Whenever we work on defining the Chief Customer Officer role in an organization, the question comes up, “Should this person also run a functional area?”
The answer depends on several factors:
1. What organization does the potential CCO currently run?
2. What is the maturity of the organization? Is it running operationally well? Do others respect its operation? If, for example; the CMO is interested in adding on the CCO to his/her current functions, and he/she and the work are respected, then potential for acceptance and success is increased. Same thing goes for the VP of Customer Experience, Sales or Operations who may want to also become the Chief Customer Officer.
3. How collaborative is the leader who wants to take on the role? Do they have strong relationships within the company and with other leaders? The customer experience work is about executing. But it is also about having honest, transparent and fearless conversations. It is NOT about fiefdom building. So, if this appears to be a play for power – this is not the right candidate.
Here are some conditions I would define as a “well oiled “ service operation in the case of a VP of Customer Service interested in also becoming the Chief Customer Officer:
- The service personnel have good listening skills and can relationally build conversations with customers.
- The company excels at using the customer data it receives to drive real-time operational change.
- The service area has moved past a cost center to an R&D center and a dynamic source of information for the company to improve relationships with customers.
- The service organization leaders know how to inspire and develop the skills of the service staff to ensure that they believe that their role is far above that of “phone person.”
- Customer data and issues are trended and tracked in a manner respected and accepted by the organization and leaders.
- The service operation has begun to act as a change agent in driving systemic customer experience resolution in reoccurring issues.
- The organization does not see them as (just) the “complaint department” – but rather as a core source of data, information and strategic information on driving the improvement of the business.
That’s a tall order. But realize the order of Chief Customer Officer means getting into everyone’s operation over time. The person taking on the Chief Customer Officer role needs to be recognized first as running an optimum operation.