The CCO role has been prevalent in the USA for the last 20 years. The first officially titled chief customer officer was Jack Chambers, appointed 23 years ago in 1994 as CCO of Texas New Mexico Power.
But even in the US, where it is most established, it is still really in the early stages of maturity. Outside of America, things are at an even more nascent stage.
For instance, there are currently only 90 chief customer officers (CCOs) in the UK – though this number is 46% more than a year ago, and up from just 14 CCOs in the UK in 2014.
Momentum is steadily gathering, and the USA’s experience has paved the way for businesses in other countries to start looking at the CCO role, and understand how they could take their learnings and apply them in their own territories as the role crosses from B2C to B2B.
Our knowledge of this growing trend, and the rising interest in this job role, led us to commission a new report – The Chief Customer Officer Report – which looks in more detail at these developments, and how businesses are embracing customer-needs and transforming their operations to reflect them.
It also provides us with tantalising answers to some of the biggest questions that surround the role of the chief customer officer.
1. Why is there a growing interest in the role of chief customer officer?
At one of Comotion’s recent events, Stephen Ingledew, the former MD for customers & marketing at Standard Life, delivered a presentation about becoming a more customer-driven business, based on his many years of experience and lessons with established financial services businesses.
While he emphasised the importance of data and design thinking, he explained that there is no ‘silver bullet’ in the process of becoming customer-driven or implementing the transformation processes that stem from that. But what he did note, was that the expectation of change, agility, and welcoming diversity should be baked into organisational thinking to ensure that everyone is best placed to embrace the fact that ‘disruption becomes the norm’ in this changing world of ours. And that relies on the role of leadership.
Our research – based on conversations with over 50 business leaders and existing CCOs – supports this view. It concludes that to become customer-led requires a shift in the DNA of a business, often meaning new requirements in leadership. And reflecting this, our report found that customer-led leadership is not only an indicator of commercial success, but is also an increasingly hot topic. In addition to requiring the buy-in of the CEO, customer-led thinking requires its own internal champion – the CCO.
2. Do all companies require a CCO?
The level of engagement by the company’s executives will often inform the need for a CCO, and in fact some organisations may not be ready for a fully-fledged CCO, but rather just need help in sorting customer journeys or fixing some operational processes which are part of the customer journey.
Assessing this need should be an integral part of delivering the best possible customer experience and Talecco, the new talent business launched by Comotion, will be assisting companies with training and development of these processes, as well as finding the right people to undertake them.
3. If you need a CCO, what are you looking for?
A CCO role is a complex one, and while there seem to be no specific qualification or backgrounds but it goes without saying that the role must satisfy the needs of each company individually and is often based on what a particular organisation is trying to achieve. A business’s own digital maturity, marketplace, and legacy situation has a huge impact on the specification of the CCO role.
Because the skill set and job description are so new and poorly defined, companies are having to educate themselves or seek support in order to make good hiring decisions in an increasingly competitive market.
4. Where can you find qualified candidates?
The job pool is conversely both large and small: large because the variety of backgrounds of current CCO’s is varied so more large corporate customer-facing roles could potentially morph into a CCO role. However, the job pool can also be considered small because it is a still a role that very few in the UK have held.
Therefore, it is no surprise that 84% of UK CCOs are new to the title/role. Our research indicates that there is no clear and consistent background for CCOs, although many come from previous positions that were either customer-facing or operational.
In short, finding candidates that have prior experience as a chief customer officer is a hard task, so you need to identify other qualities and experience that will make them a good fit for your CCO requirements.
5. What should CCOs focus on upon their appointment?
Having worked with companies undergoing these changes for a number of years, Comotion and Talecco believe that there are five stages to undertake this transformation:
- Set-up – arguably the most important part to get right, this stage establishes the degree of alignment between senior leaders about how far and how fast the organisation is willing to go in its journey towards being customer-driven. Some views of ‘what good looks like’ can help at this stage.
- Fix the basics – getting the quick wins in (the easier changes) to demonstrate the benefits and, moreover, start to engage employees in the journey.
- Deliver on the promise – this is the ‘heavy lifting’ phase where the serious changes get introduced.
- Differentiate – pick on 2-3 things that will differentiate you from the competition.
- Delight – referred to as ‘saving the sexy stuff until later’ this is the phase where the organisation can generate real customer – and employee – advocacy.
In an enterprise-wide transformation, the sequential stages laid out above won’t happen in exactly that way, with different areas moving at different speeds. Pilots and proof of concept implementations are also critical so that the organisation can learn as changes are implemented and early benefits realised, benefits felt by Comotion’s clients such as Lloyd’s Banking Group and Southern Water.
Customers should always be at the forefront of any company’s focus and those which have been founded as product-led businesses will need to play catch up to those founded with customers in mind, and with the right resources in place to manage all their requirements. Sometimes the process of change can be challenging and take time, but ultimately it will be worth it and will lead to better customer relationships and financial growth.