In today’s dynamic business environment, the one thing that should be of constant importance is the value of the customer as the lifeline of any organisation. Although many executives and business leaders are likely to agree with this notion, very few have successfully harnessed this belief and elevated the strategic importance of the customer’s needs to great effect.
This can be boiled down to a number of core challenges such as: proving ROI and quantifying the business value of customer experience efforts, unifying the organisation siloes and overcoming legacy protocol and technological infrastructure. Overcoming these obstacles is by no means an easy feat! However, once these requirements are met, the positive impact to business outcomes and sustainable organic growth should prove the importance of customer-centric initiatives and drive the business forward to a new operational and strategic model.
We had the privilege of interviewing the pioneer of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) role, Jeanne Bliss who held the first ever CCO role at Lands’ End, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker and Allstate Corporations. Jeanne is an accomplished thought leader on customer-centric business strategy and has written several books in this space including the groundbreaking, “Chief Customer Officer” (Jossey-Bass, 2006) and her latest book, “Chief Customer Officer 2.0”
Corinium: How would you describe the evolution/progression of the Customer Experience in the last 12 to 18 months? What’s driving this?
Jeanne Bliss: The CCO role has gained a great deal of momentum over the last 2 years as the three forcing functions that drove customer experience to the forefront have required CEOs and boards of directors to take note. In the economic downturn, there was a great and lasting appreciation, understanding and criticality around organic growth of the customer base. In addition to and rather than throwing most of the resources at company acquisition.
Secondly, Omni-channel and social media challenges has increased and driven them to recognise that they must find a clear operational and behavioral way to show up to customers in a different way. Omni challenges and customer recruitment and the need for one experience has cemented the need to have someone for a period of time whether they’re called a Customer Experience professional or Chief Customer Officer (CCO) to unite the siloes to create one perspective.
The requirement of companies who really focus on; organic growth, the importance of social media and really driving initiatives to recognise that you need to show operationally and behaviorally in the customer’s mind and perception, that you are building the company around their needs and priorities as well as the requirement of all customers now is to have an Omni-channel, or more importantly a one company united experience. I think all of these have put a fine point and hastened the need and desire for this requirement, at least a period of time.
Bringing in a CCO or a senior customer experience executive, should unite the organisation to deliberately understand the entire experience, focus and prioritise resources to rebuild experiences from the customer life outward.
I think it’s important to recognise that this is not about customer ownership…the CCO is not the owner but the enabler of having one company perspective, uniting the leadership team and embedding competencies.
I think there’s another thing that’s interesting, the evolution of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) role and the marketing function and understanding the CMO’s standpoint on whether that person or function can step into the CCO role or absorb the customer experience efforts or activities. This is adding a lot more important and thoughtful questions about the roles inside an organisation.
I think it’s important to recognise that this is not about customer ownership, which is sometimes how it’s depicted, “who owns the customer?”, but rather the CCO is not the owner but the enabler of having one company perspective, uniting the leadership team and embedding competencies.
Corinium: What do you believe to be the biggest challenge faced by Chief Customer Officers and what can be done to overcome these challenges?
Jeanne Bliss: You know I think the first is, and it’s interesting because most people take on this role and don’t realise that the most critical thing that a CCO must do is unite the leadership team. So that this work comes off as a leadership effort about growth, but that all the critical leaders of the organisation appear united not only philosophically but behaviorally. This will impact what they drive operationally and how they lead accountability. So I think that’s one of the very first things that really needs to occur. This is about uniting the siloes but reconfiguring with the leaders how they will and will not grow. Kind of like a “Code of Conduct” in an approach to business growth in the world of social media and customers expecting much more from every industry they do business with.
Corinium: What should customer experience executives prioritise in order to be successful?
Jeanne Bliss: The other piece is resisting the pressure that will immediately be placed on them to just be the break/fix person. It is a requirement to earn the right to the group job I think, and to prove that there is value in the role. While there is going to be some pressure to do break/fix immediately and I’m not totally against that, I’m actually an advocate of taking on some obvious big rocks. But the person has to lay the framework, I call it a growth engine, for a set of repeatable competences inside the organisation that they help to embed. If they don’t get out from being the reactionary person to solve buyers that is where they will stay for the tenor of their role, it won’t be elevated strategically and they will not be looked at as a senior partner inside the organisation leading change.
Corinium: How do you believe Big Data and Analytics impact customer experience?
Jeanne Bliss: I think big data, I prefer to think of it as operational listening, behaviorally listening and understanding what is really happening in customers’ lives as they interact with you. I think it’s a very critical part of establishing a balanced understanding of customers needs, desires and understanding how they react to the things you do to them or for them.
I believe very fervently that the people managing data and IT must link arms at the very beginning of this work with the CCO. But the work needs to begin with a business strategy that is then enabled and helped to be executed with big data and IT. Not start with tools and processes – which is unfortunately how this is being inverted right now.
With the proliferation of the influence of Customer Experience comes a floodgate into the marketplace of solutions. Tools, data solutions, dashboards, while these are helpful, if the company doesn’t have clear strategy, is it also changing leadership behavioral change and operational accountability? These tools, processes and things that look shiny and interesting are not going to impact or drive the change that is required. So, they really need to focus on and build the business case and operational strategy around it and use things to execute and enable.
But I do believe they are a very big part of it but must be part of an overall strategy.
Corinium: Why do you think executives should care about customer experience and think about having their own CCO?
Jeanne Bliss: So a couple of things, customer experience for me is four things, earning the right to growth, earning not getting growth, not going to get loyalty, but earning the right to growth through improving customers lives. It’s therefore taking a one company view of the comprehensive understanding of that life so you can prioritise what’s critical and what customers will value most.
It’s also leaders deciding, in a deliberate way, what they will and will not behave as an organisation. So at the end of the day all of this exists to earn customer asset growth, to earn the growth or loss, preferably the growth of course, of the customer base.
Are you keeping more customers than you lose? Because at the end of the day, this customer is an asset to the business and, in addition to the employees, is the fundamental shift that needs to occur inside of organisations. It’s not a dashboard that’s simply passed around an organisation, it’s talking passionately as a company, did we earn the right to growth, in the past quarter, month or year? How many customers did we bring in? How many did we lose, volume and value? What is our net customer asset growth?
Are you keeping more customers than you lose? Because at the end of the day, this customer is an asset to the business.
To me, once company leaders recognise this ROI, this distinctive and really simple measure of customer experience, it drives the importance and the need to care about the ‘why’. Why are we losing customers? Why are they less engaged? To bring someone in to help the organisation move from shooting at many things, it is important to ask what are the key experiences that they need as one company architecting to deliver value? So the customer will desire to have that experience again and tell other people about it!
If you would like to hear more from Jeanne Bliss as well as leading Chief Customer Officers and Customer Experience Executives, join the inaugural Chief Customer Officer USA taking place from the 30th January to 1st February in Miami Florida where Jeanne will deliver a masterclass and keynote address on The Growth of Customer Experience and the Chief Customer Officer and How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine. For more information visit our website: www.chiefcustomerofficerusa.com