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The Impact of the Chief Customer Officer, Part I

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Today's customers require access to a company's offerings through many forms of media in order to meet their preferences and lifestyles. Furthermore, they also require a consistent customer experience across these channels since they can easily choose to change vendors if they do not receive support that meets their expectations. So multi-channel accessibility and consistency of experience across those channels have become essential components to winning the competition for customers. More and more, companies are recognizing the financial benefits of customer satisfaction and its proportionate relationships with loyalty and profitability.

With accessibility and the consistency of customer experience in mind, many companies have turned to creating a chief customer officer (CCO) position in the C-Suite. This still-emerging and evolving role can be defined as: the executive responsible for the total relationship with an organization's customers. The challenge has been to tie this position to financial gains and losses to clearly justify the investment. A recent study conducted by the Chief Customer Officer Council has shed some light on the effectiveness of CCO's over a two year period and the numbers are compelling.

This research shows that 67% of evaluated companies saw positive fiscal effects during the tenure of the CCO, with an average growth excess of industry of 5.98%. Given the minimum threshold of $1B annual revenue, this represents a difference of hundreds of millions of dollars. On the flip side, 33% of companies experienced an average of 5.2% decrease in growth excess of industry. Clearly, not all positive or negative results can be attributed to the CCO. It is equally clear however that the influence of the CCO is positively correlated with improved company fiscal performance.

In an effort to identify the impact a chief customer officer has on company financials, the Chief Customer Officer Council researchers narrowed a population of more than 300 companies to a sample of 51 CCOs at 46 separate companies with a CCO in place for at least two years and with nominal revenues of one billion dollars (US) in 2010. For each of these companies, sales revenue, operating margin, and industry sales data were gathered. Where possible, data were gathered from five years prior to the CCO's appointment up to the current time or end of the CCO's employment, whichever was shorter. To eliminate overall industry effects from altering the analysis of the companies' effectiveness over a period of time, company growth excess of industry was computed by subtracting industry from company growth for each year evaluated. 

Here are four key findings from this research:
1. Customer Centricity is a two-year investment
2. The CCO must show contribution to long-term revenue and profitability improvements
3. In absence of growth, the CCO may help prevent a slide
4. Every company says it is customer centric but few truly are

Stay tuned for part two of this two-part series, wherein I'll elaborate on the findings above and offer recommendations for managing them.

*This article is the first in a two-part series excerpted from The Impact of the CCO, available for free download from the CCO Council website here.

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Categories: Chief Customer Officer | Customer Centricity

WHEN Do You Need a Chief Customer Officer?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I am often approached by senior level executives and asked whether their company really needs a chief customer officer. Their idea seems to be that some companies need a CCO and some don't. My answer is often in the form of a correction. Hiring a chief customer officer is not an issue of if, but of when. Every company needs a CCO. However, timing is essential if the role is to be successful. Here are six key criteria to help answer the question, "When?"

Does top leadership have an appetite for developing customer centricity?
I have seen CCOs hired for all kinds of good reasons. Yet most of them failed miserably. Why? Because they were out of alignment with company strategy and didn't have explicit support from the CEO. This criterion trumps all the rest.

Is there a recognized strategic business imperative for the CCO?
Customer centricity is often viewed as a "nice to have" rather than a strategic business imperative. What is your burning platform that will galvanize people to action? The CCO is going to be tasked with making huge changes in the organization, and entrenched cultures resist such change unless faced by a greater threat of upset.

Can strategy be driven across the highest levels to systematize change?
An army of one does not win the war, nor does it bring about customer centricity. Executives and employees cannot abdicate their shared responsibility for customers to the CCO. The successful CCO will cultivate strategic allies across every function, driving process change across the company that enhances the profitability of the broadest customer segments.

Is there a willingness to create, capture, and act upon customer data?
Companies need hard customer data to move from the realm of "touchy feely" to solid business decisions with quantifiable results. The organization needs to be willing to initiate customer data collection activities (surveys, transactions, behavior), turn these data into actionable insights, and ensure people are held accountable for taking action.

Can metrics be created that tie customer activities to revenue?
Revenue, profitability, ROI-these are all hard metrics by which priority decisions are made within the C-suite. Without the ability to correlate customer-centric activities to tangible business results, the CCO will be hamstrung.

Does the individual culture desire to serve customers?
Implementing change is challenging for most organizations and resistance to change is human nature. CCOs find this resistance to be their greatest challenge, requiring a significant amount of time and effort. Do your front line employees truly desire to serve customers? Can they be convinced to do so?

Buzzwords like Customer Centricity and Customer Experience can be entrancing and many companies are starting to jump on the chief customer officer bandwagon. The problem is that too many just as easily fall off the bandwagon if they hire a CCO at the wrong time. To ensure success, you need to make sure your company is prepared to make the CCO a core strategic imperative rather than a figurehead. Do your homework, decide on the right time to hire your CCO, and put him or her in the optimal position for success. Your customers will quickly reward you for your due diligence instead of punishing you for a knee jerk reaction.

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Categories: Chief Customer Officer | Customer Centricity | Customer Engagement

The CCO Dashboard [Part one of a two-part series*]

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

There are seven measurements that should be on every CCO's dashboard. I cover four in this blog post and the remaining three in next week's blog post.

First, an important word about metrics. Because these metrics represent "proxy" measures for revenue and profitability, securing buy-in from the corporate level that these metrics are indeed tied to revenue and/or profitability, albeit indirectly, is critical to their credibility and the CCO's authority. Without this consensus the dashboard cannot demonstrate value for the CCO. The metrics are presented in order of data readiness and access; the easiest measures are listed first.

Key account relationship health

On a weekly basis, account relationship managers should post the status of key accounts; those in green have no issues, those in yellow have some emerging issues not of a critical nature, and red accounts are those in greatest jeopardy. The CCO must take personal responsibility for resolving the issues for accounts with red indicators.

Metrics: The number of accounts in green or successfully migrated to green, or elapsed time between identification and improved account status are potential metrics for the dashboard.

Overall and key customer engagement

It has been shown that more engaged customers spend more money. The degree of customer engagement can be measured based on rates of participation in customer programs such as executive forums, product development, and participation in corporate strategy initiatives. One large technology company has over 70 customer engagement programs and they have been able to document the positive relationship between customer engagement and spending.

Metrics: There are several metrics to be considered: The number of customer engagement programs and their growth, the level of involvement of customers in customer engagement initiatives, and especially the spending patterns of customers at different levels of engagement.

Loyalty measures

Academic research has proven that the higher the level of customer loyalty the greater the spend level.

Metrics: A number of commercially available survey instruments can be used to measure customer loyalty. As well, combining a customer's spending over time and customer loyalty makes a good proxy measure.

Progress toward resolution of critical customer issues

Identifying and focusing resources on resolving critical customer issues is an important role for the CCO. One large technology company annually identifies its chief customer concerns that represent a combination of technical, operational, and process issues.

Metrics: The time it takes the CCO to identify the components and drivers of the issue, the timing for a resolution plan, and time to resolution are appropriate measures for the dashboard.

This covers the four of the seven areas recommended for the CCO dashboard. The remaining three measurements and their potential metrics will be discussed in next week's blog post.

*This series has been excerpted from The Bingham Advisory: Eight Imperatives for the Chief Customer Officer, available for free download from the CCO Council website here.

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Categories: Chief Customer Officer | Customer Insight