More organizations are adding the chief customer officer role to their C-Suite, and being responsible for bringing on this new high-level executive is no easy feat. To start, it’s a role that not all CEOs have figured out how to incorporate into the business. On top of that, the purpose of the CCO is to be a change agent within the organization, which inevitably stimulates more engagement from the C-Suite and team leaders. The CCO looks for ways to improve operations and change mindsets to focus on customer-driven growth.
I recently wrote a blog post with key questions to help potential CCO candidates prepare for their interviews in the challenging role. I also share that potential CCO candidates should be prepared to ask the CEO “how will this organization support me in this role?” I want to expound on the concept of CCO support and reiterate how important it is for senior executives to know that a personal commitment is required of them in order to make this a successful business decision. To help CEOs considering a CCO, I’ve outlined eight major actions that should be taken to ensure CCO success.
Eight CEO Actions to Increase CCO Success
1. Take Personal Ownership
When an organization commits to a CCO, the CEO must position the work as a priority of their agenda. People need to understand that they will be delivering directly to you through working with the CCO.
As CEO, do you clearly articulate what you want the company to become for customers and constantly reinforce and drive the company in that direction?
Is there a commitment for organizational transformation, not just one-off tactics and silver bullets?
2. Make the Customer Leadership Executive an Officer of the Company
The CCO needs to be considered as a peer among the C-Suite. Ensure that the CCO has a role in the critical planning meetings to guarantee that the customer agenda is wired in. Incorporate part of your staff meetings to be facilitated by the CCO to drive the agenda. Especially in the early stages, make suggestions for meetings and events that the CCO should present at, participate in, or be invited to. I can’t stress this point enough: If the CCO is not an officer, the customer effort will be greatly compromised. It’s human nature that peers won’t be as anxious to be led by someone at a lower level. Don’t put changing the course of human nature on the back of the CCO. The CCO will have enough to handle in working with you to change the course of how the company thinks about customers.
As CEO, have you layered this work onto someone’s already over-full plate, or is there recognition that this is a critical job for the organization that requires an immense time commitment?
Have you ensured that the role is positioned as an officer of the company with the full support and engagement of the CEO, leaders and the organization?
3. Establish Acceptance/Role Clarity/Suspend Cynicism
After initiating the CCO job, it’s important to establish the working relationship between the company leadership and the CCO. Agree with the other leaders how they will personally engage with the CCO and how their organizations will participate with you.
Is the leadership team in alignment about the role and how they interact as a team?
Is there clarity across the organization that this role is to enable and establish a one-company approach and discipline to customer experience, not to take over their work?
4. Accelerate CCO Value right Away
Put the CCO in the position of doing specific and tangible work within the first month of the job. Engage the leadership team to be personally involved in guiding version one of the five competencies.
Make it the first order of business to drive the metrics of customer loyalty and customer profitability. Define your company’s customer asset components, the players necessary to build them, and how leaders will work with the CCO to incorporate the metrics into running the business. If done well, this will further remove people’s questions about the validity for the CCO and will move the company early on from talk to action. This type of tangible kick-start will help you gain the momentum you need for the long-term success of the CCO.
Are tactical projects put in motion so that people understand the role and its value?
Are early-adapters and enthusiast leaders identified to work with first to prove role value?
5. Drive Regular Accountability
Demand regular accountability sessions for the sole purpose of identifying and tracking progress with the customer agenda. Don’t make your CCO expend energy and cycles lobbying to get a place on the corporate agenda. Establish a set of meetings with the specific agenda of discussing and advancing the customer experience work. Create continued clarity by having the CCO drive these meetings and steer the process. The CCO can create a flow and meeting focus by topic area and can facilitate the meetings.
As CEO, do you actively hold people accountable for customer performance? Is there clarity in what’s expected and does the organization practice discipline around identifying what should be measured and managed?
Are forums for accountability regularly scheduled and enforced as a key strategic meeting for the success of the company?
6. Provide Political Air Cover
The CCO needs someone at the highest level to collaborate with, someone who is willing to step in and course-correct the action when it stalls, because it will stall. A CCO who is forced to navigate this work alone will wear out over time if isolation of the job starts to mount. An absent CEO who just signs checks and attends pitch meetings isn’t going to have the level of understanding to be able to advance or rate the work. It takes a strong internal push for people in these positions to stay focused on this work. Motivate the motivator by providing the air cover that the CCO needs in order to get the work done.
As CEO, do you commit time and resources to form a solid partnership with the customer leader?
Do you play an active role in understanding and participating in the rigor of aligning the company when necessary?
7. Insist on Corporate Patience
CX work is a multiyear endeavor and people will need to understand this. Your team can’t bail on this work in the first year. Everyone needs to stay the course; CEOs must set realistic expectations that this is at least a three to five year path.
As CEO, are you committed to the timeline required (in the neighborhood of five years) and are you willing to suspend the usual short-term expectations of immediate results?
Are you capable of sustaining the patience inside the corporation and with the board to stay the course so that results can be achieved?
8. Demystify the Road Map
Creating a shift for an organization to cohesively deliver customer experiences is a huge undertaking. But when the company president says “We must improve customer relationships and profitability,” as CEO, you probably think this request doesn’t have much direction. When you agree to support this work, you may not know exactly how to get it done. This is where the CCO comes in and provides significant value to the work. The CCO will be able to frame the scale of the undertaking and establish a roadmap for getting the work done over time.
Are expectations and processes to drive the work identified realistically and planned so that people understand the road map, where is is leading, and why it’s set forth?
Have the resources been applied so the road map is grounded in the reality of what the company can achieve and fund?
Creating a shift for an organization to cohesively deliver customer experiences is a huge undertaking. The CCO will be able to frame the scale of the undertaking and establish a roadmap for getting the work done over time. #CX Click To Tweet
As you take the time to ponder these questions, here’s another resource that you may find helpful as you figure out what the CCO role looks like: Creating the Chief Customer Officer Role.
Have you hired a new CCO? What was that experience like for you? And to the CCOs, let me know how you’ve been supported in your role at an organization. I love hearing about these C-Suite CX transformations, please share with me in the comments!