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 business functions being customer-focused, the role of Chief Customer Officer may be a logical step in your career.
The Chief Customer Officer (CCO) role is relatively new but growing in popularity. This position can revolutionize business and how companies interact with customers.
With clear goals and a set plan for working with the rest of the C-suite, you can succeed as a Chief Customer Officer.
Table of Contents
- What is a Chief Customer Officer?
- What does a Chief Customer Officer do?
- Chief Customer Officer Challenges
- How to Become A Chief Customer Officer
What is a Chief Customer Officer?
The role of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) is to serve alongside the executive board. This leader ideates and designs new programs to improve the customer experience. This could occur in many ways, from designing customer loyalty programs to training employees on improving the customer experience.
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
- Chief Global Customer
- Chief Marketing Officer
This role typically reports to the CEO. CCOs sit alongside and work closely with the Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Product Officer.
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. CCOs build a long-term competitive advantage, retain loyal customers, and create a strategy to help increase profit.
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.
This ensures that the customer experience is integral to the business' strategy rather than a short-term tactic.
Evangelizes the Customer Experience
The customer perspective should inform everything the Chief Customer Officer does. Therefore, understanding the current and future needs of the customer is critical.
When making executive decisions, the customers' needs should dictate the company's decision. This allows the business to increase the lifetime value and profitability of customers.
With all this in mind, you may wonder how to prepare for a role as a Chief Customer Officer. Here's everything you need to know to prepare for this important role.
Chief Customer Officer Challenges
The CCO role is still a new concept, and it's not without its challenges. Here are three challenges that CCOs face.
Overcoming Cultural Resistance
Resistance to change is human nature. Overcoming this resistance is a major challenge for CCOs.
A shift to customer-centricity requires a change in company culture, which can be difficult to achieve. It can also be challenging to convince other decision-makers of how the customer experience contributes to the business.
As a Chief Customer Officer, evaluating your company's appetite for change is crucial. Then, you can adjust your strategy accordingly.
Encourage employees by implementing traditional change management methods, such as goal setting and organizational communication. Engage employees actively to ensure that everyone is on board with the transformation.
Obtaining Buy-in From Stakeholders
Implementing a customer-centric approach requires resources. That includes staffing, expertise, and buy-in from stakeholders.
Stakeholders want to justify their investments and may resist change if they don't understand the value that a CCO can bring.
A CCO must make the value statement of the customer experience clear. Establish realistic expectations so stakeholders understand the changes expected. This should also disclose the short-term costs associated with those changes.
Track the right metrics to report to the board. Keep them up-to-date on the progress of customer experience initiatives.
Sustaining a Consistent Customer Experience
Maintaining a consistent customer experience across multiple channels is one of the toughest challenges for CCOs.
"Starting the movement to customer-centricity was relatively easy; we actually have 28 business units on board," says Isabelle Conner, CCO at General Insurance.
"Sustaining the momentum (keeping it fresh) across 28 units spanning the globe is more challenging. It means keeping customers top of mind at all meetings, calling back detractor clients consistently within 24 hours, and, most importantly, eliminating pain points."
Maintain consistency by developing a comprehensive Customer Experience Management (CEM) program. Your plan should outline the processes for delivering, measuring, and improving the customer service experience.
Then, create a strong tech stack with customer experience tools. This software should help you track customer feedback, detect issues, and provide timely solutions.
Consolidate customer data into a single source of truth to make it easier for teams to access the necessary information.
How to Become A Chief Customer Officer
1. Be obsessively customer-centric.
In the past, customers were 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 beyond a single solution. According to Zendesk, 81% of leaders see customer experience and support as growing priorities over the next year.
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.
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. Instead, you have to convince 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. CCOs are 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. You must then take these insights into consideration when developing new customer strategies.
Monitor feedback closely. Customers will tell you what they need. This has big rewards.
In 2022, Redpoint Global found that 64% of those polled would rather purchase a product from a brand that knows them. In fact, 34% would spend more money on a product to do so.
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.
4. Work closely with your front-line teams.
No matter what strategies you implement, nothing matters if your employees are 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, try to find the root cause of employee dissatisfaction.
Educate your front-line workers regularly on new customer strategies. They may feel more motivated to reach company goals if they feel in the loop.
And, of course, make them understand their value 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 won't 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.
If you're invested in a customer-focused role, show your dedication by starting in an entry-level customer service job. By working exceptionally hard, you can rise up, just as in any other department.
CCOs need an in-depth understanding of your customer base. In that sense, it may benefit you to ascend internally, rather than by jumping between different companies.
Once you begin working at one company, you'll develop a deep comprehension of your target customers. Use 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.
Even though the word "customer" is in the CCO title, these leads must share the responsibility of championing the user.
Share the load with other members of the C-suite. Encourage them to understand the customer through the lens of their roles.
Break silos and place decision-makers at the forefront of customer experience initiatives.
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 alone.
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're even hired.
As noted earlier, there is confusion around the CCO position. In the past, it was unclear whether the duties of this role could be covered by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or Chief Sales Officer (CSO).
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 create a job description and start headhunting. It's crucial to have a path to success in advance.
Employers should research CCOs at 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 another C-suite member can't easily sweep up the goals you set. To show that this job specifically focuses on the customer experience, you must clearly understand every C-suite member's responsibilities.
The point, overall, is to build a more customer-centric organizational structure throughout the company. 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 greater 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.