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Your CEO Only Cares About Results

Monday, November 04, 2019


We can talk about customer strategy until we’re blue in the face. But at the end of the day, your CEO only cares about RESULTS. 

Executives who are too process-focused on things like journey maps, customer experience, NPS, and Design Thinking are failing to translate their initiatives into business results. They’re not able to point to the revenue they’ve contributed to bringing in. Or profits they’ve helped increase. Or even severe customer problems they’ve resolved that led to customer turnarounds, incremental revenue protection, and margin improvement. In short, these executives are at serious risk of being irrelevant to the CEO.

This article shows you how to translate your Ease of Doing Business strategy into a detailed action plan you can take to your CEO and get funded. And ensure you can demonstrate relevant ROI.

Previously on Ease of Doing Business

As all good TV series must begin, “Previously on…” We’ve written fairly extensively about Ease of Doing Business in our series of articles covering: 

  1. Why it is so important for you to  focus RIGHT NOW on Ease of Doing Business  
  2. How  buyers and sellers think very differently about Ease of Doing Business —and how that difference can sabotage your efforts
  3. The most  common causes of friction  that upset your customers and prevent your revenue/profit growth
  4. The  critical organizational capabilities  you must find or develop to successfully become easier to do business with
  5. How to  build a business case  around Ease of Doing Business to convince the CFO and CEO to invest
  6. Critical success factors  that enable you to become easier to do business with
  7. How to  discover Ease of Doing Business Hotspots , or the most egregious issues that are creating friction for customers, impairing revenue and profits, and preventing growth.

Creating an Overriding Vision for Hotspot Resolution

In our most recent article, we identified and prioritized a number of Ease of Doing Business hotspots that are frustrating customers. We’ve chosen the low-hanging fruit: those that have a high impact on customers and are relatively easy to implement, according to a number of criteria we laid out. 

Now how do you make these urgent hotspots actionable and fix them for customers?

Describe Hotspot Outcomes and Success Measures

While breaking down hotspots into specific initiatives, and to ensure those initiatives stay on point, you need to create a clear description of ideal outcomes and what success means for each of the chosen Ease of Doing Business Hotspots.

Within your cross-functional teams, ask yourselves:

  1. What does a successful end-state look like? 
  2. How will customers experience the future state differently? 
  3. How will employees see it differently? How will our business be better off? 
  4. And how will you measure it?

Spending a few moments describing the ideal future state from the perspective of each stakeholder will ensure everyone working on the project downstream will have a clear picture of what they’re working towards.

For example, an insurance company we have worked with found a huge Ease of Doing Business hotspot. Their customers were complaining about having to spend too much time on the phone to obtain updates, claim status, or other updates. The company set out to decrease customer effort in interactions by driving one million customer hours out of their contact center. This is a perfectly clear future state and a great success metric that everyone in the company can understand. 

Break Down Hotspots into Initiatives

Armed with a clear understanding of what the future looks like for each Ease of Doing Business Hotspot, it is time to break each hotspot down into specific initiatives that can be managed by a cross-functional Tag Team. 

As you examine the hotspots, you need to perform root-cause analyses to ensure you’re not working on mere symptoms. Remember that high-effort experiences often begin WAAY upstream. 

One company was experiencing 33% annual customer churn. Interviews with customers, sales, and customer care showed that the problem wasn’t about poor customer rescue and retention processes in customer care. Instead, the churn problem began in marketing and sales an entire year before the customers churned. 

The sales team was selling very complex network hardware to companies that didn’t have sophisticated IT staff. Product complexity quickly overwhelmed inexperienced IT staff. 

The short-term answer was to help marketing and sales target and qualify companies with more mature IT organizations. The longer-term answer was to create a more intuitive and automated product interface that didn’t require such in-depth training and experience in network traffic analysis.

Similarly, another company was experiencing huge spikes in call center volume. Analysis indicated these spikes always occurred within 5 days of mailing monthly billing statements. The overall hotspot goal was to decrease the spikes and overall call center traffic by 10%. 

The most successful initiative was to change monthly billing statements to include ONLY inserts and language relevant to customer recipients, rather than inserts and disclaimers for ALL states in which the company did business. 

Engage Process Owners and Customers

As you seek the root cause, it is especially helpful to engage process owners, front-line employees who feel the pain that customers do, and especially customers. The more you can engage customers to help diagnose and treat your hotspots, the closer you’ll be to solutions that truly benefit customers.

Be specific in enumerating how you will engage employees AND customers in defining, developing, and proving the initiative.

Define Impact Statements

For each initiative, be specific in describing: 

  1. Impact of the initiative on customers
  2. Impact on employees
  3. Impact on company
  4. Ease of deployment
  5. Measures of success

Set Reasonable Goals and Timeframes

We recommend no more than 5-10 big initiatives to be pursued at a time. Any more than this and you end up stretching your precious resources too thin and you risk taking too long to demonstrate results. 

You should ideally structure your initiative so your teams can complete it within one quarter. This helps you create a sense of urgency and build powerful momentum. On rare occasions, an initiative might span two quarters. 

Build the Project Plan

Once you have the initiative defined and scoped, it is time to create an action plan that will guide the implementation going forward.

The action plan needs to include a list of key actions to be taken, person(s) responsible, and completion deadline. 

Outline the Change Management Imperatives

This is also the time to consider critical success factors for change management:

  1. Who is the executive sponsor? 
  2. What are the risks? 
  3. Who is potentially an obstacle to the successful completion of this initiative? 
  4. What other resources might be necessary? Are there capabilities we don’t have and need to rent, buy, or build?
  5. How will customers be engaged? Employees?

Create the Scorecard

It is very important to create a scorecard for this action plan. How will this action plan contribute to the overall Hotspot outcomes and success criteria? What does success look like? 

How will customers be involved in evaluating success? Will you call them? Survey them? Involve them in the analysis, development, and testing? How will this initiative contribute to your overall Ease of Doing Business score or your customer effort score? 

Finalize the Business Case

Before wrapping up, we need to revisit and finalize the business case and ROI estimates. What are the costs that might be incurred as you execute the action plan? Consider both hard cost investments and soft-costs in terms of people-time for those working on the project.

Validate the Action Plan

Before we can consider the action plans set in stone, you need to validate the plans with executives, process owners, and especially, customers. 

Customers can be particularly valuable not only in ensuring that the changes you plan to make solve actual problems but also in helping gain buy-in from the organization. 


While it does take some time and effort to develop a well-conceived strategic plan, preparing with this level of detail is the most effective way to convince the CEO and CFO to support and fund your customer initiatives. This level of detail is incredibly valuable when cross-functional teams grow beyond your immediate span of control and are empowered to execute without your involvement. And this rigor helps you measure your outcomes so you can prove ROI to your CEO and improved Ease of Doing Business for your customers. 

If you haven’t already, check out the  Ease of Doing Business Accelerator . It is a very intensive 1.5 day workshop that helps you and your team discover hotspots and translate them into action plans in which you can get your CEO to invest. We’d love to have you join us in either a public version or one private to YOUR company. 

Curtis Bingham

Jeb Dasteel (former CCO, Oracle)

View Curtis Bingham's profile on LinkedIn


Categories: Customer Effort | Customer Engagement | Ease of Doing Business


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