Meet the CCO: the role future-proofing business

Why the chief customer officer is quickly becoming a key driver of digital transformation


Adoption and rollout of emerging technologies used to be the sole responsibility of the chief information officer or chief technology officer, but a new digital transformation champion is emerging in the C-suite: the chief customer officer (CCO).

And this comes as no surprise, since changing customer expectations drives 80 per cent of all digital transformation initiatives, according to a recent McKinsey & Company survey.

The task of the CCO is to ensure customer feedback is not only sought after and heard, but also acted upon

“This role should be thought of as the advocate in the company for the customer,” says Rabia Qureshi, CCO at ecommerce agency GPMD. “The CCO is there to remind the business to factor in what the customer wants. Otherwise, money and time can be wasted in correcting mistakes and backtracking key decisions.”

The chief customer officer must embrace data

Rapid advancements in technology mean consumers now have the power to dictate the rules and control their relationships with brands. Chief customer officers must ensure their companies are able to keep up with these expectations about quality and speed of service, as well as the data that arises from these behaviours.

“The task of the CCO is to ensure customer feedback is not only sought after and heard, but also acted upon, to drive customer satisfaction and loyalty,” says Conny Kalcher, CCO at Zurich Insurance.

Libby Duane Adams, CCO of desktop-to-cloud platform Alteryx, adds: “Listening to customers and learning from what they tell you is vital for success in 2020.” As a digital transformation leader, it is essential for the chief customer officer to highlight to the rest of the company the range of tools that can give greater insight into customer needs. This includes using text analytics to review the sentiment of social media or survey responses and keeping up to date with the company’s net promoter score, she says.

Furthermore, the understanding of these analytics should not be restricted to just one or two teams internally. “The everyday data worker who is usually equipped with little more than a spreadsheet should also be able to use these data analytics tools,” she adds. Caring about customer experience should be woven into every department.

“The ultimate ambition should be to create a seamless experience that allows the customer to choose when, where and how to engage with us,” says Kalcher, pointing to the recent Zurich website revamp in collaboration with Sitecore, an expert in digital experience management. The idea of “putting the customer journey at the heart and building the whole website around it” was central to the project, she says, adding that it is important “to delight customers” to stand out from the crowd and build brand loyalty.

Pivoting to the personal touch in the pandemic

GPMD’s Qureshi says: “During the coronavirus pandemic, firms that didn’t have a strong online business to start with had to quickly ramp up their offering or go bust. The virtual touch needed to become the personal touch and fast. Not knowing how to leverage social and email channels to drive sales, not providing an optimised mobile experience and not having a fast-performing website in place all became severe roadblocks,” as consumer behaviour changed rapidly and in unpredictable ways.

Sue Goble, chief customer success officer at Sage, says her role as a digital transformation leader enabled her to advise the company to invest in “the end-to-end customer experience, through new ways of working, more efficient processes and improved technology”.

When the pandemic started to change offline life in March, the business could react quickly. “We launched a digital coronavirus hub, full of straightforward advice on a range of subjects, including the Job Retention Scheme and government funding,” she says. “Almost 500,000 customers attended COVID-19 webinars in March, April and May.”

With more than two million customers in 23 countries around the world, the webinars were valuable in strengthening the relationship with almost a quarter of the firm’s clients, by providing advice and a sense of community during an unprecedented time.

Becoming a customer-led business takes time

But change doesn’t happen overnight and leaders should view the transition to a customer-led culture as a journey rather than a quick fix, according to Kalcher.

As a digital transformation leader, the CCO has to get buy-in from the rest of the business to centre the customer experience at the heart of company change. “It is important to involve the internal teams in defining the future vision, while at the same time create systems, platforms and ways of working that facilitate the transformation and help us get closer to customers,” says Kalcher.

The chief customer officer is asking colleagues to work in a new way and that can be disconcerting. “I’ve seen it more times than I care to admit to; resistance evolves into fear, which prevents innovation and cannibalises experience. The cycle continues,” says Duane Adams at Alteryx. “The trick is to not be afraid of analytics. Amid uncertainty, many organisations will shy away from making changes and seizing opportunities for growth, but there is no better time to embrace data and analytics.”

Data is at the heart of a solid digital transformation; insights arising from tracking customer needs and behaviour are essential information for a business adapting to the digital age. Perspicacious use of this vital knowledge fuels the rise of the CCO role, which is now clearly emerging as a key digital transformation leader in the C-suite.