The concept of a Chief Customer Officer (CCO or, sometimes, CXO) is still pretty fresh for a lot of organizations. I’ve even posted a video to go over some of the simple questions like, Why should you have a CCO and what are the benefits? But just what a CCO is sometimes feels foreign, even though the responsibilities are pretty simple to analogize to other leadership roles in any organization. As with these other positions, the job can be broadly broken down into two main hats the CCO wears: one as a leader and representative of an important part of the organization on the leadership team, and the other focused functionally and inwardly.
If that sounds familiar, it should. In much the same way as the Chief Finance Officer is responsible not only for the day-to-day keeping of the books but also for bringing insights from that bookkeeping into the leadership team in order to offer guidance and expert opinion on what those finances are saying and what we should do about it, the Chief Customer Officer likewise has a team of CX experts deriving Customer-centric insights and acting on them (day-to-day functions), while also representing that part of the business in a collaborative effort to make the best strategic decisions as a leadership team on behalf of the organization.
When it comes to the CCO functional responsibilities, they fall into three categories: the Voice of the Customer (VoC) program, Process Engineering (PE), and Customer-centric culture. These all work together to create an ecosystem from which the CCO draws insights to inform the rest of the leadership team (the other part of the CCO’s job) about how decisions they make will impact the Customer and the impact that will have on the organization as a whole.
Let’s start with the functional part of the job:
Day-to-day, the VoC program has to be executed and maintained. Lots of folks think this simply has to do with sending out, receiving, and analyzing surveys. Depending on your Customer profiles, this may be a huge part of this aspect of the work. But it’s almost universally true that if all your VoC program consists of is surveys, you’re not doing enough. You should also be doing market analysis, interviewing Customers, analyzing your Customer relationships, sending out secret shoppers, scouring social media, and most importantly walking in the Customers’ shoes yourself. Your Voice of the Customer efforts should be exhaustive, creative, and most of all, curious in nature with the end-goal being insights much more than determining your score or even where you stack up against your competitors. Naturally, everybody is going to be interested in quantifying your progress and industry comparisons…in a perfect world, that’d only be a secondary concern. But the prize you should be looking for from your VoC program is the identification of opportunities to improve your organization’s policies, processes, or products to better serve your Customers.
All that insight isn’t worth anything if it isn’t channeled into action. That’s where you should be leveraging a robust and deep bench of Process Engineers to root out dissatisfying experiences for your Customers and re-tooling what you do and what you build in order to improve those interactions with your brand. It’s a shame (but I see it all the time) when organizations hire outside survey companies, internal data analyst wizards, and inspirational leaders to bring it all together, only to culminate in a ten-minute, two-slide cameo in the CEO’s monthly or quarterly song-and-dance presentation about how we’re doing so much better (or worse) than the last time this chart was updated and presented. What a waste of resources and a lost opportunity! Simply put, if tracking and reporting of your VoC metrics is the end of your work, you’re doing it wrong. You should be putting people to work not on PowerPoint presentations showing top-level CX numbers, but rather highly-skilled Lean Six Sigma Black Belts and other process- and change-management experts to not only identify why the numbers are where they are, but also to fix the root-causes once found. The insights from the VoC program are the stuff that feeds the machinery of improvement in your organization; you have to act on it.
All of this transactional work needs to be supported by a healthy Customer-centric culture within your organization. The work of your Process Engineering function will require cross-functional buy-in and cooperation. While the CCO will drive leadership buy-in from above, a truly Customer-centric organization requires support and programming that permeates the very culture of the company. Just as every other function across the business requires a degree of awareness and shared belief, even more-so the Customer needs to be present in the daily lives of all members of the team. While it may not seem as directly impactful as the VoC or Process Engineering part of the operational duties of the CCO, culture can be incredibly powerful, and even a lot of fun.
Now on to the leadership part of the CCO’s job:
Mastering and bringing to bear the impact of all three of these functional responsibilities of the Chief Customer Officer (and more broadly the Office of the Customer he or she leads) arms the CCO with the tools and credibility and information not only to move the company in a more Customer-focused direction, in practical purposes it also offers the leadership of the organization something that’s invaluable: The Customer will have a seat at the table. When big decisions are made and compromises forged between different functional parts of the business or something occurs in one segment that impacts the operations of another and potentially the overall impact on the company itself, it’s wise to have all stakeholders in the organization represented so nothing falls through the cracks. You wouldn’t make decisions, for example, about changing a product offering without including representation from your supply chain, your sales department, engineering, etc. Yet, it’s a shame that in so many companies, the Customer—truly the most important constituency—isn’t represented. In a similar way that the CFO would highlight financial impacts of a proposal or the COO will discuss the operational considerations of a suggested change to processes, the Chief Customer Officer needs to be at the table to voice the response the Customer may have to something new or different the company may do. Without these insights, it’s likely to be too late when the Customer finds out after a change has already been made.
In a similar way to his or her peers on the leadership team, the Chief Customer Officer has responsibilities to make sure certain trains run on time and internal workings are operating correctly when it comes to the VoC, Process Engineering, and Customer-centric culture programs. Additionally, just like any other member of the leadership team, the CCO is also responsible for representing the vital constituency (in this case, the Customer) when big decisions have to be made at the corporate level. These two equally important parts make up the overall responsibility of the Chief Customer Officer.