Customer Experience

Who Is Your Chief Customer Officer?

In my role as market connector, I constantly meet people with all sorts of job titles, many of which didn't exist even a couple of years ago. Some reflect a “cool” factor a lot more than substance. Others signal strategic intent translated into an organizational decision. Recently, there's been a burst of senior-level titles talking with a new look at the client. Included in this are chief customer officer, chief customer experience officer and variants.

What are these roles about, and just what value would they bring?

I'm not one to believe that titles on their own matter much. Actually, I think the hierarchical behavior and entitlements that titles convey can be destructive to the collaborative environment needed to nurture enduring, customer-centric results.

But I also think it's worth any executive's time for you to contemplate the need for an empowered chief customer or experience officer and why others might be going down this path. Is it right for you? Is it real or is it window dressing? What can it potentially accomplish? Who should wear this hat to generate impact?

Why possess a chief customer or experience officer?

Last month, I wrote about marketing myths and truths at a time of technology disruption and customer empowerment. Any leader need to look whatsoever of her resources – including people, dollars and infrastructure – and drive the alterations required to attract and win the loyalty of target customers. For the vast majority of companies, the status quo is not the answer.

The chief customer or experience officer defines and steers the transformation by defining the execution plan aligning resources to deliver around the customer needs that matter. The plan should link customer priorities to a business' financial objectives. He mobilizes employees, and his appointment could be a powerful signal in the CEO the customer should be in the center of all things the company does.

Why won't status quo work?

Traditional company structures weren't built round the customer. Companies were organized for efficiency, control and predictability. The problem is that these priorities on their own end up constraining the agility fundamental to delivering a productive, positive customer experience – one that motivates trial, purchase, recommendation and other behaviors reflecting loyalty to some brand.

The chief customer or experience officer provides leadership to assist the company embrace agility as answer to a person experience that is managed to deliver business results – bottom and top line. Simultaneously, they must partner with peers to ensure the company doesn't lose sight of the fundamentals of efficiency and control, especially to satisfy regulatory necessitates that are “lights on” needs within the insurance sector.

What's happening inside your organization?

Start by wondering a couple of questions:

  • When decisions are being made, are employees whatsoever levels and processes contemplating the outcome around the customer? Do employees shape their actions around delivering value to the customer? Does anyone ask, “What's the impact around the customer?” And, do other participants in the conversation care?
  • Does your organization behave as although the right experience will deliver business results, or do people express the belief that doing exactly what the customer wants is really a tradeoff to financial results? When the latter is the situation, it is possible receiving a strong signal that your journey to some great customer experience may need a clear, crisp pivot.
  • Do you measure customer satisfaction across the entire experience? Does your methodology gather only customer support feedback for that subset of consumers who're reaching out, or do you look at channel results holistically?
  • Are you utilizing a methodology that connects client satisfaction towards the end-to-end experience with using the services of all of you the way in which right through to how satisfaction levels have an effect on financials? A “yes” to this last question means you're closer to best-in-class practices.

What's right for my organization?

If you need to steer your organization toward being truly customer-focused – if you believe this is a must-do in today's economy – a chief customer or experience officer provides one approach that can be a mobilizing force for change.

As with any business goal, the buck needs to stop with an individual, which individual has to be someone below the CEO for day-to-day actions toward results. The title matters less than the accountability, leadership profile and empowerment of whoever is offered this mission.

Be conscious that merely appointing someone to a job accomplishes little. Driving customer metrics necessitates the same type of ownership as any result you are attempting to achieve. But such an appointment doesn't absolve the CEO or even the remaining C-suite from taking responsibility for the transformation to customer-centricity. All of those other executive team must align with the chief customer or experience officer's plans and engage they are driving action among the people they lead.

What does it decide to try set the role up for achievement?

This role isn't for that faint-hearted. Frankly, the technical skill background could be just about anything. The make-or-break will be the leadership profile: an influencer, a collaborator, a team-builder and someone who is a dot-connector, a naturally customer-obsessed person who is curious enough to always ask, “What would our customers want/say/think/do?” As well as an astute observer who recognizes that great experiences come from deep understanding of people's behavior – the way they complete tasks and go about solving life's daily problems.

Then there are the must-dos for just about any role to be given serious attention and set up for achievement – real resources to get the job done, shared expectations of time-to-impact and metrics that link your customer strategy to bottom-line impact combined with the IT capacity to reach the metrics with accuracy on the routine basis.

What's the down-side?

The chief customer or experience officer is a change agent. As with any change agent role, you will find above-average risks to carrying out the mission with success. As in any transformation role you will see conflict. Result in the conflict a stimulus for constructive steps forward, and see it as being a method to achieve big breakthroughs, but be ready for conflict to occur. Strong leaders know how to convert conflict into opportunity.

The main point here

Even exploring the value and impact of the chief customer or experience officer means you recognize the necessity to improve your organization's customer focus.

Remember, being customer-focused doesn't mean giving customers what you want. It's about:

  • Zeroing in around the audience you want to serve
  • Being in a position to identify audience members so that you can establish and make authentic relationships
  • Inspiring them to see your logo and offerings as highly relevant to their lives
  • Achieving win/win outcomes of these individuals and for your business.

What business doesn't need to make this happen?

So, what exactly are you waiting for?