Lessons Learned From Chief Customer Officers

I just published a report called the “The Chief Customer/Experience Officer Playbook.” To research the report, I interviewed executives with responsibility for customer experience that cut across normal product and/or channel boundaries (we call them Chief Customer/Experience Officers or CC/EOs) from several different organizations including Air Transat, Alaska Air Group, Bank of America, Bombardier, the California State Automobile Association, Century Furniture, the Colorado Rockies, and Symantec. In addition, I spoke with Jeanne Bliss, author of the book Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action.

The research identified five categories of things that CC/EOs should do:

  1. Make sure that you’ve got the right environment.
  2. Prepare to take on a broad change agenda.
  3. Establish a strong operating structure.
  4. Kick off high-priority activities.
  5. Look ahead to the future.

The report goes into much more detail for each of these items. While I can’t share the whole report in my blog (that’s reserved for Forrester clients), I did want to share some of the most interesting quotes from the CC/EOs:

  • “It takes massive support from senior management. This role can destruct careers.”
  • “What’s more important, but less tactical and takes longer, is the realization that customer experience is culture. It’s the mindset of our associates and their empowerment. Not stuff, but attitudinal. We’ve recognized that this is a journey.”
  • “Each of the groups in our company already had some customer experience efforts, so I wanted to make sure that they were on board and not threatened. I needed to talk to each of those groups individually. It’s an ongoing issue – and it’s an ongoing effort for me.”
  • “We focus on employees first. Happy employees make a happy customer. They were very skeptical – so much of our communication is internally driven. We need to support the hell out of them.”
  • “I do a read out to the leadership team every month and tell them my perspectives on how we’re doing (fact-based); a no-holds-barred discussion. No attempt to keep any of that stuff under the rug.”
  • “Customers want one relationship with us and we’ve given them about 10. Our data sources and systems are isolated; the organizations are isolated. We’re trying to break down the silos.”
  • “We’re changing metrics in the call center to eliminate focus on average talk time.”
  • “If I did it over again, I would have focused earlier on consolidating our customer listening posts and voice of the customer efforts. We now look at the perception of reliability, not the actual reliability.”
  • “We’re looking for line of site between our initiatives and NPS, which is a lagging indicator. We’ve worked on projects that have taken three quarters to improve the NPS.”

The bottom line: CC/EOs shouldn’t “own” customer experience, but they can really help support the organizational transformation required to improve it.

Written by 

I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

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