chief customer officer

More C Suites Need This New Officer – Chief Customer Officer

One of the favorite learnings in my career has been The Goldfish in the Bowl syndrome.  This simply means – being the goldfish in the bowl – we do not see ourselves as others do. 

In our business mode, we do not see what our Brand and our Company look like to the customer.  Taking it a step further we live in our company experience looking out at the world from inside our business bowl, rather than truly experiencing what it is like to be a customer.  On top of that, these days it is quite complex to grasp the customer view, given the many segments, and even on to customers desiring, even expecting, and even having Brand Personalization.

By George Wiedemann

My passion now is about Customer Centricity given that over two thirds of all buying begins with the customer (yours or someone else’s) putting a search word in the search bar. Entering the customer engagement space, we now have the customer experience across the journey at a myriad of touchpoints.  In my book Relationshipping the case is made that customer centricity and the customer being in charge is displacing a 600-year-old concept and word – Marketing.  

Another passion of mine is that we need to connect the dots after 40 years of siloing.  We now have an abbreviation soup of silo and touchpoint nomenclature, coupled with middle metric touchpoint justifications of execution, and spends, versus the final CLV metric analytics that is customer base focused. This has produced uneven customer experience across the journey causing the loss of customers. While I celebrate the expertise created at the touchpoints and in the silos, my current focus is on bringing the organization together so that there can be a unified, excellent customer experience.  If you want to optimize the ROI of all customer engagement budgets, this is the way to go.

Warning: my advocacy that all focus must go to the customer across the entire customer journey, and that Marketing be retired and replaced with Relationshipping, is met with pies being thrown in my face.  This comes from that 600-year-old word (Marketing) being cemented in place, and the advocacy by silo ownership who naturally advocate for their silo functions and budgets.  

Despite all the entrenchment and resistance to change (from Business School Professors, from VCs, from CMOs and other C Suite members) I’m going to push for discarding 20thCentury thinking about customers (segmented into the stages of being prospects, new customers, long time customers, influencers, expired customers, dormant customers, etc.), and advocate for a 21st Century approach in this real time, micro moment, connected, customer centric world we have.  

We now just have customers – yours and another Brand’s – who are living in a connected, micro-moment transacting world, and we need to use Relationshipping, the art and science across the entire journey of bonding your Brand with customers, to optimally build the Brand’s base.

My recommendation is that the Chairman of the Board, and the CEO, put a new officer in the C Suite, the CCO – Chief Customer Officer, if the enterprise does not have one.  Currently, it appears that only 29% of US companies with revenues of $2 billion or more have this officer in place.  It is also not clear in these beginning days how much influence and impact the new organizational structure with a CCO is having on putting customer centricity in place.  It is encouraging that many big enterprises are moving in this direction, and it is very likely giving them a competitive advantage.

Being a CEO please allow me to share how we are using this.  First, my practice for years has been to have a weekly C Suite meeting for at least an hour to bring the team together, to discuss all the issues at hand, and work to connect the dots.

My next recommendation is to add a “Customer Mode” exercise, in a cycle of practices, to the weekly meeting:

Week 1 each C Suite member acting like a customer rather than an employee is to attempt to engage with our Brand via Search, using the top 5 keywords in our category/vertical, searching incognito, in several of our Brand or Product’s key zip codes.  The team will present their experiences and the CMO can see if fixes are needed.  Failing to appear at the top of the page in this search realm allows your competitors – which the team will see – to harvest customers that could be yours, possibly beginning with stealing leads your ad spend created.

Week 2 each member as a customer visits the site, via a digital ad link or other performance marketing link, to see what it is like to purchase the exact product they are looking for.  The point here is to see if there are too many clicks involved, versus product specific landing pages, or PURLs in place.  Too many clicks have customers abandoning the journey resulting in lost sales.

Week 3 each member calls the call center.  Currently, the call center challenge is to blend technology and AI with the human element.  What does the team think of the recorded menu, of the instructions about what number to click on for what service, waiting times and then finally getting to a customer service rep, what that was like?  Ask how to resolve a complaint and see what that is like.  Is the call center building relationships or weakening them?

Week 4 each team member goes to two social spaces to engage the Brand and experience the conversation there about it.  It is hard to imagine that this will not produce ideas for improving the Brand’s participation in the social spaces.  Customers today trust other customers’ opinions more than they trust Brand communications.

This weekly team practice is not easy.  My experience over the years has been that it is hard enough just to have my C Suite members all show up for a weekly meeting, given that they may have higher priority business conflicts to properly manage – like needing to travel or (as in B2B businesses) needing to have an important customer meeting.  

Adding this “Customer Mode” to the equation will be a challenge, as this is not a current practice, and it is almost certain that team members will arrive at the meeting – having had higher priorities – not having done the exercise.

With passion, my prediction is that if your management team begins working in this Customer Mode connect the dots direction, it will pay off in better company performance.  

George Wiedemann

George Wiedemann was founder and CEO of Grey Direct for 21 consecutive years of worldwide growth; CEO of pioneer Silicon Valley email platform Responsys; and CEO of The DRUM Agency. He is founder and CEO of Relationshipping Consulting, focusing on bringing efficiencies to large-scale enterprises through deep budgetary analysis and process alignment. George is also a frequent contributor to TheCustomer.

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