More thoughts on the role and team of the Chief Customer Officer or customer experience leader
Thank you for the feedback on my first post on how to think about the work of the Chief Customer Officer or customer experience leader. I realize the majority of readers will see this by clicking on a LinkedIn link, rather than going directly to my website. One comment included links to useful articles on the role, and I have included them at the bottom of this article. Now, onwards to a discussion about the CCO or customer experience leader’s teams. I use the plural because I feel the leader needs to be a member of other teams too.
Focus produces results
It is easy to say, “Everybody is responsible for the customer”. The problem with this statement is that when everyone spends a little of their time on improving things for customers, but nobody does it full-time, nothing is likely to change. If you are already the loyalty leader in your industry, that may not be a problem in the short term. Success in improving customer experience requires a dedicated person or team. That leader must be well-connected and respected in your organization. Where they report does not matter much. The teams of which they are members matter a lot.
Relationship with sales leadership is critical
If you are successful in measuring and improving customer experience, you will sell more. Your sales team should find that value proposition quite compelling. The customer experience leader needs to have an excellent relationship with sales and should be part of their leadership team. I am not suggesting that he or she should report to the sales leader, simply that they must be in the team. My own approach has been to start by proposing to attend an internal sales meeting to present competitive benchmark data. Sales teams find the insights about their competitive advantages and disadvantages to be really useful, so they have always been attentive. Using that positive feedback, I then propose to be a permanent member of the sales leadership team. That has usually worked for me.
Reporting lines in larger organizations
In a large organization, each major business should have a customer experience leader. The job title does not matter. Customer Advocacy is used quite often. Personally, I have held a full-time customer experience role reporting to the EVP of Software at HP, and have also combined the job with the Chief of Staff role for other businesses earlier in my career. The Chief of Staff tends to be well-connected, neutral, and controls the leadership agenda. Having editorial control means customer experience can always be part of strategic discussions. If the Customer Advocacy leader is a full-time role, a great relationship with the person setting leadership meeting agendas is important. Customer Experience falls into the general category of things that are important, but not urgent, and can easily become an agenda also-ran.
Chief Customer Officer role
There are aspects of customer-centricity that cannot be addressed within a single business or function. We have seen the rise of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) over recent years. The CCO should report to the CEO. The job description should include most of the following areas, depending on the size of your company:
- Chair and run a cross-organizational Customer Experience Council that shares successes and agrees strategy across your company.
- Define, fund and implement the on-boarding and refresher NPS training that should be mandatory for all employees of all levels, including the executive leadership team.
- Define and implement appropriate NPS measurement and reporting standards across the company.
- Regularly report progress to the Executive Leadership Team.
The only advantage I see with the CCO title is that it is better recognized externally than, for example, the Customer Advocacy Officer title. The job content is the same. I believe what I have written here is largely in line with what Jeanne Bliss writes in Chief Customer Officer 2.0 and elsewhere.
Customer complaints team
It is a good idea to have a single customer complaints team for your entire organization. You should consider having that team report to the CCO / CX leader. The phone and email contact details for complaints should be visible at the top level of your company website. “Log a complaint” is a reasonably clear heading. The person or people should accept complaints from both internal and external sources. It is difficult for complaints team members to be effective if they are new to the company. The ideal profile is a relatively experienced company veteran who understands the organization and can get things done quickly. A single person could do this on a part-time basis in a small company. A team is needed for a large organization. When I managed this for HP, covering consumer and enterprise business, there were over 100 people in the complaints team in Europe alone. We had 350,000 employees in the whole company at the time. The range of work was quite extreme, even including representing the company in small claims courts when people went there to get satisfaction on a printer or PC problem.
The complaints team, and perhaps your full organization, should have the authority to spend a certain amount of money to resolve complaints immediately, without further approval. That amount should be something between $1,000 and $10,000. In HP, the Swiss complaints team could leave the office, go to a local electronics store, buy a product and drive it to the customer’s home near Zurich, if that was appropriate. Flowers and other small gifts are a good way of apologizing when you make mistakes or a product is defective. Think about this when you are trying to turn around detractors. Note in passing that most countries have rules prohibiting gifts to government employees, so your processes need to take this into account.
If I had to pick the single item from the above that has most helped me, it would be the one about influencing the agenda for formal leadership team meetings, ensuring customer experience is always there. Integration with the sales team would be second on my list.
What I have written here is a slightly edited version of a chapter in our book Net Promoter – Implement the System which combines the science of NPS with behavioural economics, cognitive psychology and personal experience. All comments and suggestions welcome. Yes, spam attacks mean I have to ask you to click either on a kitten or a puppy before posting, but they don’t bite!