Hiring a CCO
The first CCO was hired in 1999 at Texas Power and Light.
Determining the Right Type of CCO
Which type of CCO position to create depends primarily on corporate goals and secondarily upon the maturity of the company and the size of the installed customer base. Companies primarily concerned with retaining customers and securing a larger share of wallet through new product/service introductions to a significant installed base may be best served by a tasking the CCO with the primary function of retaining customers and protecting current revenue. Conversely, a company seeking significant growth through new customer acquisition needs detailed understanding of early adopters, market needs, ways to leverage current customers to win new ones, and so on, making an acquisition focused CCO more appropriate.
Regardless of the primary focus, all CCOs should have some measure of process authority as a mandate from the CEO so as to forestall turf wars in the CCOs efforts to provide customers with a loyalty-inducing customer experience.
Selecting a Chief Customer Officer
The role of the CCO is complicated and requires a unique individual to fill it. It is perhaps one of the busiest role in the C-Suite, and clearly the most visible to customers.
Successful CCOs have:
- Wide experience in organizational functions. The CCO deals with issues that cross all boundaries and which look and feel different to different groups.
- Wide respect throughout the organization. The CCO must ask others to take risks in changing how they work. A CCO who does not already enjoy such wide respect will need enough power and opportunity to earn it through accomplishments.
- Powerful Communication Skills. The Chief Customer Officer may perhaps be recast as a Customer Communications Officer, for the vast majority of their job boils down to three areas
- Gathering customer insight through numerous listening, monitoring, and measurement methods
- Communicating the voice of the customer to internal constituents (especially important for one with more process than line authority)
- Communicating corporate strategy to customers and prospects
Experience and Background
In the early days it was unfathomable that anyone from either an IT or sales background could serve as a CCO. Until recently, CIOs have been denied a seat at the boardroom table because they’ve been unable to extricate themselves from technology and aid in managing the business. Charlie Isaacs has disproved this assertion. As the former Chief Technical Officer and CCO of Kana, he was responsible for global customer support and customer experience teams. Isaacs found that his engineering background was critical to understanding customer workflow, needs, and ways to improve current uses of technology, and his business background enables him to effectively trade off business value, technical challenges, and the service experience. Similarly, a salesperson by definition is focused on near-term revenue which is often at odds with longer-term customer relationships. Thus, it was feared that this natural tension would end up damaging customer relationships to deliver against their performance metrics and earn their bonuses. However, in recent years there are an increasing number people in smaller companies with a dual title of EVP of Sales and Chief Customer Officer. Skip Aldridge, the EVP of Sales and CCO of Pharmavite has balanced this natural tension by abstracting himself from day-to-day sales operations, which enables him to take the longer view without significant customer pressure. Interestingly, most people in this situation firmly believe that nobody can be a CCO unless they’ve been beaten up by customers in a sales role.
Regardless of the experience and background, the CCO must have the ability to champion the customer cause and balance customer needs with business growth objectives so as to help the business grow while profitably serving the right customers.