A Chief Customer Officer is successful when he or she can simplify how the organization works together to achieve customer-driven growth, engage the leadership team and connect the work to a return on investment. Sustainable transformation will only occur when this work goes beyond project plans and status updates, and is grounded in caring about customers’ lives.
Most CEO’s no longer need to be convinced of the importance of retaining customers and developing relationships with customers. What’s on their mind is how to accomplish this feat inside their organizations.
Throwing head count at the customer challenge is not necessarily the automatic solution. This should not be an automatic or easy decision.
Understand the Work of the Chief Customer Officer
The key to making the decision if you need a Chief Customer Officer lies in first understanding what the work encompasses. Before you rush out and hire a CCO, take stock of where the company is culturally and decide if the time is right to bring someone in to make the big customer push.
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.
Are Customer Focused Actions Embedded in Your Organization?
Can you answer yes to these statements? (Don’t answer them too quickly.) Stew over them. Debate them with top leadership and board.
1. There is someone in our company who clarifies what we are to accomplish with customers.
2. There is a clear process to drive alignment for what will be accomplished.
3. We have a road map for the customer work and know where progress will be measured.
4. Clear metrics exist for measuring progress which everyone agrees to use.
5. There is real clarity of everyone’s roles and responsibilities.
6. People really participate and care about the customer work.
7. Appropriate resources are allocated to make a real difference to customers.
8. There is an understandable process for people to work together.
9. The work is considered attainable.
10. A process exists for marketing achievements to customers and internally.
11. Recognition and reward are wired to motivate customer work.
Then take a reality check:
- Is anyone taking these actions?
- Is anyone even thinking about them?
- Does anyone have the time to?
Gain Consensus in the CCO Role
If you decide to proceed with a Chief Customer Officer exploration, make sure that you have consensus to go ahead with the role. The people whose sandbox the CCO will be in need to be open to the upheavals and discomfort of change. Think hard about your appetite and aptitude for the work. This is, at minimum, a five-year journey. Pace yourself.
There are four ways you can go with organizational structure:
1. Staff leader with dedicated team
2. Staff leader with dispersed team
3. Line leader with dedicated team
4. Line leader with dispersed team