The Chief Customer Officer (CCO) Movement…a Good Sign for Customers

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

We’re all familiar with a wide variety of CXO positions, but how many of you have run into a CCO lately?  Well it’s becoming more and more likely that you WILL run into one in organizations worldwide as the creation of Chief Customer Officer roles become a strategic move for organizations according to a recent Inc. Magazine article.

What IS a CCO?  The Chief Customer Officer is the executive responsible in customer-centric companies for the total relationship with an organization’s customers.  This position is intended to provide a single vision across all methods of customer contact.  The strategic importance of CCOs has gradually grown since the 1990’s when the role was created and in some cases was just a symbolic way for organizations to say that they were customer-focused.  Today, the CCO typically reports to the chief executive officer, and is potentially a member of the board of directors.

According to Curtis Bingham of the CCO Council, there are now over 500 CCO’s worldwide and the role is rapidly evolving.

CCOs are often responsible for influencing corporate activities of customer relations in the call center, sales, marketing, user interface, finance/billing. fulfillment and post-sale support.  Sometimes they even may head up one of these functional areas, but still maintain a cross-functional focus.

One interesting example of this is a client of mine, Vendavo, where their new Sr. VP of Global Sales, Jennifer Maul, previously held the CCO role in the organization.   Jennifer’s new role is “responsible for lifetime customer relationships, customer success, and growing the customer base”.   As a result of the close relationship between those goals and the sales team, she now has a different title, but is still responsible for customer relationships as well as the sales function.  This would indicate that customer retention and satisfaction is fundamental to Vendavo's sales/growth strategy…that’s a good thing!

I'm encouraged by the increasing number of CCOs and the increased focus of organizations on how important customer relationships are to the bottom line.  If you aren't delivering/supporting your product or communicating with your customers in a way that meets their needs/expectations, it doesn't matter how cool your product is...they will find someone else who is willing to make their experience easier and less painful.

To learn more about this evolving role, explore the CCO Council site.  There are many tools there to help determine whether the time is right for your organization to create a CCO role and the success factors for doing so.

If you consult with organizations, you should understand more about this role and realize the important message your clients are sending if they have a CCO…it is a huge clue about their strategic focus and will give you insights about what is most important to them.

Please share any insights you have about this role and the challenges that companies may be having in implementing such a position.

What the @*!# Were They Thinking?

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Remember the 2004 "What the @#!* Do We Know?" movie that explored the power of our brains and our thinking?  I loved that movie…and it got me thinking just a little differently…I have no hope that my interaction with Citibank last night will have anywhere NEAR the same impact.

I just happened to check my online credit card account info last night and saw a long paragraph in red letters telling me that a “recent merchant database compromise” may have put my account at risk and that my card was no longer active and I would be receiving a new one…WHAT?!

My immediate reaction was “Why didn’t they call or email me with this information?”  I have always been pleased with CitiBank’s service in situations where they suspected ‘fraudulent’ activity and called me proactively…why didn’t that happen this time?

I immediately got on the phone to customer service…and got an extremely frustrating response from the customer service rep who was very vague and never answered my questions about what merchant database was compromised, when did it happen, why didn’t I get a call to inform me of the situation, etc.

Instead, I got a ‘party line’ repeated to me over and over again: “We suspected that there might be fraudulent activity, so we cancelled your card.”  Got it…you were being proactive…cool…thanks…but how about that NEXT step of ‘proactivity’ and letting me, the customer, know what was going on?  BEFORE I try to use my credit card and get rejected by a merchant/store/gas pump?

I asked to speak to a manager to express my frustration and to get answers to my questions but he not only wouldn’t accommodate my request, but expressed his OWN frustration that I ‘was making him repeat himself’.   Ay yi yi…

This is a wonderful illustration of how companies lose customers.  I could have been talked off the ledge if the customer service rep had handled our call just a little differently using some very simple (common sense) steps:

-          Apologize for the problem/stress/concern that their message caused

-          Clarify what exactly had happened and what they had done and what would happen now

-          Ask whether I had any remaining questions/concerns

-          Apologize one more time for the inconvenience

-          Assure me that CitiBank is looking out for me and wants to protect my assets

-          Thank me for my continued business

It’s quite simple (hey!  Let's give it an acronym: ACAAAT!)…and I think that this formula would work with any reasonable customer…it astounds me that respectable companies (which I truly consider CitiBank to be) still aren’t getting this…for those of us who work with organizations to help them monitor customer satisfaction/loyalty and retain customers, let’s all make it our mission to keep spreading the word that the SIMPLE things are what will help them keep customers…it’s not the fancy stuff…loyalty programs are great, but if you can’t get the simple human interaction stuff right, they are wasted.  And for those of you who have ANY influence at all over your own organization's service policies and/or strategy, please keep this in mind.

What the @*!# are they thinking?