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Losing the Trail

Friday, May 21, 2010
The mountain trail I had been climbing suddenly ended. I looked hard at every tree, turning in a slow circle, hoping to see the familiar yellow blaze on a tree that would mark the way forward.  As I started to cool down, the perspiration on my shirt began to freeze, and I felt the cold start eating at my exposed fingers and ears.  I had lost the trail.  

I was hiking in the White Mountains and had been following a well-traveled trail, clearly marked with yellow blazes on trees.  As I went further into the backcountry, I noticed more trees bearing the blazes had fallen down during the severe winter ice storms.  I wasn’t concerned because I could typically make out other signs of travel, such as a worn path, crushed leaves, or cut branches marking the trail others had traveled before.
Now I was lost, and the only hope I had was to retrace my steps, looking over my shoulder every few feet in hopes of returning to familiar territory.  I was racing against time and the cold.  After a time, I recognized the familiar yellow blaze on a tree.  Relief flooded through me.  I peered off into the distance and saw far away the next yellow blaze in a much different direction than I had taken previously.  Clearly, many other people had missed this marker and had mistakenly gone down the same wrong path. 

I was lucky.  I had followed in the footsteps of others who’d been equally lost, and I’d been able to return to familiar territory and once again find the correct path forward.  

How many of you are trying to navigate the poorly marked path towards customer loyalty, and find yourselves unsure where the next trail marker is, or worse, following what appears to be a well-trod path that leads you further and further away from you desired objective?  What are the consequences to your customers, your company, and you personally when you have to backtrack and reset, having experimented at customers’ expense and finding that you’ve lost the trail?

Are you merely a fire fighter, running from one customer crisis to another?  Or do you have a clear-cut strategy in place to prevent them from arising in the first place? Do you know what needs to happen after you’ve developed a comprehensive survey program?  Or how about if you find yourself in a customer crisis?  Do you have a response plan in place?  Do you know the critical steps to creating a stellar customer experience? 

Many executives have been able to reach their positions by “figuring things out” yet, at the C-Level, there simply isn’t room for this approach, and the consequences of taking the wrong path can be severe.  

As a CCO or customer executive, you need to find a way to abstract yourself from the inevitable day-to-day crises, and develop your long-term strategy.  This strategy needs to be grounded in reality and proven best practices.  

Such a comprehensive plan prevents you from wandering, and helps ensure you are focused on the right activities.  It proves to your CEO and your board that you are competent and deserve to be entrusted with the company’s most valuable assets: the customers. 

The members of the Chief Customer Officer Council have created the Chief Customer Officer Roadmap, which, like the yellow blazes on the trees, clearly marks the path you need to follow in your path towards creating a strong customer focus and engendering intensely loyal customers. It contains nearly 100 critical activities that you as the CCO or Customer Executive don’t necessarily need to own, but that you do need to ensure are implemented and sustained within your companies.  

The Chief Customer Officer Roadmap is broken down into a number of categories, and there is a loose, top-to-bottom and left-to-right progression.  The Roadmap also provides a rough priority order of activities in each section.  

More details on the CCO Roadmap are found on the CCO Council website

The CCO Roadmap enables you to focus on the most important activities first, and over time, broaden your horizons to better serve customers and deliver stronger corporate results, while saving you time because you don’t have to experiment at customers’ expense as you follow trails that lead nowhere and cost you precious time as you backtrack to familiar territory.  

If you haven’t already, please join us on the CCO Council so you can benefit from the invaluable experience of those who have blazed a clear trail for you to follow.  

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Categories: CCO Council | Chief Customer Officer