The rise of the Chief Customer Officer

As businesses witness a growing importance of customer relationships in maintaining their competitive advantage, there is one particular role that is emerging as a strategic player – the Chief Customer Officer (CCO). Up till now the CCO has been a rather neglected part of the C-suite, but that is all about to change.

It was back in the 1990s that the title “CCO” emerged, and the role was basically to function as an advocate for customers, but with no clear objectives. Still today, the role is poorly understood even amongst the C-suite (CEO, CFO, CMO) and especially amongst customers, as there is no official field guide to being a CCO.

According to Curtis Bingham, founder and Executive director of CCO Council, the proper definition of the CCO role is “an executive that provides the comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer and creates corporate and customer strategy at the highest levels of the company to maximize customer acquisition, retention, and profitability.”

Bingham sees the CCO role of today as evolving into more of a “Chief Customer Strategy Officer,” focused primarily upon driving profitable customer strategy at all levels of the company with the express goal of acquiring, retaining, and serving the right customers for greater profits. It is no longer a “nice to have” designation; for many companies it is business critical and primary source of competitive advantage.

Based on these goals a successful CCO should be able to grow the customer base, enhance profitability, increase the strength of the customer base as an asset and balance the focus on cost cutting and revenue-growth for the company.

These are complicated goals to achieve especially when we know that the customers of today are more demanding than ever. As consumers increasingly spend their lives either online or on the move they demand different forms of customer support. They want their questions answered faster and they have a growing appetite for usable self-service solutions such as online virtual assistants and intelligent email forms.

Recent market research(*1) shows that 96% now visit a website to resolve a query instead of calling, and a staggering 89 % would buy from a competitor instead if they cannot resolve their query online. A further 81% of people would engage with a virtual assistant if it reduced online waiting time.

“The virtual assistant market is experiencing immense growth. It is likely that, eventually, every successful company will employ intelligent and capable artificial employees to deliver an instant, accessible online communication channel for their customers”, says Lawrence Flynn, CEO of Artificial Solutions.

For a CCO to be successful at his role, these are key factors to have in mind. With the web being most people’s initial source of information, companies that fail at this first hurdle will lose business. It is the task of the CCO to make sure that that does not happen.

*1 Independent European research study: “What consumers want from online customer service” conducted by Axiall

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