How to Become the Chief Customer Officer (CCO)

chief-customer-officer-cco

If you're unfamiliar with this title, don't worry; you're not alone.

The role of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) is relatively new, but growing in popularity. According to the 2014 Chief Customer Officer Council study, 22% of Fortune 100 companies and 10% of Fortune 500 companies had CCOs at that time.

While it is exciting that companies are adding this customer-centered position to the C-suite, AdAge writes that there may be some confusion around the responsibilities of the position. This had led to many CCOs becoming mere figureheads who don't enact real change or have a say in C-suite matters.

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This position has the potential to revolutionize the business industry and the way companies interact with customers. With clear goals in mind and a set plan for how you would work with the rest of the C-suite, you could achieve great successes as a CCO.

Before we dive in, let's define what exactly a CCO is.

What Is a CCO?

A CCO can go by several titles. According to Harvard Business Review, some of these titles include Chief Client Officer; Chief Experience Officer; Executive Vice President, Member Experience; and Chief Global Customer and Marketing Officer.

Regardless of the name, the general role of the CCO is to serve alongside the executive board, ideating and designing new programs and systems to improve the customer experience. This could occur in any number of ways, from designing customer loyalty programs to incorporating training programs for employees on customer experience.

Now, let's develop a deeper understanding of the objectives of the CCO.

Goals of the Chief Customer Officer

According to the Chief Customer Officer Council, the role of the CCO is to solve lasting customer problems, build a long-term competitive advantage, retain loyal customers, and create a strategy to help increase profit from customers.

Everything the CCO does should be to provide a thorough customer perspective in executive decisions and increase the lifetime value and profitability of customers. They need to understand the customer inside-and-out ... almost better than the customer itself.

Today, there are many successful CCOs taking charge of the customer journey. One of them is Lisa Bacus of Cigna Corporation.

Spotlight: Lisa Bacus

lisa-bacusSource: Northern Arizona University

Lisa Bacus is the Executive Vice President, Global Chief Marketing and Customer Officer at Cigna Corporation, a global health service company. She runs Cigna's marketing and communications strategies across the globe.

Some of her responsibilities include data analytics, insights, and strategic market planning. This helps her in making decisions on market research, branding, product solutions, customer experience, public relations, and other services related to their U.S. customers and customer experience teams.

Bacus rose up to this position in May 2013 after 22 years with Ford Motor Company and five years at American Family Insurance as their Executive Vice President and Chief Marketer.

Because there aren't any pre-requisites for the role, the CCO can only be successful with the support and understanding of the rest of the C-suite, as well as their own internal motivation.

Below, we have included a guide on the traits and experience you need to one day rule the world (ahem, make a lasting contribution to your company) as a CCO.

How to Become the Chief Customer Officer

1. Be obsessively customer-centric.

The reason this position wasn't necessary in the past was because customers used to be satisfied simply when their problem was met with a solution. However, nowadays, that's not the case. Customers want brands to interact with them and provide benefits way beyond the single solution they originally required.

In short, customers hold all the power.

With this new need to provide outstanding service, brands have worked hard to reinforce their customer teams. And as these teams grow, it only makes sense to have an executive dedicated to supporting those specific teams.

To become CCO, you need to do more than satisfy their customers. You need to be totally engrossed in understanding how the minds of your target customers work. After all, 83% of companies who believe it's very important to their company to make customers happy also have a growing company revenue. The two are clearly linked, so it's essential that you continue to push this mantra.

2. Learn to collaborate easily.

As the CCO, you need to work very closely with the rest of the C-suite. It's your responsibility to unite the C-suite in seeing the customer's perspective. A 2016 PwC survey notes that 90% of CEOs already believe customers have the largest impact on company strategies. So, it's less about convincing them that customers are important and more about convincing them how to make decisions based on customers.

With each of these decisions, you have to collaborate with others and teach them how to tackle problems with a different mindset. However, don't take control and assume your solutions are always correct simply because you have a greater grasp of the customer perspective. You're still a member of a larger C-suite, and every opinion matters.

The important thing is to work together. Since the CCO position is so relatively new, it may be easy for other members of the C-suite to treat it as less significant. Assert yourself as an equal partner and not someone who requires the approval of others.

3. Be open to customer feedback.

Unlike other C-suite titles, the CCO doesn't just work with other employees. You also get to work with customers. And customers these days love to give feedback, be it positive or negative.

If you want to become the CCO, you need to learn to accept feedback, even if it is negative, and also take it into consideration when developing new customer strategies. Customers will appreciate the efforts taken by your company, which is good news -- because 77% of customers share positive experiences with brands with their greater networks.

Bringing in this new mindset might be difficult. Typically, companies don't favor an influx of trial-and-error in creating new strategies. However, in your customer-centric role, it's essential. By using surveys and other forms of feedback, you can teach the rest of the C-suite to be open to consistent change and, ultimately, growth in the company.

4. Work closely with your front-line teams.

No matter what strategies you implement, nothing matters if your employees are unhappy and discouraged. Only 19% of customer service representatives with under 1 year of experience actually plan on staying in their position. That means businesses have to keep hiring and training new representatives to make up for the 81% of employees who might leave their jobs.

What can you, as the CCO, do to improve this statistic? Well, you can get your workers actually excited about their role. Just as you might try to find the root cause of customer dissatisfaction with a product or service, you should try to find the root cause of employee dissatisfaction with their role.

Educate your front-line workers regularly on new customer strategies. If they feel in the loop on these matters, they may feel more motivated to try to reach company goals. And, of course, make them understand the value they hold in the company. After all, if there were no customer service representatives, you would have no one to lead.

5. Show your value by rising up to the position.

Let's face it: You're not going to wake up one day and be the CCO. As with any other executive-level position, you need to really hustle to work up to the role. The fact that you are interested in becoming the CCO is already half the battle.

Since you're invested in a customer-focused role, show your dedication by starting out in an entry-level customer service job. By working exceptionally hard, you can rise up, just as in any other department.

However, the unique thing about being the CCO is that you need to have an in-depth understanding of your customer base. In that sense, it may be more beneficial to you to ascend internally, rather than by jumping between different companies. Once you begin working at one company, you'll start to develop a deep comprehension of and loyalty to your target customers. Utilize those existing relationships in your pitch for why you deserve to be the CCO. Unlike an external candidate, you'll already know these customers.

6. Build a foundation for yourself before you are even hired.

As noted earlier, there is obvious confusion around the role of the CCO. Since it's so new, it can seem unclear whether or not the duties of the CCO can be covered by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or Chief Sales Officer (CSO). According to Forbes, the CMO and CSO have such different goals that they haven't been able to work together -- a divide the CCO can close.

Due to the unsteadiness of the position, it's crucial that you lay out a path for success in advance. Do your research on CCOs of other companies and what they have accomplished. Set basic goals with the help of the CEO to ensure that you are both in agreement.

Most of all, make sure that the goals you set cannot be easily swept up by another C-suite member. To show that this is a job specifically for you, you must have a clear understanding of the responsibilities and goals of every C-suite title and recognize how you can fit into that puzzle. The point, overall, is to build a more customer-centric organizational structure throughout the company, and that should be your underlying objective.

In reality, every customer service representative has the potential to someday become the CCO. Your direct relationship with customers gives you a great understanding of their thoughts, opinions, and needs. Those are skills that can only be learned through experience. So, keep being your ambitious self -- you never what you can accomplish until you try.

Learn more about customer experience by checking out this list of the most invaluable customer support resources we could find.

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