Raise your hand if you’ve ever read a job description like this:
We’re hiring a Chief Customer Officer!
We’re seeking a dynamic individual who can help our company move to the next level. The right candidate must possess a deep understanding of value derived from the interpretation of public and private data into business contextual actions; a proven track record of successful executive leadership of large organizations; a social media presence that is polished, unblemished, and top notch; highly evolved communication and presentation skills; and (not least) the ability to lead, persuade, and corral executives of all other organizations within the company to come around to and share a new, singular strategic business orientation that has the customer at the center of the company’s business. Because we expect that orientation to benefit the customer and the company, it will require the CCO to be the individual at the leading edge of enabling its realization. Finally, you will be measured on your ability to empirically impact top and bottom-line corporate revenue.
If this piques your interest, you must know and be excited by the following in order to be successful in the role. Your primary challenges will be in driving wholesale, cross-company sustained change and, as part of that, ensuring that all executives are aligned and stay aligned around the new business orientation. You will need to be their coach because this orientation will inevitably force them to confront their own organizational challenges as they set about to retool and reorient the way their individual teams operate.
Is this you? If so, please contact us because we’re floundering. Our customers are churning, and we have no idea why. We desperately need you.
I offer up this somewhat tongue-in-cheek job description not as something for you to repurpose (seriously, don’t), but rather as an illustration of what executive leaders are up against today when it comes to helping their companies transform. The opportunities and challenges are immense and are driving the tremendous pressure executives face as they work to accelerate the way their organizations operate and deliver value to customers and to the business. The answer to this (customer-centricity), and the consensus opinion, sounds so simple and it belies a hard truth. Transforming a business to become customer-centric is meaningless without exploring the depth of how work is conducted, and value is delivered by all the roles that comprise the organization.
But all that exploration won’t produce the desired transformation if it isn’t grounded in a comprehensive appreciation for how customers interact with the company’s products and services. Let’s sharpen the point even more by saying that a customer-centered business model is impossible without a deep understanding of the customer journey. That understanding offers companies the opportunity to expand the concept of customer-centricity and takes it into the realm of work, details, effort, emotion, and measurement.
Boston Consulting Group described the journey mapping exercise this way, “To put their customers at the center of their business, companies should take their cue from digital natives and reorganize change initiatives around the customer journey—an end-to-end approach to conceiving and solving each distinct customer mission.”
It’s not hard to find proof of the need. In an article titled, Persuade Your Company to Change Before It’s Too Late, published in the January/February 2022 edition of the Harvard Business Review, 72% of global business leaders surveyed felt they needed to transform their core offering or business model. The report concluded that the main obstacle to transformation was allocating enough resources to the change effort and the researchers believe that finding is an indication that the leadership teams lacked conviction to act.
To me, this entire scenario has relevance for every organization, and none more than Customer Success. There has been a lot of industry buzz in the rise in prevalence of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO). And while I certainly view that prevalence as an opportunity to increase influence, it’s important to note that they are not, in fact, synonymous. The question is not “to have a CCO or not to have a CCO?”, but rather it is a question of the conviction and commitment to customer-centricity of the entire executive team. A CCO (even a great one) simply cannot be charged with doing that alone.