One of the challenges of being a Chief Customer Officer is that you have a higher passion for customers than any other leader in the company. The CFO cares about the money and the budgets, the CTO cares about the systems and god forbid if you break a protocol. The CEO is too busy listening to the CFO’s worries about all kind of financial acronyms to raise blood pressure. The CCO is the annoying little brother that budges in to your room when all the cool guys are visiting.
CCO are newest and by far the smallest component of the C-suite according to the CCO-council. Try to find a CCO education with google. One of the most important roles in a company, and you can’t find an education to become one. It is kind of strange that the finances and other aspects of a company have been more important than the customers for so long. And when you think about it, it’s actually almost insane.
The CCO is the single most important function in any company
Yes, I will fight to claim this view until I am six feet under, because the CCO should be able to hold the rest of the C-gang accountable when the customer experience drop. You can’t blame customer service when billing spits out thousands of invoices with the wrong amount. Or blame the CCO if the infrastructure breaks. You can’t blame the CCO if the warehouse is empty. The CCO knows and shall always know why the customers contact you or how the customers feel. The biggest responsibility for a CCO is to make sure that the customers have no reason to complain or contact the company, unless they line up to buy – but then the CRO gets the praise. In order to act upon the responsibility given the CCO should be able to hold the other members of the C-gang accountable.
CEO = CCO
This is why I also claim that the CEO and the CCO should be equal or close to equal – or even the same person if there is capacity. But as soon as the CEO is too busy to care about the customers a CCO should join in as a wingman.
Customer Experience is confusing.
Everybody is responsible for good customer experience throughout the company. The people in the warehouse, the delivery people, the sales force, and the call center staff, the switchboard operator, the IT-crew, the janitor and the managers are all responsible for a good customer experience. And this also creates confusion as when responsibility is spread, it also vaporizes. How can a CCO adjust the overpromising salespeople? How can the CCO demand that the purchasing and production routines are adjusted? Still the CCO is responsible when the customers are unhappy with the quality of the product? It is just pure illogical.
The customers do not want to call you
If you could choose between two broadband providers, one that delivered a product with no problems, and one that delivered a product where you had to call customer service due to lost connections once per month? Who would you pick? Yes, exactly – no customers want to call your hotline. So any leader in the customer service part of the organization should always analyze this: How do we reduce the number of contacts to our call center? I have read a lot about staffing and planning for peak traffic, but only a few points out the obvious – how to plan for reduction in contacts.
But how can the CCO be responsible for creating a great customer experience if the CCO have no authority over the other members of the C-clan? The CFO gets a pat on the back if budgets are met, even if the cutback in customer service agents clogged the call center.
I have been working with customer service leadership for some years now. I remember my first encounter with a controller that was wondering why the call center was performing poorly – because we only managed to handle about 60 % of the calls. I looked at him, and said: “How do you mean poorly? I have never experienced such an effort from my staff; they are going to break records today in the number of handled contacts. The question you should ask is: Why are there so many calling us and pin the problem on the right donkey. “ and since then I have felt as the noisy little brother and nobody listens.
“The CCO role is also quite fragile– my research indicates the average tenure is only about 26 months.” – The CCO Council
I will always work with the customers in mind, and if I should give one advice to new CCO’s around the globe. Provide your numbers, analyze why people are calling and pinpoint the responsibility to the right C. If you say that “We are now handling 80 % of the contacts within xx hours” – the rest of the group will fall asleep. If you come into the room with proof, “45 % of our contacts are because of trouble with the power button – I expect this number to drop to 10% within 3 months – here you go sir/madam, give me an action plan within the end of the month, I want to see results”. I would love to be a fly on that wall. But be careful you might become the noisy little sibling bugging the teen party.
The CCO will not succeed unless the others in the C-block manages to share the same view. The CCO needs to be a strong diplomat and win people over to the right side of the force in order to succeed. And as long as there is no shift in power, you should put your energy in collaboration. You might be the one with the best collaborate skills anyway. I just realize that being the youngest of three brothers, I have probably been the CCO since birth – or maybe I’m just suffering from a serious case of the inferiority complex. I see no other logic – the CCO is the most important and undervalued position in a company.