No one can diagree that the most important asset of your company is your customers. The very reason why your business exits is to serve your customers to the best of your abilities. Every company should strive to create the best possible customer experience and use that as an opportunity to drive sales growth. Across every vertical, customer satisfaction is the most important aim that is relentlessly pursued and is undoubtedly one of the most important metric when it comes to evaluating performance of a company.
However, a lot of companies isolate themselves from the customers, as they focus excessively on profit and market share. Many of them try to use different mediums to strengthen their brand presence and awareness, but due to their inability to integrate various processes into one single mix, they send out confusing signals and consequently the brand image gets damaged. As a result, customers feel alienated. Sometimes, in large companies operating across multiple verticals, there is a distinct lack of communication and again, the company suffers the consequences as there is no single policy to drive better customer experience.
In such a rapidly challenging and dynamic corporate landscape, most companies – big and small, have finally realized the importance of having a chief customer officer (CCO). It is the latest addition to the C-level designations in a company.
According to information available on Wikipedia, a research conducted in 2010 by the Chief Customer Officer Council, a professional organization of CCOs, which mainly plays an advisory role and conducts various independent studies to gain valuable insights into the job of CCOs in the various customer interfaces – established that as of 2010, there were 450 executives who functioned under the designation of a CCO, or with comparable responsibilities up from less than 30 in 2003.
In the last 5 years or so, more and more companies have adopted the principle of customer appeasement through uniform policies across all verticals and the need for a position which is separate from that of a chief operating officer or a chief marketing officer has been felt. The number of CCOs in companies of different sizes is higher now, although in case of smaller companies, a CCO may have to multitask.
The rise and rise of CCOs
Even a few years back, CIO (chief information officer) in an IT firm, CEO (chief executive officer), usually the highest rank in the management level of a company and generally its face, COO (chief operating officer), usually the second highest rank and one who is responsible for all the business operations of a company, CMO (chief marketing officer), responsible for external marketing efforts and CFO (chief financial officer) responsible for looking after the financial side of a business were the most dominant and well known C-level executive positions in a company. But towards the end of the last decade, companies started to recognize the need of having a C-level executive who would be solely responsible for the welfare of customers and fulfilling company promises. They are responsible for establishing the customer perspective in board meetings and ensuring that none of the policies and decisions becomes anti-customer.
Progressive companies like Cisco and Monster were among the first few to create a separate designation in their ranks for a CCO. Nowadays, most B2C companies and contact centers and even some B2B companies prefer to have an executive responsible for building rapport with customers. Ecommerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba and retail behemoths like Walmart also have chief customer officers because they have to deal with customers directly and integrating the need for creation of superior customer experience in their business policies forms the basis for their business.
Functions of a CCO
Broadly speaking, a chief customer officer has four main functions- new customer acquisition, old customer retention, providing superior customer service to create a memorable experience and finally focusing on building long term customer relationships.
Customer relationship is not just about transactions. A company has to be receptive to new ideas, open to customer suggestions as well as criticisms and be empathetic to customer problems. Only then will it be able to identify customer needs and incorporate it in the products or services to create a differentiating value for its target group and stand out in the market.
A chief customer officer focuses on creating customer centric policies in the short-to-mid term and a solid corporate culture where the customer is placed at the core of the business operations, in the long term. A CCO determines the customer needs and the price for an experience that the customers are willing to pay.
A contact center has to depend on multi-channel interaction than ever before and ensure that customer can easily move from one channel to another without having to explain himself again. They want immediate response and quick delivery time of services. In most domains, customers have many choices which mean they can change their vendor whenever they wish to.
A company which loses association with its customers will surely go out of business and if you are a visionary business leader, you will also create a CCO position in your board soon to drive growth.