Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Will you someday be the Chief Customer Officer?

As a marketing professional, you may specialize in brand communication or digital marketing or data-driven metrics or any number of areas.  If you are thinking about your long-term future, however, you may want to consider the alignment of marketing with sales, with customer service operations, with product design and even the overall strategy of your firm.

And for those of you who think expansively and who want climb the corporate ladder, check out a post by Paul Hagen of Forester Research, The rise of the Chief Customer Officer.  

Imagine being the person in charge of overall customer experience, who drives alignment of marketing, sales, service and everything else that touches the customer.  Imagine being the one to ensure close connection between the customers you want to acquire/retain and the strategy of your business.  And yes, this does mean you are a member of the C-suite, the executive team, and in a position to help shape the future of your firm. 

Do I have your attention?

Hagen’s post describes a few great examples, such as the story behind USAA’s decision to establish a Chief Customer Officer, and how Boeing Training & Flight Services saw the CCO role as a way to accelerate business growth by reorganizing around customer focus.

This could be you, but there’s the catch…

In this study the majority of CCO’s were internal hires with significant experience in their firm.  That will change as companies seek to hire established people who have proven their capabilities.  But you need to get the right experiences, and doing the same thing for 10 or 15 years won’t get you there!
  1. Start thinking about customer experience and marketing from the balcony instead of the dance floor.   How does each group seek to add value to customers?  Pay attention to what goes on in all other functions that touch the customer, without seeing them as good-guys and bad-guys because them may not value marketing.
  2. Diversify your career experience.  No, you don’t have to quit your job, but you do have to find projects, assignment or rotations in the different customer facing functions and business units.  Nothing builds your empathy and credibility better than walking a few miles in someone else’s shoes
  3. Pay attention to what makes a difference to customers and business performance.  Most of us get siloed and, at best, only know the ROI of our own business function or unit.  Start looking at the entire picture as if you were the CCO.  And when you have a chance to speak with senior executives, ask about business strategy and the total integration of customer experience. 

Someday you could be the CCO.  And when you get there, don’t forget about me. After all, I may be one of your customers!

Marc Sokol is an organizational psychologist with an eye for how people and teams can be more effective, even in a dysfunctional company. He is part oM Squared Group, a data-driven marketing consultancy.   

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AJ Hamzehpour said...

Very interesting read on something that I feel isn't going away anytime soon. 3 more success factors I would highlight are:
1) creating a high amount of exposure for the initiative across the company,
2) making the compelling story behind the change that is about to take place and conveying the (WIIFM)- what's in it for each of the different business units, and
3) gaining buy-in from the various customer-facing departments beforehand(which is driven by #2 above)

Marc Sokol said...

Excellent observations! The lesson here is to be prepared to tell a story about customer experience, to make it a great story, and to tell it in a way that everyone listening hears it as "our story".

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