Where Should Your Chief Customer Officer Report? The Customer Focus Smorgasbord

When I’m asked about the CCO role, the frequent questions are, “What does a CCO do?” and “Where does the CCO report?” The answer to both questions: “It depends.”

The capacity of the role, structure, and organization depend on:

  • Your commitment and how large you scale the work.
  • The age and stage of your organization.
  • How much backing the organization has for the role, and at what levels it resides.

These are the things you need to consider before you drop someone into this role.

So, we begin this post with a probe to help you think through the right structure for your organization.

Consider these things when trying to determine which area of your organization should command the customer leadership role. Is there an emerging customer zealot who seems a natural to take on this role? This should be someone with the capability to bring the organization together and facilitate conversations toward actions and accountability. I equate this work to being “human duct tape.” The job is to get people to come together, then work together, and then accept accountability together.

Zealots try everything and anything to get the momentum going. I have seen the customer effort initiated in each way noted below.  They have been met with varied levels of success based on the maturity level of the organization regarding leadership, understanding the mission, and ability to work cross-functionally.

Where Are You Today?

Grassroots Uproar

DEFINITION: Valiant and passionate effort started from within the ranks. This often has an infectious ability to get people fired up, although the effort can flame out quickly without the right exposure and senior-level commitment.

Company Wide Hoopla

DEFINITION: High-level edict followed with a lot of early energy, tchotchkes, and meetings. Initial hoopla is often followed by unclear accountability and outcomes. Most of us have lived through various companywide hooplas on the customer stuff. I can’t tell you how many crystal balls, notepads, and coffee cups are rattling around companies with labels like: “Customer First,” “We’re here for our customers,” “Customer Satisfaction Is Number 1,” or something similar. Everyone gets into a frenzied state. Then it’s deemed that some task forces should be formed. Depending on how much forethought has been put into the work, the task forces may have a very lofty mission to work on, like “customer loyalty.” What exactly does that mean? Now you’ve got multiple groups within the company working on a vague concept and they are all basically spinning their wheels.

Customer Service

DEFINITION: Focused group of people dedicated to serving customers who want to elevate and fix the issues they hear about day after day. This can be a great place to initiate the customer effort. Highly respected leaders can lead the change from here, although there are challenges.


DEFINITION: Vision to take marketing beyond customer campaigns, data management, and traditional advertising. Expand the brand focus across the enterprise to deliver a differentiated customer experience.

However, many marketing departments underestimate the amount of process work and cultural change management work required to make this shift. Because these aren’t natural core competencies for most marketing organizations, the burden of digging into the operational side of the business can be challenging and tax its time and capabilities. The customer work is a lot of numbers, data, and metrics; but is just as heavy on process and operations. It may be difficult for marketing to take on the hard cross-company facilitation role that is required.

Office of the President or CEO

DEFINITION: This is the ideal location to lead the customer effort from. Ensures cross-company cooperation and provides air cover for clearing roadblocks and gnarly issues. If the commitment is there, you should grab it.

However, reporting to the president requires a number of conditions that he or she must agree to in order to give the traction needed. You’re going to have to test the commitment of the president frequently to get the alignment needed throughout the company. Therefore, it’s vital to make sure that this backing can be counted on. In addition, test the president on his or her personal view of where the work should be taken. There should be a committed point of view of who needs to participate and the level of participation expected, as well as an understanding of time and resource commitments.

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