How To Become A Chief Customer Officer (CCO)

Swetha Amaresan
Swetha Amaresan


If you've been in a sales, marketing, or customer service role for a while, the thought of career progression has probably crossed your mind. With each of these functions of a business being customer-focused, the role of Chief Customer Officer may be a logical step in your career. If you're unfamiliar with this title, don't worry; you're not alone.

Chief customer officer welcoming customer into the business

The role of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) is relatively new, but growing in popularity. According to the 2020 Gartner study, about 90% of organizations have a Chief Customer Officer.

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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 Chief Customer Officer.

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

A Chief Customer Officer 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 Chief Marketing Officer.

This role typically reports to the CEO and sits alongside and works closely with the Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Product Officer.Chief Customer Officer Org Chart

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

What does a Chief Customer Officer do?

Solves Customer Problems

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.

Although each department should be responsible for this in some aspect, it's beneficial for an organization to have a member of the c-suite own this function so that it is an integral part of the business strategy rather than a short-term tactic.

Evangelizes the Customer Experience

Everything the Chief Customer Officer does should be informed by the customer perspective, so understanding the current and future needs of the customer is critical. When making executive decisions, the customer's needs should dictate the way the business increases the lifetime value and profitability of customers.

When the customer's needs are put at the forefront of the business, success is bound to follow.

With all this in mind, you may be wondering how to get started as a Chief Customer Officer. Here's everything you need to know to get prepared to take on this important role.

How to Become A 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.

That's not the case today. Customers want brands to interact with them and provide benefits way beyond the single solution they originally required. According to a study published by Genysys, 64% of executives who believe the customer experience is important to their organization's future also believe their company is more profitable than its competitors.

In short, customers are the key to unlocking a business's competitive edge.

With this new need to provide outstanding customer experiences, 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 them.

To become a Chief Customer Officer, you need to do more than satisfy customers. You need to be totally engrossed in understanding how the minds of your target customers work.

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. 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 still becoming an established seat in the c-suite, it may be easy for other executives 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.

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.

What can you, as the CCO, do to prevent this? 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. Share the vision of the customer.

Just because the word "customer" is in the CCO title doesn't mean the responsibility of championing the customer experience stops with you. Share the load with other members of the c-suite and encourage them to understand the customer through the lens of their roles.

In a recent study, Genesys found that when companies place the CEO at the forefront of customer experience initiatives, the entire company is more likely to be profitable.

Dharmesh Shah, Chief Technology Officer at HubSpot is a great example of this best practice in action. He doesn't leave the customer experience up to Chief Customer Officer, Rob Giglio to figure out on his own. Dharmesh is heavily involved in starting and joining conversations that HubSpot customers care about using social media.

7. 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 this role can be covered by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or Chief Sales Officer (CSO), but with a CCO, you no longer have to choose who will do what — you have the choice to hire for the position altogether.

However, it's not enough for a company to put together a job description and start head hunting. It's crucial to have 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 the customers who support your organization, you must have a clear understanding of the responsibilities and goals of every c-suite title. The point, overall, is to build a more customer-centric organizational structure throughout the company, and that should be your underlying objective.

Make Chief Customer Officer The Next Step In Your Career

In reality, every customer service representative has the potential to someday become the Chief Customer Officer. 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 know what you can accomplish until you try.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in June 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.


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