With federal customer experience (CX) so weak, I'm happy to report that several more U.S. federal agencies are considering adding chief customer officers (CCO) to their executive management teams. In the past few months, some of these agencies have asked me to discuss how CCOs can help them improve their customer experience (CX), the best way to structure the position, and what new CCOs should do first. In fact, I just published a report offering answers to federal agencies' most common CCO questions.
If these agencies do add CCOs, they'll be in good company. There are more than 2,000 CCOs in the US right now, including four at federal agencies and more than 25 in the Fortune 100. The four federal agencies that already have CCOs are a diverse bunch: The Department of Veterans Affairs is a huge bureaucracy with a dizzying CX ecosystem and a vast customer set; Federal Student Aid manages the all-important FAFSA student financial aid application and a range of other services to student borrowers, their parents, and cosigners; the General Services Administration is the equivalent of a B2B organization that offers a host of products and services, from office supplies to cloud solutions, to other federal agencies; and Export-Import Bank is a comparatively little-known agency that provides financing to American exporters.
Federal agencies considering CCOs should do what these four have already done, and give their CCOs real seniority and authority. That's something the four federal CCOs and their private-sector peers have in common. All four federal CCOs report straight to their agency heads, just as nine in 10 private-sector CCOs report directly to their CEOs. And with control over voice of the customer programs, some customer-facing channels, and input on enterprise-level decisions affecting CX, all four federal CCOs match or even exceed the authority of their private sector peers.
Some of my interlocutors have objected that CCOs are unnecessary because agency heads are ultimately responsible for the customer experience. By this logic, federal agencies shouldn't have CIOs, CFOs, or any other functional executives, either. But execs like these exist because every organization needs senior leaders who focus on specific functions, while the organizational head serves as ultimate agenda-setter and referee among them all. Managing the customer experience is just as important as managing technology or financial performance, so agencies that have senior officials running the latter should definitely have someone to handle the former.
Unfortunately, only federal agencies with big, complex customer sets have asked me about adding CCOs. Sure, the CCO position was created to solve the CX problems endemic to big organizations--things like multiple silos that leave CX efforts disjointed and mismanaged, isolated leaders with minor understanding of customers, and sprawling CX ecosystems. However, CCOs are crucial for small agencies with tiny customer sets, too. That's because these small customer sets are often extremely demanding and require carefully curated experiences. I'm thinking here primarily about policy support and intelligence agencies, although federal agencies that serve large corporations or state and local governments often have similar customer profiles.
About the Author:
Rick Parrish is a government customer experience analyst at Forrester Research