Introducing the Newest Member of the C-Suite

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With a revived focus on the customer journey, companies are turning to a new executive position focused on maximizing customer satisfaction and operational excellence.
Customer Experience

Standing out among the competition is tough-one of the toughest things your company will have to do, and do over, and continue doing day after day, customer by customer. This requires delivering an end-to-end meaningful customer journey to help, delight, and positively impact customers during their interactions with your company. And delivering this customer journey as a key differentiator is one of the most powerful assets your company or any other has to create brand loyalty.

With this revived focus on the customer journey, companies are turning to a new executive position focused on maximizing customer satisfaction and operational excellence. Enter the Chief Customer Officer-the new CCO, driven by a very clear business need: managing and improving the customer experience. The Chief Customer Officer position has become increasingly important in the digital age, as the perception of a company's brand now hinges on the multiple kinds of interactions customers have across the company-whether it be through a website, mobile app, self-service system, or social media site, or more likely several of those at once.

Your CX Is Your Voice

Though the Chief Customer Officer role may go by different names, this position is popping up across industries, and in companies like Gap where new marketing tactics have merged with customer experience initiatives. The job titlemay be new, but those who fill it can be anyone who knows a company's CX strategy intimately, including VPs and SVPs of Customer Service, Retention, Loyalty, or Success. Yes, CCOs are hired to solve problems around customer satisfaction, but ultimately their end goal is to deliver a consistent and personal experience to customers, therefore accelerating company growth.

"Everyone has to be able to work in a call center," said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in a 2012 Forbes profile. True to his word, each year he sends thousands of Amazon managers to a two-day training program at one of the company's call centers. The idea is that by seeing what it's like in the trenches-where the end results of Amazon's entire operation, both good and bad, are worked out between the company and its customers-Amazon executives might gain both a little humility and a healthier appreciation of the real bottom line of any company: its customers. He's a CEO, but it's not hard to see him being among the first to enlist a CCO to help him lead the charge.

The vital points of contact between the business and the customer ultimately make up the "voice" of the company, and Amazon's investment in its own voice shows. If this "voice" is not well-maintained, consistent, and constantly updated to stay relevant with clients' changing needs, then yourcustomer satisfaction levelwill plummet, likely leading to diminished loyalty and revenue.

Companies need to start reevaluating where their most valuable assets lie and how their customer journeys are orchestrated. And they may need to adopt the new CCO position to make it happen.

Who's in Charge Here?

According to a recent study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, surveying CEOs and C-suite executives around the world, 72 percent of CEOs reported that they believed themselves to be in charge of their company's customer experience transformation initiatives. But their colleagues resoundingly disagreed. Just 28 percent of the C-suite execs surveyed supported their CEOs' claims to CX leadership. And when asked if CEOs at least have "final say" on matters of customer experience, only 60 percent of the non-CEOs supported the idea.

What's more, the Economist researchers found that 34 percent of companies don't both to measure the success or ROI of their CX initiatives. And with smaller companies where time and resources are more constrained-defined as small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with annual revenues up to $500 million-that percentage increases to 45 percent.

With most CEOs erroneously believing themselves to be in charge of customer experience efforts (Bezos notwithstanding), and half of all SMBs not even tracking the results, the benefits of a designated CX manager-the CCO-have never been more clear.

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EXPERT OPINION