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An unknown term before the year 2000, the role of the Chief Customer Officer has been increasing in popularity among some of the biggest and most successful businesses in the world.
The CCO Council defines the CCO as "an executive who provides the comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer and creates corporate and customer strategy at the highest levels of the company to maximize customer acquisition, retention, and profitability."
Chief Customer Officers can go by many different names. The role could be called Chief Experience Officer (CXO), Chief Client Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, Vice President of Customer Experience – whatever the label the C-Suite give it, the role is the same – to champion customer centricity in the organisation.
From the definition given by the CCO Council, there appears to be considerable crossover between the roles of the CCO and the more traditional role of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). So why is this new, separate role important?
While a number of targets might be the same for both roles, e.g. acquiring and retaining customers, the focuses are different. Pure marketers will focus more on external communications, on driving sales, on developing the brand – whereas the CCO will look at the entire customer journey, and at the ways in which each individual department of the company contributes to the customer experience.
Whilst the CMO has the authority and the insight to affect the customer experience from within the marketing sphere, the CCO takes a more holistic view, working across departments and siloes, adding the voice of the customer to their operations.
With customer centricity an increasingly important goal for organisations, the CCO is key to driving digital transformation and uniquely positioned to develop the business into one that puts its customers at the forefront.
As the balance of power has shifted from business to consumer, customer centricity has become the goal of businesses wishing to gain the edge over the competition. In contrast to other business orientations; which might be sales-driven, product-driven, or channel-driven, for example, customer centric businesses focus their strategies first and foremost around the wants and needs of their customers.
This has become increasingly important as customer experience has become the expected battleground of businesses, more so than price or brand. Research from Deloitte reports that businesses who have customer centricity at the heart of their company culture are 60% more profitable than those who do not, and it is well reported that acquiring a new customer is much more expensive than retaining an existing one.
The Chief Customer Officer works across siloes and departments to champion the needs of the customer, and bring to life strategies that facilitate a company-wide customer-centric approach. But what does this actually look like in practice?
Company culture is a major factor affecting the success of any customer-focussed initiatives. Without a truly customer-centric ethos, businesses can struggle to provide the level of service that will set them ahead of the competition, but changing an ingrained culture is no easy job.
The CCO is uniquely placed to make changes – not tied to any one department, they can identify issues and effect change across the board, whether it be to create more customer-focused objectives for staff, or empowering employees to help customers at the coalface, or directing product strategy in line with customer expectations.
Channel or departmental siloes can hinder the creation of a seamless customer experience. When each team has their own channel or product based objectives, they’re focusing more on those than they are on the overall experience – and a customer will expect the same great experience whatever channel they use.
CCO’s can breakdown these silos, integrating and building better communication between teams, and helping to create an overarching strategy that benefits the customers.
The different strategies, processes and technologies used across companies can make it difficult to gain an overarching view of the customer across every part of their ongoing journey. By having a senior member of staff whose sole focus is the customer, it’s possible to overcome some of these obstacles and achieve a single customer view – gaining unparalleled insights that can shape more effective customer strategies.
Gaining insights across multiple channels and touchpoints, creating a joined-up customer experience and breaking down siloes can seem like a mammoth task, but the solution is made much easier by the new breed of marketing technology, or martech.
Estimates from Gartner suggest that by 2017, the marketing department will have a bigger technology bill than the IT department – and it’s this technology that the Chief Customer Officers will be utilising and depending on in their quest to make the business more customer friendly.
Advanced customer engagement technology platforms like Intilery bridge the gap between channel silos and departments, collecting customer data from a variety of sources and presenting it in a single customer view that provides a complete, end-to-end view of the customer journey.
The right technology can pull in data in from review centres, customer service systems and social media, as well as more traditional, offline sources. Incorporating all of this data with dynamic digital insights in a holistic view is empowering for every company.
Insights gleaned from platforms like Intilery can identify weak points in customer journeys or areas that are underperforming, but they can also be used to fuel the kind of personalised, multi-channel communications that are essential for customer-centric businesses.
According to the CCO Council, CCO’s have the shortest tenure of any member of the C-suite. That doesn’t mean that the customer focus is short-lived – indeed, if a CCO has done their job well, the company should be operating in a more customer-centric fashion at the end of their tenure.
Chief Customer Officers appear to enter businesses as agents of change – rehauling old processes to mould the business into a new form. When that new form is achieved, many CCO’s move on to a new challenge – but there is still a need for a customer champion at board level.
As customer needs and technologies change, businesses need to be able to pre-empt them, to react and adapt to them, something difficult to do without a figurehead to maintain responsibility.
That doesn’t mean that customer care is the sole responsibility of the CCO however – customer-centricity means that keeping customers happy is the aim of every employee, irrespective of department.
At Intilery, we’re always focused on helping our clients provide their customers with more engaging experiences, wherever they sit within the organisation. If you’d like to find out how your current customer experience stacks up, borrow our expertise and request one of our engagement reviews, and we’ll identify some areas where you can make improvements.