Do You Need a Chief Customer Officer? Your Cross-Silo Assessment

In this assessment, we’ll focus on your company’s ability to drive the customer-focused work across the silos.

Most CEO’s no longer need to be convinced of the importance of retaining customers and developing relationships with profitable customers. What’s on their mind is how to accomplish this feat inside their organizations. With achievement in the customer work remaining elusive, organizations are now considering the creation of a high-level position to drive the action.

Throwing head count at the customer challenge is not necessarily the automatic solution. In fact, because many organizations are now on their third or even fourth gasp of focusing on the customer, missteps here would make the customer work sink lower and as something not to be taken seriously.

Before you rush out and hire a Chief Customer Officer, take stock of where your company is today in managing collective cross-silo work. Then decide if these actions are already being reliably managed. If there’s a void, it may be right to consider a Chief Customer Officer.

Scroll down to Cross-Silo Assessment or Download Assessment Two  and use it with your leaders to determine your need for a Chief Customer Officer and to clarify the role.

Consider each statement and determine whether it applies to your company.  (This exercise will take about 5 minutes.)

Cross-Silo Assessment 

Here are 11 questions that will help you determine whether or not your company could use the help of a good CCO.

1. There is someone in our company who clarifies what we are to accomplish with customers.

__ YES there is   __ NO there is not

Implementation Tip: These agreements need to be established in partnership with the functional owners across the organization. It is really important to make sure that the CCO or executive leadership does not do this in a vacuum and then try to “throw the brick over the wall” to the leaders to rubber-stamp.

2. There is a clear process to drive alignment for what will be accomplished.

__YES there is   __ NO there is not

Implementation Tip: The best leaders I’ve worked with drive people into discussion by going around the table and asking each to state his or her commitment or dissent. These leaders make it okay to disagree if someone is not comfortable with what’s being proposed.

3. We have a roadmap for the customer work and know where progress will be measured.

__ YES we do  __ NO we do not

Implementation Tip: This needs to be a group effort. Bring together a team of people with at least one person from every operational area. This group needs to get into the ramifications and work involved in getting the priorities done.

4. Clear metrics exist for measuring progress which everyone agrees to use.

__ YES they do __ NO they do not

Implementation Tip:  Pick a few key metrics that everyone understands, knows their roles in and can follow.  The large score cards we have all created have become almost meaningless because they are filled with so much data.

5.  There is real clarity of everyone’s roles and responsibilities.

__ YES there is __ NO there is not

Implementation Tip: This is about the handoffs between the silos. Make sure that there is a task list that clearly states which parts of the organization must come together to get the priorities accomplished. Too often these goals are kept lofty and high, and people aren’t made accountable for their completion.

6.  People really participate and care about the customer work.

__YES they do __NO they do not

Implementation Tip:  You need to get a commitment from each operational area leader on the number of headcount and the amount of staff time they will contribute. Create a formalized team where 25 to 50 percent of people’s time from areas throughout the company is dedicated to the customer work.

7.  Appropriate resources are allocated to make a real difference to customers.

__ YES there are __NO there are not

Implementation Tip: Hand waving without investment won’t get you anywhere. The key here is to have an organized annual planning approach that dedicates time to the customer objectives and customer investment. The chief executive needs to be personally involved. To achieve success, specific actions with defined parameters of what needs to be accomplished must be identified.

8. There is an understandable process for people to work together.

__ YES there is __ NO there is not

Implementation Tip: This work is as clear as mud. It starts with a high-level frenzy that in the blink of an eye has people going back to business as usual. The process for how the work will be defined, reviewed, executed, and rewarded has got to be laid out clearly.

9.  The work is considered attainable.

__ YES it is __NO it is not

Implementation Tip: Our frenzied enthusiasm gets away from us, and we talk about the end “nirvana” state rather than the steps to get there. What I learned is not to abandon strategy but to dole it out in bite-size pieces. You need to know the end game. But then you need to bridge the gat between strategy and execution so people can work it into budgets, priorities, and planning.”

10.  A process exists for marketing achievements to customers and internally.

__ YES it does __NO it does not

Implementation Tip: When you don’t tell people internally what’s going on with the customer, it’s all white noise to them. No report equals no action. You must make a point of marketing back to both your customers and internally inside the organization.

11.  Recognition and reward is wired to motivate customer work.

__ YES it is __ NO it is not

Implementation Tip: The customer work is not going to seem important until people start to be publicly commended and rewarded for it. Make every company gathering an opportunity to call out customer achievements and reward people for them.

The Question Comes Back to You

Is anyone taking these actions? Is anyone even thinking about them? Does anyone have the time to? Don’t just ask these questions, stew over them. Debate them with top leadership and board. And know that, whatever you decide, driving customer profitability isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Is it realistic in your organization to divide and conquer these tasks? If you can, your organization is well adjusted. Having the operational areas own the responsibility and having them share the administrative parts of this work would be heaven. But I haven’t seen many evolved companies that are ready for this. It’s the pushing and prodding part of the work that most companies need someone to spearhead. That becomes the role of the Chief Customer Officer.

If you decide to proceed with a CCO exploration, make sure that you have consensus to go ahead with the role. The people whose sandbox the CCO will be in frequently had better agree up front to the company and to the discomfort that’s to come as a result of the work. Think hard about your appetite and aptitude for the work. Temper this with the fact that this is at minimum a five-year journey. Pace yourself.

Download the CCO Job Description. You can use this as the starting point for a job description, modifying it as necessary for your organization.

Have you taken Assessment One to uncover the reasons for a less-than-great customer experience performance?

1 comment to " Do You Need a Chief Customer Officer? Your Cross-Silo Assessment "

  • Barry Dalton


    This is a very interesting question. I was at an Argyle Customer Care Forum a couple of weeks ago where one of the speakers was the chief customer advocate at Nationwide Insurance.

    And, listening to her trials begged the question not only of need for such a role, but how hard is this person working. I can tell you that this particular customer advocate (interesting title, implying that others in the organization are customer enemies) was plowing the dirt with her face on a daily basis.

    So, while a CEO might believe that s/he is putting the organization on customer-centric path by creating a CCO type role, it begs the question, why isn’t s/he creating a corporate culture where everyone views themselves as the customer advocate (Tony HshIeh doesn’t need a CCO)

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