Over the last few years leading organisations around the globe have rushed to add a new role to the C-Suite – the CCEO (Chief Customer Experience Officer) or CCO (Chief Customer Officer). In many cases it is not an additional role, but is replacing the CMO role entirely, as well as commercial c-suite roles, collapsing them under a broader function with a singular view of the customer. This movement is mostly driven by the very tangible shift in power from brands to the consumer, and the realisation that in this new world order, not aligning an organisation’s operations around delivering effectively to meet the needs and desires of this fast evolving and newly empowered consumer can spell disaster. Boards are coming to realise that any organisation is now open to disruption and to secure a sustainable future they must ensure the customer is understood, that their needs are catered for, and are actually anticipated before they arise. Boards are signing off on the appointment of the CCEO role, but are they doing enough to enable the role’s success ?
The role of a CCEO can vary from one organisation to the next, but generally, they champion consumer-centricity across every functional area. The CCEO is charged with curating the “customer experience”, at every touchpoint, across the sensorial spectrum. It is their role to influence their peers in the C-suite to ensure that they are all aligned on delivering against a shared view of servicing the customer, regardless of their operational field. This can cause significant cultural upheaval in organisations where some functions have traditionally operated quite independently. The endorsement of the CEO and Board to align business activities around customer objectives is critical in order to achieve effective implementation – they need to be unequivocal in directing other functional areas to align accordingly.
In the current dynamic environment the CCEO’s role is far from static. Protocols for engaging with customers at each step of the journey are constantly being tweaked and realigned with new data insights, to deliver greater effectiveness. The frequency of quick-turn tactical improvements can also prove difficult to implement in organisations that have not yet embraced the age of agility. The challenge is to achieve a delicate balance – understanding and carefully guarding those initiatives where consistency and continuity are critical for longer-term positioning purposes and then creating the ecosystem for delivering close-to-market and rapidly evolving tactical initiatives that engage effectively. CEO and Board support are again critical, both in terms of supporting the cultural transition required to deliver agility, as well as to enable the investment into initiatives with both longer and shorter term returns.
Finally, the CCEO also plays the role of evangelist by ensuring that the rest of the organisation is continuously informed and aware of customer feedback and behavioural changes, and influenced to align processes and systems to meet customer goals. This cannot be achieved without the CEO facilitating the creation of forums and channels for company-wide communication around consumer-centric themes, and vocally endorsing the CCEO’s role as chief consumer evangelist.
For the organisations that do not have the CCEO role this stewardship of the organisation against a more consumer-centric framework falls upon the Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Operating Officer or Chief Commercial Officer, or in some cases on the CEO herself. The most progressive Boards are increasingly holding the C-Suite accountable for keeping their finger on the pulse of changing consumer behaviour and adapting accordingly. However many Boards are not making the leap quickly enough. In some cases these are organisations where CMO’s and other consumer champions have rarely been let into the Boardroom, thus limiting their influence. This board myopia, in the current environment, is highly dangerous.
The critical insight here is that if Boards and C-Suites are not addressing the Customer Experience, be it via the appointment of a CCEO or by simply working with the existing C-suite to foster the culture, invest in insights and build the eco-system to deliver a more dynamic future-focused strategy, they risk compromising the long-term viability of the organisation itself. Equally dangerous is to pay lip-service to the need for a consumer experience champion by appointing the role, and then not fully endorsing and supporting its effectiveness. Boards are well versed in probing and assessing traditional strategic risks – they must now, more than ever, also take seriously the risks entailed in failing to drive meaningful consumer-centricity.