What the heck is a Chief Customer Officer (CCO)?

Have you ever asked what the heck is a Chief Customer Officer (CCO)?  Sure you have otherwise you would not be hear.   This is actually a question I have gotten a lot lately.  It seems this relatively new role in the C-Suite is not well understood yet, especially so in companies who are startups or relatively small.   So lets spend a few minutes to discuss and ponder what is a CCO and what do they do.

Over the past several years the C-Suite has expanded several times to include new roles.  Many of these roles are rehashes of previous roles or even combinations of previously separate functions. For all these roles, the CCO included there is no one size fits all.  It important to understand that every company implements these roles slightly differently.  These new roles tend to be more about a shift in focus from having groups aligned by function to being aligned by outcomes.  I will blog more about this later, but think of the common roles in an executive team.  You have someone for each of the critical functions : sales, marketing, operations, finance, etc.  The new trend however seems to be changing that for ownership and oversight of an outcome.  Instead of sales and marketing, you may have a growth officer, a revenue officer, or someone in charge of customer acquisition.  The CCO is no different.  While everyone has a slightly different spin on what a CCO is and what it does, the outcome you are looking for from a CCO is to build a unified customer experience and journey.  You want to make sure that customers stay customers reducing and eliminating churn, while building long lasting relationships with the customer.  The CCO helps to ensure the customer id woven into the fabric of your entire business.   You don’t need a CCO to do this of course, but putting someone in charge of the customer does have some interesting benefits and side effects.  

  1. You get what you incent:  There has long been a debate about where customer success should live.  Should it be under a service delivery function?  Should it be under sales?  Should it be under its own umbrella.  I have seen all three of these work equally well and equally bad.  However there is a powerful incentive to focus more on the financial goals and less on adoption, satisfaction, and growth when this function is an off-shoot of sales.   Under sales you tend to build a customer journey and outcomes that more naturally lead to possible expansion or new deals.  Under services you tend to be used to buffer or free up service resources or deal with complaints.  Having this as a separate function  helps to put the focus on making sure the customers have a voice, are heard, and you have optimized the business specifically to be customer centric.
  2. You get better product feedback:  If the focus of customers is helping ( as TSIA likes to say, selling won’t help, helping will sell ) you will organically get more expansion and uncover more opportunities.   But you will also get a wealth of feedback from customers.  Feedback that can make your products better and that will help you land new deals.
  3.  Customers have a voice in the strategy:  Everyone claims to be “Customer Centric”, in fact have you ever ran into a company that says they are not?  Often times however the customer can be an after thought in the strategic planning process.  Reduced to numbers :  Acquire X customers, reduce churn to Y, Keep renewals dollars to Z.  The issue is you miss out on a tremendous opportunity for not only growth, but to deepen your relationships with customers.  Having not only a voice, but a customer expert and advocate at the executive level working to truly put the customer at the center of the business opens up a world of new possibilities.
  4. You get a better more streamlined customer experience:  You want someone focused on the end to end customer journey, putting the pieces together on how people flow across their life as a customer.  If you can understand when and where they will need assistance and have a plan ready, you can greatly improve the ability to improve your customer relationship.     You need this journey to cross functions reaching into marketing, sales, contracts, and even finance.  With the right person in place at the top, you can weave a unified customer journey throughout a customers life.

That’s the CCO role in a nutshell. I am going to address the different types of functions a CCO can have in a different post. While this is a role that in larger corporations that is becoming more common place, there is not a lot of information on how this works at a smaller company scale. I hope to give some suggestions in the coming months.


Categories: Customer Success Basics

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