The role of Chief Customer Officer (CCO) has evolved to become a crucial component of organisational strategy. CCOs are now at the forefront of driving business growth by championing customer-centric initiatives, fostering brand loyalty, and leveraging data-driven insights.
Traditionally, companies were structured with a strong focus on sales, marketing, and product development. While these functions remain important, the CCO role has gained prominence as businesses recognise the need to put the customer at the centre of their operations. Margaret Foley, Chief Customer Officer at Simple, comments, “For me, the role of the CCO is everything that pertains to our existing customer base, which includes retention but also includes driving growth in the business. It crosses over into the sales function, the marketing function, and the product function. For us at Simple, it’s a comprehensive role”.
CCOs understand that it’s not just about acquiring new customers but also retaining and turning them into advocates for the brand. CCOs focus on building strong, long-lasting relationships with customers through exceptional service and engagement initiatives, which results in higher customer lifetime value and organic growth through referrals. Foley comments, “It’s about, how we take the voice of our customers and develop a deep understanding of what they need from us as an organisation, so we can service them really well and provide them with great experiences. This drives retention and loyalty leading to growth through referrals and our customers becoming advocates for the brand.”
James Coyle, Chief Customer Officer at Super Ed, views the role, to some extent, as an evolution of the Chief Marketing Officer position, “In the past, the CMO focused on all the aspects of the journey that led to the acquisition of a customer, the CCO now needs to cater for everything that affects them as a customer. In the past marketing could be quite isolated from sales, customer service and other aspects of the business. Nowadays these different areas of the business need to come together and collaborate around a common vision.”
The CCO’s responsibilities
In describing the role of a CCO Coyle refers to a concept from environmental science known as Umwelt. He comments, “Umwelt is a German word for environment. It’s basically about how organisms, animals, people, and so on, can live in exactly the same environment but they will perceive things and interact with that environment very differently from each other”.
“A highly effective Chief Customer Officer excels at understanding their customer base and their unique perspectives on the world. In my case, my customers predominantly consist of retirees and individuals seeking the age pension. It’s important to recognise that they are more than just seniors with larger font preferences; they bring a wealth of life experiences. They were once active taxpayers contributing to the economy, but now they are in a phase of spending down their savings. This shift in financial status significantly impacts their worldview and how they interact with the world”.
It’s the CCO’s responsibility to foster a customer-centric culture throughout the organisation and represent the perspective of the customer within the business. This involves ensuring that every department and employee understands the importance of the customer experience and how their role contributes to it. Foley says, “As a CCO I’m not the head of product. Nor am I the head of sales or the head of marketing. I am the voice of the customer inside the business. The CCO is a conduit between customers and the other senior people in the business.”.
CCOs often collaborate closely with various departments, including customer support, sales, product development, and marketing, to ensure that the entire organisation is aligned with the needs and preferences of customers. By aligning the entire company around the customer, CCOs create a unified vision that drives growth. Foley adds, “The role of the chief customer officer is all about demonstrating credibility and trust, which you need to generate growth.”
CCOs and business growth
The evolving role of Chief Customer Officers (CCOs) in driving business growth involves a shift from primarily focusing on customer satisfaction and retention to becoming strategic leaders who contribute directly to the overall success and profitability of the organisation. The Chief Customer Officer is closely tied to business growth in a number of ways:
Revenue growth: By cultivating a culture centred around the customer, harnessing data-driven insights, and enhancing the overall customer experience, Chief Customer Officers (CCOs) can play a direct role in driving revenue growth. “By fostering a customer-centric culture, leveraging data insights, and improving the customer experience”, says Foley, “CCOs can contribute directly to revenue growth. Happy, loyal customers are more likely to make repeat purchases and become brand advocates, leading to increased sales through referrals”.
Reduced Churn: CCOs focus on reducing customer churn rates by identifying and addressing pain points in the customer journey. This not only saves on customer acquisition costs but also contributes to the stability and growth of the customer base. Coyle comments, “The importance of customer retention and the potential profitability associated with retaining customers and driving repeat sales is underscored by the role of the Chief Customer Officer in a business”.
“Rather than investing resources in acquiring new customers, the emphasis is shifting towards the value of retaining existing customers and continually offering them additional products or services. This focus on customer loyalty and long-term relationships is not a novel concept, but it is gaining increased prominence, partly due to the influence of Chief Customer Officers”, adds Coyle.
Competitive advantage: In competitive markets, a superior customer experience can be a powerful differentiator. CCOs help companies stand out by creating memorable interactions and building a reputation for exceptional service.
Long-term sustainability: A customer-centric approach isn’t just about short-term gains; it’s about ensuring the long-term sustainability of the business. CCOs contribute to this by nurturing customer loyalty and trust. Coyle comments, “One of the prominent trends is the rapid pace of information flow and the speed of adaptation. In this context, it’s worth noting that advancements in technology have enabled us to receive information more swiftly when engaging with others in an online setting. This heightened speed translates to a greater capacity for experimentation and learning at an accelerated rate. But it also means that we can’t rest on our laurels. It’s why focusing on the customer is so important”.
As the role of the CCO in generating growth becomes increasingly important, more and more organisations will appoint them. Foley comments, “I anticipate an increasing trend in businesses adopting the role of Chief Customer Officer, especially as the landscape for sales and marketing becomes more challenging. In our current market, which appears to be quite tough, whether officially labelled as a recession or not, people are adjusting their behaviours and purchasing habits, perhaps in anticipation of economic challenges”.
“Given this context, it’s crucial to consider that the cost of acquiring a new client is, on average, five times higher than retaining an existing one. This reality necessitates a smarter approach because we cannot simply refrain from acquiring new customers due to the high costs involved. Therefore, organisations should examine their existing client relationships and explore ways to enhance the value they provide”.
The primary responsibility of a CCO is to ensure that the organisation is customer-centric. They are responsible for creating and implementing strategies to enhance the overall customer experience, satisfaction, and loyalty. CCOs often focus on building strong relationships with customers, understanding their needs, and advocating for those needs within the organisation. They work to align the company’s products, services, and operations with customer expectations. Ultimately, CCOs are primarily focused on customer retention which leads to more revenue and business growth.