Chief Customer Officer: To Do, Or Not To Do?

There’s a question that I’ve heard a lot that seems to stir up some debate: Do firms need a Chief Customer Officer? Well, I’ve run into zealots on both sides of the argument.

Those that say “absolutely yes” are convinced that companies can’t change without a senior executive who “owns” customer relationships; someone who can bring senior executive visibility to all of a company’s  customer-facing efforts. The argument is compelling — customers are certainly important enough to deserve a dedicated executive.

Those that say “absolutely not” are convinced that companies can’t just fix the problem by creating a new executive position.  They believe that this ends up being a superficial move — like putting lipstick on a pig. The argument is compelling — people often call for a new executive whenever they don’t know what else to do.

It’s an interesting dilemna when both sides of an argument are compelling. My position on this question is equally dogmatic: Absolutely yes and absolutely no.

To understand my position, let’s start by shifting the questin a bit. Instead of asking whether or not you need a person with the specific title of “Chief Customer Officer” let’s ask whether or not you need an executive in charge of a concerted effort to improve customer experience across the enterprise. If a company is truly committed on improving their customer experience, then an executive in charge of that change process will be very important. That person (who may or may not be called “Chief Customer Officer”) can lead a host of efforts like the establishing customer experience metrics and developing of a voice of the customer program.

But this type of position only makes sense if the CEO is truly committed to a significant change and will hold the entire executive team (not just the new executive) accountable for results. If the plan is to make the new executive responsible for “owning” the customer experience, then don’t create this position — it will only provide a handy scapegoat for executives that don’t make the required changes in their organizations.

If you’re a Forrester Research client, then you can read more about my point of view in the report “Considering A Chief Customer/Experience Officer?”

Another great resource for anything having to do with a Chief Customer Officer is Jeanne Bliss — she wrote a great book on the topic: The Chief Customer Officer.

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/brucetemkin

2 thoughts on “Chief Customer Officer: To Do, Or Not To Do?”

  1. Newspapers do this to some degree with the ombudsman or readers’ representative — a position that (like you mention in the post) is only worthwhile if the top honchos empower that person to take action.

    (PS, just got your email about this blog; looking forward to reading the feeds!)

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