Chief Customer Officer Role is Here

Paul Hagen, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research recently posted a blog on The Harvard Business Review titled The Rise of the Chief Customer Officer.

In this blog post, Hagen highlights the results of research he has conducted with 155 North American CCOs servicing B2B and B2C verticals.  Highlights include:

  • Typical job titles of CCOs
  • Background profile of CCOs
  • CCO resources and span of control
  • CCO focus to fix problems AND accelerate growth

The idea of Chief Customer Officer (CCO) sitting at the decision makers’ table and holding the power and resources needed to make things happen isn’t anything new.  What I find interesting about this research is that it appears the business community is ready to embrace and/or forward the investment needed for this type of role to succeed in large and mid-market organizations.

Is this the proverbial tipping point?  Yes, I believe it is for several reasons including:

  • The success of these roles in very large well-known SEC registered companies has paved the path for other organizations to follow their lead; meaning that there is less risk now that the kinks have been worked out by early adopters.
  • In general, the market is saturated with products, services, and branding.  Every product and every service is now considered a commodity so most organizations now want to differentiate on service in some sort of value-add way.  No longer can organizations rely simply on having the best product – at least for very long – to attract and retain loyal customers.
  • Innovation cycles have become microscopic and have gone to warp speed.  Likewise, developing and introducing new products in many industries has become much more difficult, limiting any reliance an organization might have had on product-oriented dominance.  For example, how many different types of soap or laundry detergent can anyone create?  It’s not new if it’s the same stuff inside the package with the now overused ‘New and Improved’ labeling on the outside.
  • The internet started a customer revolution that speeds up communication, drives service innovation, can flatten a product or brand in nano-seconds, and encourages the development of relationships between organizations and their customers.  Almost everything a potential buyer would want to know about a product or service is now available to them with just a few clicks.  Likewise, those same few clicks used to complain about a product or service can create a nightmare that never goes away for a company – whether the complaints are accurate or not.
  • Social media and mobility – smart phones and iPads – are changing even what the internet started.
  • The fallout of recent economic business decisions to ensure for margins and profitability has now backlashed – as predicted – to the point where customers are defecting faster than ever, or simply not buying at all.  Ouch.

Customers are now in the power position.  They know a lot, they care a lot, and they will buy a lot IF they feel (note the word ‘feel’ not ‘think’) that the organization they buy from authentically wants to help them achieve their goals in the time and manner that customers want, no matter how big or small those goals are.

The role of CCO is overdue and I am happy that the tipping point is here.  Many of us who have lifelong careers providing service to customers – whether in a product-oriented or service-oriented business – have lamented that the customer voice has been missing from the officer table for years and that decisions made without appropriate voice-of-the customer representation are decisions that actually cost more due to negative customer response and subsequent fallout.

Yes, the CCO has now and will always have tricky waters to navigate in, as internal silos and functions now become a bit more complex to manage.  Matrixed management now mixes with traditional hierarchical business structures and any person aspiring to the CCO role must have solid, mutual win, relationship and communication skills.

From a person who has been servicing customers a llloonnnggg time, I’m thrilled with this tipping point.  I think customers are about to get their wish for better and easier service while smart CxOs see positive top and bottom line results.

If you aren’t considering a CCO role in your organization, I suggest you start now because your competitors are already going down this path.

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