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What does the chief customer officer (CCO) position really encompass?

I'm looking for more information on the chief customer officer (CCO) position to bring to a meeting with company executives. What are your thoughts on this position, and do you have any examples of companies that have hired chief customer officers and seen improvements to the customer experience, customer loyalty and customer trust?

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A colleague of ours, Jeanne Bliss, has written an excellent book on the chief customer officer position, called, Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Service, and we highly recommend that you get a copy of this book and read it. One thing Jeanne says in the book (and we agree) is that naming the CCO in a company is not likely to make much difference unless the whole leadership team embraces the effort to put customer centricity into the organization.

It's a good idea to put someone in charge of ensuring that your company focuses on customers, and focusing on customers is probably the central mission of any CCO. But beyond the words, what does this mean? For instance, what actual authority will your CCO have? Will he or she have line authority for advertising and marketing, sales and sales compensation, service and warranty policies? Will they be in charge of call centers, product pricing, credit authorizations, store layouts or employee training?

You see the problem. How a firm treats customers is at the core of the very existence of the firm. Customers define what it means to be a company in the first place. Everything a company does has some impact on customers.

At some firms, the CCO job is somewhat of a glorified cheerleader, with little line authority beyond a small staff. This doesn't mean the position is totally useless, because even as a cheerleader they can have an impact by surveying and reporting on customer satisfaction, by communicating best practices to line managers and so forth. At other firms, the CCO has a much broader mandate, and is sometimes responsible for marketing and sales – two functions that are increasingly intertwined in the modern company.

But where the CCO sits and how much authority he or she has are issues that don't matter nearly as much as the question of whether a company's other executives and managers are fully engaged with the idea of customer centricity.


Hear more in Creating Customer Value, a SearchCRM.com monthly podcast series with Peppers and Rogers.

This was first published in March 2009

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