The Tom Sawyer Formula

The “Tom Sawyer Formula” is based on Mark Twain’s masterful creation where Tom convinces his buddy Ben Sherman to white-wash the fence.  Tom was able to get Ben to paint the fence because of his relationship with Aunt Polly and the power she wielded with the kids in the neighborhood.

Just like Tom, the Chief Customer Officer (or Chief Experience Officer) must create a compelling reason for people to participate in the customer work. A CCO needs to get people to want to paint the fence.  I call this ability the “Tom Sawyer formula.” And it works when the CCO is in lockstep partnership with the CEO.

CCO Success Depends on CEO Commitment

The customer work must be a shared mission between the CEO and the leader of the customer work. People will want to do the work if it is truly taken seriously, and they will be drawn to the political upside to being a key participant in bringing the solution to the table.  Customer work must be considered key to the organization’s success.

To get people to want to paint the fence of the customer work, the Chief Customer Officer must have access to the senior leadership and even the board.

  • The Chief Customer Officer becomes a partner and adviser with company executives, giving the CCO a unique and admired position in the company.
  • They are seen to be leading an effort of great importance for the company.
  • The Chief Customer Officer’s compelling reason for participation is the combination of importance of mission and proximity to the top of the organization. It gives the CCO momentum and the ability to draw people to the work.

Customer Leadership Aptitudes

Passion and Persistence

When you are considering a candidate for the CCO position, first listen for passion.  Then probe for persistence.  Ask CCO candidates how they deal with resistance.  Do they thrive on it or just survive?

Ability to Give the Power Away

Astute CCOs understand that this unique power they possess cannot be abused; in fact, it must be given away. With a strong CEO and CCO partnership, one of the greatest tools a CCO has to continue motivating participation is having people present their own actions, and putting them front and center to take the credit.

Revenue = Attention

The Chief Customer Officer has got to be able to make and prove this case to gain executive and board support. In order to begin to make this case, I suggest that CCOs first spend the time to understand the different accounting methods throughout the company to learn how and if customers are valued, tracked and accounted for.

Action—Not Banners and Coffee Mugs

The company will need to see substantive change to believe that the commitment is true and real and understand what it means in terms of things they should do. The CCO’s job is to keep it real. There have likely been efforts that have come before this most recent proclamation to the customer. The corporate memory keepers have little patience for empty commitment to the customer.

Be a Chameleon

A new Chief Customer Officer should understand the functions of the organization to move as quickly as possible from being labeled an outsider to the operations of the company, to being considered “one of us.” Most importantly, CCO’s need to know the players and what their hot buttons are. The CCO will use this knowledge to thrive as a chameleon, modifying approaches as necessary to connect with each part of the organization.

Marketing Hope

In the Chief Customer Officer job, you’re nothing if you can’t understand what customers and the company needs, deliver it to them, and remind them that you gave it to them. Marketing back is the Promised Land to helping customers believe that the company is listening and acting on their words. It jolts the naysayer out of thinking things can’t or won’t get done. It’s absolutely essential to getting the future momentum you need by feeding the organization hope one morsel at a time.

Read More:  10 Customer Leadership Aptitudes.

Learn about Establishing or Being a Successful CCO

Read Chief Customer Officer.

CustomerBLISS offers consulting services to work with you to identify what you’re measuring today and other key elements important to Customer Executives.  From there, we help you to create a reality-based plan for driving customer profitability based on what will actually work inside your organization. (Imagine that!)

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