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Who wants to be a Chief Customer Officer?

Chief Customer Officers (or roles with similar titles and responsibilities) are being appointed in ever increasing numbers to boards across Australia and overseas. This reflects the increased effort and importance organisations place on improving the customer experience. So how does one become a Chief Customer Officer (CCO)? What skills, experience and aptitude are required? What are the challenges?

Ten years ago it would have been very difficult to find a Chief Customer Officer anywhere in Australia. Shipley observes, “When we started running events in the customer experience space a few years ago there were only 20 odd CCO or CXO’s in Australia and roughly 80 in APAC. In just a few years those numbers have grown by 400-500%”. Between 2017 – 2018 numerous enterprises appointed their first Chief Customer or Customer Experience Officer including The Guardian, Godfreys, Qantas, and QBE.

What it takes to be a CCO?

First and foremost they need to be a leader, according to Ben Shipley, Sales Director APAC, Corinium Global Intelligence. He comments, “Having spoken to so many that are successful there are three things that stand out – leadership, flexibility and drive. Customer Experience is about change and transformation. It takes a great leader to navigate that change effectively. You need a person who can motivate and understands that it is your employees that deliver or fail to deliver a great customer experience.”

“They also need to be flexible enough to pivot when an opportunity presents itself or when new information proves they are headed the wrong direction”, adds Shipley. “They need to understand the customer inside and out, and have the ability to adapt and change according to the expectations of their customers. They need to accept feedback, particularly negative feedback, and use that feedback when developing new strategies and programs”.

The role of a Chief Customer Officer

As a relatively new position, the role of a CCO can vary quite considerably from one organisation to another in terms of tasks and responsibilities. Shipley highlights, “The job may include any or all facets involved with running a company, including; customer service, marketing, sales, contact centres, operations, employee experience, HR and IT”. Their primary responsibility, however, is to champion the customer’s voice at the highest level within the organisation. Customer experience executives that are sitting on boards can exert significant influence over budgets and priorities.

A lot of the duties assigned to the CCO were previously undertaken by the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer). In some cases the role of CCO has replaced the CMO role within the organisation. Other organisations, however, maintain both roles.

The Challenges

Unfortunately, as the Chief Customer Officer Council points out, the CCO role is relatively new, poorly defined and often, poorly understand by other executives and stakeholders in the organisation. The biggest challenge for a new CCO is working in an organisation where the value of customer centricity is not fully appreciated or valued. Any change initiative or new program developed to improve the customer experience will meet with instant resistance and internal roadblocks.

Not only are they dealing with or trying to change legacy systems and processes, they may need to change or overcome a legacy mindset within the organisation and its executive leadership. According to Shipley a CCO needs plenty of drive to see things through and stick to their principles. It won’t be easy and often times they will have to do a lot of convincing that everyone needs to keep their eyes on the future and not just the next quarter”.

Mark Atterby

Mark Atterby has 18 years media, publishing and content marketing experience.