I was ready to mock the article as soon as I saw the title, “The Rise of the Chief Customer Officer” (Paul Hagen, HBR, April 18, 2011), but then I read it and found myself agreeing with the idea.
According to Hagen, a lot of companies have created the CCO position including USAA, Allstate, FedEx, and Boeing. In fact, he gathered data on 155 CCOs and conducted interviews with several of them. He found that companies hire a CCO for two reasons: (1) to fix issues that are creating unhappy customers; and/or (2) to accelerate growth, better integrate acquired companies, or shift priorities.
I imagine a number of VPs of marketing and sales have argued that these two things are their jobs, and they probably should be, but the fact that their bosses see the need for a CCO suggests that marketing and sales have come up short. My sense from working with several marketing and sales leaders over the years is that they are inside focused out, while a CCO takes a different perspective: outside looking back in to the company.
Hagen cites the Boeing Training & Flight Services division as an example. Its sales and business development teams were focused on meeting short-term revenue goals, according to CCO Roei Ganzarski, “but no one was looking at things from the customer’s holistic perspective. We knew we needed to change our culture to better serve the one reason we all exist—our customers.”
If your organization is looking into this new position or has recently installed a CCO, I would recommend using the Baldrige Criteria in the Customer Focus category to help define roles and responsibilities. A CCO who was able to develop systematic processes that addressed the questions in this category would be well-positioned to succeed.
In addition, Hagen identified three preconditions for the success of your new CCO:
- A strategic mandate to differentiate based on customer experience
- A portfolio of successful projects that create buy-in and a cultural maturity in the organization
- A uniform understanding on the executive management team for what the position can accomplish
To read more about being customer focused, click on these articles: