In 2003 there were fewer than 30 CCOs in the world. By 2010 there were 450 executives worldwide with the title. Now there’s 10s of 1000s scattered across the globe working in almost every industry sector. What is the career background of these new executives and what skills and attributes are required for them to be successful?
The role of CCO has arisen largely as a response to the increasing importance placed on customer experience by corporations. CCOs sit alongside the other executives to represent the customers perspective and to ensure the customer is at the heart of every executive decision made by the company.
It’s a new and exciting yet challenging role that sits at the forefront of an organisation’s digital transformation strategy and hopes for the future.
Where do CCOs come from?
The people fulfilling the role of CCO come from many different and diverse backgrounds, with a tendency for them to be jacks of all trades. They may have started their career working in finance, then moved into operations or contact centre management before diversifying into marketing or sales.
Emma Cornwell, Chief Customer Officer for the myHomecare Group, comments, “I started my career working in media and publishing selling advertising products. Later I worked at the NRMA, then I worked for Weight Watchers and finally I started working in home care services. My roles varied greatly within these organisations but they all involved helping to build brands and transitioning organisations from being monopolies to operating in highly competitive markets.”
This diversity in backgrounds makes sense considering that the decisions CCOs make can impact the entire organisation and its relationship with customers. An understanding of all aspects of a business and how they impact the customer, if not an imperative, is certainly a distinct advantage.
Is a CCO a CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) by another name?
There is certainly considerable overlap between the two roles. Traditionally, marketing has been the department most concerned with understanding customer behaviour. Today many CMOs (Chief Marketing Officers) have customer experience as part of their responsibilities, effectively making them CCO as well as CMO.
Despite the similarities and cross over between the two roles they are fundamentally different. Customer experience represents a dramatic shift in how a company views itself and how it goes to market, often requiring a significant digital transformation project. This affects everything about the organisation including leadership, operations, how people are hired, and how the company goes to market.
The role of CCO is much broader than marketing and the associated tasks of branding and lead generation. Therefore, it requires a broader set of skills and abilities. Quite often, the marketing team and manager within a company will report to a CCO.
What does it take to succeed?
There are quite a number of skills, attitudes and aptitudes that can be helpful for a CCO to have. What’s required for a particular job may vary depending on the organisation and the industry. Below are some characteristics that any CCO will find necessary to perform there job effectively:
- Being absolutely committed to understanding the mindset of your customers and their success. If you want to succeed as CCO you need to really listen to your customers and act on their feedback. Rachel Hamlen, Head of Customer Experience at Fairvine Super, advises, “The ability to truly listen to customers and empathise with them is critical. Quite often what customers ask you or tell you is not what they’re really asking. So, the answers you provide are not answering what they’re asking you deep down. As an example, someone might ask us a question like “who is backing you?” but what they are actually asking is ‘Is my money safe?’” It’s a subtle difference but having a customer mindset gives you the opportunity to go into more detail and really communicate.”
- The ability to collaborate with different teams and leaders in the organisatiom. CCO’s need to work with various teams and leaders as well as gain buy-in and support from other executives for their initiatives. Often the CCO and their team need to train and educate the rest of the organisation on the merits of adopting a customer-centric mindset.
- Collaboration also require empathy and the ability to see something from someone else’s point of view. Not only should be able to take on board customer feedback the CCO needs to open and respond to feedback from teams and leaders within the organisation.
- Strong problem solving and change management skills are highly desirable. CCOs are often employed to help take a company through a period of substantial change. Being able to manage major transformations can be a vital requirement for the job.
- Create great employee experiences. According to Jo Kelly, CCO for Good2Give, No matter what strategies, technology or new processes you implement, nothing matters if your employees are unhappy and discouraged. She says, “If you’ve got dissatisfied staff or morale is low, it shows in every single customer interaction. You can hear it people’s voices and you can see it in their behaviour and body language – you see this in all organisations and it’s often the first sign that something isn’t working as well as it should. A big focus for us is to remove basic pain points in our business that are frustrating our employees and allow them to have more time and energy to improve the customer experience”.
The above list is not exhaustive, but it does cover some of the most important aspects of the job.
The role of the CCO will continue to evolve and grow as customer expectations continue to change and companies try to compete on customer centricity. To become a CCO requires considerable commitment to ongoing learning and career development matched with an obsession to add value to the experiences customers have with you and your organisation.