6 Conditions for Considering a Chief Customer Officer

Suggesting a Chief Customer Officer may seem frivolous to leaders who believe they already focus on customers. There’s often a proliferation of tactics and projects underway…the problem is they don’t amount to anything significant for customers.

1. Will leaders be okay with someone (other than themselves) driving consensus on customer strategy and deliverables?  You may be saying, “We have consensus now.”  I’m sure that you’ve had some good meetings, but how much of it stuck?  When they were over, did everyone return to their respective corners and business as usual?

→ Critical checkpoint: Company alignment around customer experience.

Getting company alignment is tricky. You may need someone full time to ensure it exists for your direction with customers.

2. What about sustaining the work?  After the first and second meeting of what I call the funky task force on the customer work, people start to lose interest.  You know these meetings.  The kick-off has forty people at the table. One month later, six regularly show up.  And the person who got the job to run the task force layered on top of his/her “regular” job?  Well, they’re losing interest fast.

→ Critical checkpoint: Driving this work needs reliability and hard-wired participation.  Do you have headcount and staff time commitments to drive customer work forward?

3. Do you have a central roadmap that everyone follows on how you’ll drive the customer work and measure progress?  I didn’t think so.  How about consistent metrics everyone agrees to?  We have metrics galore in our companies and of course the ‘customer’ is now on our scorecards.  But these are typically neither clear nor connected down to the operational level.

→ Critical checkpoint: Clear metrics are connected to the operational level. 

4. Are roles and responsibilities and holding people accountable a slippery slope? This is all about mechanics and the hand-offs between the silos.

→ Critical checkpoint: A unified task list that clearly states what each part of the organization will do and when to get the priorities accomplished.

5. Is funding customer projects like pulling teeth?  This may be due to duplicate spending across the organization.  Everything is pitched as an individual program from inside the silos.  At planning time these investments are often vulnerable in the first round of budget cuts.  Why?  Because each project shows up as a one-off tactic.

→ Critical checkpoint: An annual plan for understanding and managing customers as a key corporate asset  (This means knowing how many were lost and why, and pooling resources to keep and grow profitable customers.)

6. Are you at the lip service stage or is there true commitment?  Are leaders committing to customers, but not changing the metrics or the motivation to realign business priorities? 

→ Critical checkpoint: Associates’ success and career paths are tied to their accountability for how their actions impact customers.

Most leaders wouldn’t refute that any of these actions are important.  They want them to happen.  They’ve always wanted them.  Their failure has been in assuming the company could miraculously defy the laws of the silos to make them a reality.  Separate motivation, the metrics and the mechanics have stayed firmly rooted in each silo.   And they will continue to stay there until someone duct-tapes the silos together in a unified and executable customer plan.


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