and experience or need advice on hiring a Chief Customer Officer (CCO), then give me a call or e-mail me at 518-339-5857 or stevenjeffes@gmail.com

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Lastly, this is just one article of 50 articles I have written on customer strategy, customer experience, CRM, marketing, product management, competitive intelligence, corporate innovation, change management – all of which I have significant experience in delivering for Fortune 500 companies.  In fact, my blog is now followed by nearly 121,000 world-wide and was just named one of the top 100 CRM blogs on the planet by Feedspot, alongside Salesforce.com, Infor, Microsoft, SAS, etc. – Reference this informative site here: https://blog.feedspot.com/crm_blogs/

 [1] Chief Customer Officer Council (2015), The 2014 CCO Council Chief Customer Officer Study, Predictive Consulting Group, Inc.

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