Guest post from Jeanne Bliss:
More than ever, customer experience is a priority for CEOs in nearly every industry. With the ability to spur customer-driven growth and business transformation, Chief Customer Officers (CCOs) have become embraced as the go-to role for customer experience. However, senior executives should know before they decide on a CCO, that this position requires a personal commitment from them. There are eight major actions the CEO should do to ensure CCO success.
1. Take Personal OwnershipThe CEO should position the work of the CCO as a priority of their agenda. People must understand that they will be delivering directly to the CEO by working with the CCO.
- Does your CEO clearly articulate what he/she wants the company to become for customers and constantly reinforce and drive the company in that direction?
- Is there a commitment for organizational transformation, not some one-off tactics and silver bullets?
Ensure that the CCO is at a peer level of the leaders of the organization. This role will be involved in facilitating change to how the business operates and requires the ability to function, ability to establish and build relationships and ability to enable others to be successful equal to an executive level position.
- Has the CEO ensured that the role is positioned as an officer of the company with the full support and engagement of the CEO, leaders and the organization?
After initiating the CCO role, it’s important to establish the working relationship between the company leadership and the CCO. Agree with the other leaders how they will personally engage with the CCO and how their organizations will participate with you.
- Is the leadership team in alignment about the role and how they interact as a team?
- Is there clarity across the organization that this role is to enable and establish a one-company approach and discipline to customer experience, not to take over their work?
Put the CCO in the position of doing specific and tangible work within the first month of the job. Engage the leadership team to be personally involved in guiding version 1 of the five competencies. Make it the first order of business to drive the metrics of customer loyalty and customer profitability. This type of tactical kick-start will help you gain the momentum you need for the long-term success of the CCO.
- Are tactical projects put in motion so that people understand the role and its value?
- Are early-adapters and enthusiast leaders identified to work with first to prove role value?
Don’t make your CCO expend energy and cycles lobbying to get a place on the corporate agenda. Instead, establish a set of meetings with the specific agenda of discussing and advancing the customer experience work, such as a customer room. Create continued clarity by having the CCO drive these meetings and steer the process.
- Will your CEO unite the leadership team to establish one-company accountability to priority customer experiences?
- Are forums for accountability regularly scheduled and enforced as a key strategic meeting for the success of the company?
A CCO who is forced to navigate this work alone will wear out over time as the isolation of the job mounts. An absent executive team who commits to the work but does not actively engage, turns the CCO into a beggar, constantly asking for people to give the work the time required to embed it into the organization.
- Does your CEO commit time and resources to ensure that the C-Suite will unite in customer experience improvement and culture?
- Does your CEO play an active role in understanding and participating in the rigor of aligning the company when necessary?
The CEO must set realistic expectations that this is at minimum a three- to five-year path. The customer experience work is not for the mild-mannered or for the quarterly inclined. People are going to need to understand that this is a multiyear endeavor. They can’t bail in the first year. That would be a huge waste of human and financial capital. It will be the executive sponsor’s job to get everyone to stay the course.
- Is your CEO committed to the timeline required and are they willing to suspend the usual short-term expectations of immediate results and have the patience for the customer work to take hold and yield results?
- Will they sustain the patience inside the corporation and with the board to stay the course so that results can be achieved?
8. Demystify the Road Map
To create the shift for an organization to cohesively deliver customer experiences is a huge undertaking. Yet it’s quickly agreed to when that charge comes from the president: “We must improve customer relationships and profitability.” Who wouldn’t salute that flag? But what flag did the company salute? What did they agree to accomplish? Therein lies the problem: the CEO’s request for customer commitment contains no direction.
The organization doesn’t know what they’ve agreed to do or how they’ll get it done. The CCO can provide significant value to the CEO and company leadership by framing the scale of the undertaking and establishing a road map for getting the work accomplished over time.
- Are expectations and processes to drive the work identified realistically and planned so that people understand the road map, where it is leading and why it is set forth?
- Have the resources been applied so that the road map is grounded in the reality of what the company can achieve and fund?
Jeanne Bliss pioneered the Customer Leadership Executive position, holding the role for over twenty years at Lands’ End, Allstate, Coldwell Banker, Mazda and Microsoft Corporations. She is the best-selling author of the new Chief Customer Officer 2.0, Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action (2006), and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions to Drive Extreme Customer Loyalty in Good Times and Bad (2011).