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23 October 2017

Wanted: Chief Customer Officer

Getting closer to your customers? Companies like Amazon, that leaves one seat open during meetings because it is occupied by their most important stakeholder – the customer – , or Zappos who even created a ‘School of WOW Customer Service Training’, are living proof of the importance of customer centricity. Like Peter Drucker stated so well: “With respect to the definition of business purpose and business mission, there is only one such focus, one starting point. It is the customer (…) any serious attempt to state ‘what our business is’ must start with the customer’s realities, his situation, his behavior, his expectations, and his values.”


Nowadays, to achieve a competitive advantage you have to look beyond fulfilling the functional needs of your customer. Customers are not just looking for your product and/or service, they look for engagement. They want to get to know the true reason of your existence. They value a consistent, relevant and personalized (the right message to the right person at the right time) experience across different channels, both offline as online.

Customer centricity isn’t a ‘nice-to-have’ anymore. It’s an absolute strategic imperative. In our Yearly Marketing Survey 53% of Belgian marketers claim to have a very customer centric company. Since customers should be at the heart of your business, it makes sense to appoint someone in charge of advocating them, a real customer champion. And here is where the Chief Customer Officer comes into play. His main role is to not only create but also implement a customer centric strategy.

In order to create that strategy, the Chief Customer Officer needs to gather in-depth customer insights. He has to challenge the existing assumptions about the customers’ expectations and their level of satisfaction. Collecting customer insights is not a one-time exercise, it should happen on a regular basis to ensure correct response to changing consumers’ expectations.

Once he has collected the required data to have a holistic view on the customers’ needs, he should find a balance between what the customer wants and the strategic objectives of the company. After having built the customer centric strategy, the CCO should have the power to implement it. There are two types of authority that can be granted: line authority and process authority. If the CCO has line authority over customer-facing functions (like sales or customer service), he has the power to give employees incentives to reorient and prioritize their actions around the customer. Nevertheless, the CCO will not be able to fully control the customer experience because there are a lot of processes that are executed in non-customer-facing functions (like R&D). So ideally the CCO should have both authorities, line and process, to be able to optimize every touchpoint of the customer journey.

Even with the appropriate authority, good storytelling is still a crucial part to get all employees on board. The CCO should communicate internally the wants and needs of customers and stress the importance of it at all levels within the company. CCOs must make it clear for all employees that customers aren’t faceless numbers and explain them how everyone can contribute to create customer value. Besides his responsibility to communicate the voice of the consumer internally, it is essential to also communicate the corporate strategy externally to both existing and new customers.

In order to delight customers even further, breaking down organizational silos across the company is part of the CCO’s job. Many companies use different data sets across departments and don’t always share all the information they gather about the customer with each other. As a result, silos form a barrier to fully understand the customer and thus to deliver a superior experience. The CCO can overcome that barrier by overseeing communication efforts and creating an environment that encourages open communication and collaboration across the whole company.

Finally, to achieve all these goals
establishing a strong customer-centric culture in the company is a prerequisite. Changing a deeply ingrained culture is maybe the most difficult part of the CCO’s job. But what if the company already has a customer centric culture? Is this new C-level role than obsolete? In my opinion, the CCO role should still be created so that the voice of the customer can be heard across the entire company. On top of that, I think that in the future it would be beneficial if the CEO takes on the role of the CCO. Because let’s be honest, isn’t he the person with the most influence over his C-level-peers? The CEO of the future becoming the CCO of today? Why not!

A CCO is a powerful asset to grow your customer base, enable longer-lasting customer relationships, convert customers into loyal ambassadors and drive profitable customer behavior. Do you already have a CCO in your company? Don’t wait too long…


Discover more about the importance of Customer Centricity in our Yearly Marketing Survey 2017

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Bingham, Davis, GrayHagen, Unsplash