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It’s not as lonely at the top as it once was. Where the standard C-Suite many years ago was a triumvirate of power shared between the CEO, the COO, and the CFO, today there are CIOs and CMOs, too. Now, I propose they make a little more room for the latest addition to the leadership: The Chief Customer Officer (CCO).
Competition is fierce in our global economy. Standing out is no longer a matter of keeping prices low or maintaining barriers to entry. Today, we differentiate ourselves in new ways, the most important being how the Customer feels about their experience with you.
The CCO’s priority is protecting the Customer Experience, from start to finish. Their role is to look at the whole experience and not just one part of it. In this way, the role is cross-functional—with an exclusive focus on busting down silos that form in the organization.
Silos tend to form based on the function of a department. When a department is Siloed, they are not seeing the whole Customer Experience, but instead just their part of it (e.g., invoicing, shipping or client services). This narrow focus can lead to problems.
Consider the damage caused by a Call Center Silo. A Call Center wants to process calls as fast as possible, so the members of that department focus on speed of call processing.
It sounds great, right? Who wants a long call at the call center?
But it’s not always great and can cause a problem further down the Customer Experience. We were working with a utility company where the cost of processing the call was $3, and the cost of sending out an engineer to fix a problem was $15. The call center would handle a request quickly and dispatch the engineer. But because the call center didn’t take the time to ferret out the problem with the customer in their haste to process the call the engineer turned up to the customers’ without the right equipment. So, the engineer would have to come out again, at a cost of another $15. In this example, the call center’s siloed focus on quick processing for the call quickly was costing the company more money, as well as causing a poor Customer Experience.
Silos are more common than you think. The CCO would:
- Oversee the overall Customer Experience
- Maintain authority and responsibility for customer measures.
- Define the customer strategy
- Manage the Customer Experience design
- Work with silos to demonstrate how their function is one part of the overall Customer Experience
However, there is one more important part of this job: they will drive the Customer Experience focus across the organization. There are several ways to drive this effort, but the most effective in my experience is by leading a Customer Experience Council.
A Customer Experience Council is a cross-functional team that works together to improve the end-to-end Customer Experience. The cross-functional nature is critical because it ensures everyone understands the various customer interactions with each department and how that translates to and affects the end-to-end experience. The council should work together to analyze and quantify problems, as well as make decisions to overcome them. They will also set the priorities for the organization.
To say that a CCO has their work cut out for them is an understatement. The finesse and confidence needed to get other people to do things is a challenge for anybody. Add to it that many organizations do little more than give lip-service to improving Customer Experience and how it affects the emotional state of their Customers, and you can see why this role might be the toughest in the C-Suite.
Tough or not, the job is vital and strong leadership in the area of Customer Experience is essential. The CCO can keep your product or service relevant in a crowded and competitive landscape. Organizations with a focus on their future will make room for the CCO—and also see that a Customer Experience champion at the top will have a lot of great benefits to the line at the bottom.
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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter & Periscope @ColinShaw_CX