Why you need a chief customer officer


  "There are numerous examples of highly dedicated and professional customer experience (CX) managers striving to deliver on their mandate, but without a voice at the highest executive levels." Rick Parry

Most business owners will agree that customers are our most important assets. Without customers, we simply don't have a business.

It follows that we should do everything in our power to deliver a delightful customer experience (CX), to ensure our customers keep coming back for more and act as willing brand advocates.

Yet many businesses do not understand the gravity or sophistication of a CX function, or what it truly means to deliver a consistently great CX.

Your people are your brand

So, what makes for a great customer experience?

In the simplest terms, CX comprises 3 pillars – technology, process and people. To date, most companies have focused on the first two, but the people component is becoming more prominent as the importance of "company culture" within the brand – as represented by our people – hits home.

Yes, brand is about product and the company name, but our number one brand representatives are the people within our organisation – wherever they work. In short, our people are our brand and need to be understood and recognised as such.

So, how do we move on from a purely technology- and process-driven view of customer-centricity, and how do we back people to deliver a great customer experience?

How winners treat and train their people

Perennial winners like Apple, Google, Nordstrom, Pixar and Mercedes Benz consistently deliver a delightful customer experience on every level because of an uncompromising focus on softer, people-focused issues.

They know that if people work in a happy environment in which their needs are met, and their contributions are acknowledged, they are more likely to deliver delightful experiences in their customer-facing roles. If they follow the golden rule of human social behaviour – treating others as they would like to be treated – their positive attitudes and behaviours will yield hard business results.

Conversely, if they don't behave in a way that promotes a culture of delight at work and in their customer experiences, their company will be perceived as being like all the rest, with no demonstrable customer focus.

Framing a positive experience

The optimal intersect of people, process and technology in first-rate customer experience is a strategic issue that is framed right at the top – not in customer service, IT or HR departments.

And yet, many businesses do not envision or execute on the customer experience, because they do not accord it sufficient importance. There are numerous examples of highly dedicated and professional CX managers striving to deliver on their mandate, but without a voice at the highest executive levels.

Ultimately, the vision required to frame, and own implementation of this function merits the creation of a new C-suite title – that of CCO (Chief Customer Officer). Since our customers are our most important assets, we should give them and their experiences with us the high level of attention it deserves. After all, the other two pillars are represented at the highest level – COO and CIO!

This article is the first in a series about the need for a chief customer officer. Future instalments will deal with best-in-class examples and how-to's.

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