The importance of the role of the CCO in a global organisation

By the corporate definition, a chief customer officer (CCO) is the executive responsible in customer-centric companies for the total relationship with an organization’s customers. This position is relatively new addition in the C-suite, and was developed to provide a single vision across all methods of customer contact.

The CCO is often responsible for influencing corporate activities of customer relations in the call centre, sales, marketing, user interface, finance (billing), fulfilment and post-sale support.

In reality, the CCO role often requires a skill set that is difficult to either find or acquire within the context of a large corporation – understanding the needs and requirements of many different corporate departments and then filtering it through meeting the end goals of the customer; as well a strong understanding of diverse disciplines of corporate strategy, digital, operations, employee engagement, marketing, technology, etc.

The identification in the need of a CCO within an organisation can be considered difficult for a CEO or company Board of Directors given the relative originality of the role within the traditional C-suite players.

Skills Divisions

To be successful, a qualified CCO has to be exposed and have an understanding of all aspects of the business core (including, but not limited to, the departments of Corporate Strategy, Operations, Marketing, IT, Product Development, Legal, HR, Sales, Finance and Digital) to drive the needs of the customers to the forefront of the business.

That being said, CCOs are charged with ensuring that an organization’s customer experience is considered by all departments, in all major decisions, at all times. He or she is the one executive whose job it is to represent the views and need of the customer within their organisation and drive the vision to consider the actions of the customer paramount within the company.

The trouble is the base directives of the CCO position are often at odds with the other edicts of the organisation, particularly the ones that are focused on cutting bottom line costs to make the numbers at the end of financial quarter.

These are the very cuts that often affect the customer experience.  It is also something that usually doesn’t show an immediate pay off – there are no “quick fixes” when it comes to instilling a good customer culture as it is a continual on-going process.

For this reason, the CCO must be diplomatic, strategic and patient in order to affect any real change that will achieve his or her goals.

There is a strong need for an educational aspect to the position to be successful as well – the CCO needs the ability to show the leaders in the organisation how & why they aim to do something that may initially ruffle feathers – and what the fruitful pay-off will be for all parties long-term.  Ideally a successful CCO is able to show the expected results to all the interested parties before the projects are started and walk them through the process and how it will affect each of the departments.

We believe that the clear viewpoints CCO services provide are a critical part of any organisation’s executive team. If you find that CCO services are a need within your organisation, I would offer my top 6 list of “Must-Haves” for the position to be successful. They are:

Ensure that the CCO has both Responsibility & Authority

An increasing number of companies have taken the important step of including a CCO as part of their management team. But a recent Forrester Research report shows that nearly half of them are not included in their executive management team.

This is a massive error in hindsight because one cannot have true responsibility for an aspect of their job unless they have the authority to make decisions that accomplish the organisation’s goals — with the support of the CEO and the company Board of Directors. Having both responsibility and authority is a sign of the maturity of the organization that employs a capable executive in the role of CCO. Furthermore, it is a sign of your organization’s commitment to the customer experience and taking advantage of all the benefits contained within.

Teamwork across the organisation

The role of the CCO requires the skill of exemplary collaboration & aptitude to work across the entire organisation. It is important that you employ your best listening skills within the context of each department to get the necessary information you need to come up with a mutually beneficial solution to the challenge at hand. Once you have this solution, you must be able deliver a definitive message – in a pleasant way– that leaves no room for negotiation to overcome organizational silos.

Measure the impression

One of the important parts of the CCO job is being able to measure the impact on the organization. This may include creating new metrics for the organisation to help show the value.  Be sure to measure everything that the customer touches (“touch points”) during their interaction with your organisation, but don’t get too hung up on individual parts. Remember that the whole customer experience is worth more than the sum of the parts.

Promote a culture of responsibility for all departments and individuals

When there are poor results regarding customer experience in your organisation, be sure to identify and hold accountable the department responsible. Be able to pinpoint the specific problem and hold that department’s feet to the fire. The accountability must be tactically delivered but met with strong plan to resolve and repair the issues.

Understand that Customer Strategy is not just rational elements

One of the many challenges of the CCO position is the nebulous nature of the “Voice of the Customer” directive. Customer experience isn’t just a bunch of numbers on a spreadsheet to be shifted around as requirements need. Numbers and data play a part in the experience, but there are definitive elements that don’t relate to customer evangelism. Be able to understand that what a customer says they will do and what they actually do may be two entirely different things.

Remember that people are happy until you ask them to do something

Many departments may be perfectly happy to agree that Customer Experience (CX) development is important to the future of your organization. They may even be happy to take a meeting about the topic with you. But know that once you begin to assert for change in their department, their enjoyment level will drop significantly, as will their level of cooperation. This is common in company politics.

But with the CCO’s collaboration skills, exceptional commitment to listening and creating mutually beneficial solutions, and pleasant but firm approach, they will be able to navigate this hurdle and emerge on the other side as a successful and valued team member.

Following these six directives as the new Chief Customer Officer, the CCO, in conjunction with the CEO, will be able to promote and improve the customer focus of your organization with the results the organisation is hoping to have and expected to get. After all, there is a reason the company tasked a CCO with this objective.