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Chief Customer Officers: Some Group Therapy, Some Golden Nuggets

Written by Corinium

Chief Customer Officers: Some Group Therapy, Some Golden Nuggets

Written by Corinium on Jun 9, 2017 3:15:00 PM

Customer Experience and Management

Yesterday I enjoyed one of the most useful (and cathartic) discussions on CX I’ve ever had.

I had the privilege of chairing Corinium’s Chief Customer Officer Conference in London.  Around 50 CCOs and related post-holders from a wide range of sectors across Europe gathered to put heads together. 

The day culminated with a discussion on “overcoming challenges in creating a sustainable customer centric culture”: in other words, how can organisations really put the customer permanently at the heart of their thinking?  We approached this topic in two halves: firstly by listing up common pain points and frustrations, and then sharing enablers: hands-on examples of strategies that really help the magic happen.


The Pain That We’re Used To


Group hug time.  Vigorous nodding in the room confirmed that, however far you may think your organisation is from being customer centric, you are not alone.  Challenges resonate across sectors and we found a lot of solidarity when discussing them.  They included:

  • Proving the return on investment of CX improvements, in order to get business cases approved – particularly in markets that are commoditising and competing on price.

  • Fear of change (“we’ve always done it this way, why change now?”) and fear of loss of control at the leadership level, as customer-facing teams are empowered to solve customer problems.

  • Confusion over who “owns the customer” and the challenges of matrix-managing diverse colleagues responsible for different customer touch-points.  Sometimes this causes internal politics and feels like walking on egg-shells.

  • The challenge of keeping up with customers as their needs and desires evolve more rapidly than ever.

  • Compliance putting the brakes on rapid change in many sectors.

  • Keeping the passion alive and avoiding CX becoming a short-term fad, particularly as businesses grow.   As systems and processes become more embedded to cope with scale, how do you balance consistency with customisation and keep enough flex in the machine to meet individual customer needs?

  • Human aptitude: not always having enough of the right team in place who “just get it” and have customer service as a strand in their DNA

  • Keeping it sticky: challenges in getting team members to form new customer-centric habits when the day job and other priorities drag them back to the status quo.

  • Defining who the customer is in the first place – particularly for “B to B to C” organisations: which link in the chain should you be optimising for?

If any of that sounds familiar, keeping reading.


Eleven Golden Nuggets: Enablers of a Customer Centric Culture


The vigorous nodding was replaced by furious note taking when the group turned attention to solutions.  Hottest tips were:

  • Leadership.  Those who had a C-suite who were 1) aligned around the importance of the customer, 2) walked-the-talk displaying customer centric behaviours, and 3) regularly started communication cascades about this, saw big benefits from it.

  • Create shared ownership by collaborating widely at the vision-setting stage. Engage customer facing colleagues in workshops so that they 1) can share insights and feel listened to, and 2) feel they co-own the solutions. Let functional teams come up with action plans; don’t impose them.

  • Set quantifiable KPIs to track progress towards goals and report on them loudly and regularly.  This might be NPS improvements, reduction in complaints, reduced effort scores and so on – the key point is to make them an unavoidable measurement internally.  (Finding a way to translate these KPIs into dollar-value benefits was front of mind, but none in the room had yet fully unearthed that holy grail).

  • Alongside the KPIs, publicise customer feedback internally and keep it human, for example by including vox-pop “talking head” customer videos alongside NPS graphs.  The galvanising power of one customer saying something to camera can often be as strong as 100 customers saying the same thing in a spread-sheet.

  • Run a “customers’ shoes” programme for leaders: force them to regularly experience the product as customers do.

  • Journey map: not just up to the point of purchase, but include a day-in-the-life of a customer using your product.

  • Be noisy about successes as well as problems.  In particular, peer-to-peer forums, like a Slack community where colleagues can show-off their customer-related achievements, are a great way to kick-start healthy competition.

  • Don’t forget to survey employee engagement: happy colleagues usually equals happy customers, so listen to your own teams and fix their problems too.

  • Gamification can further help employee engagement: awards, league tables of gold stars, and special titles like “customer champion” can all tap into our competitive instincts in a positive way. 

  • Recruit from your customer base!  This one needs to be managed wisely, but having a few colleagues who have jumped the fence from consumer to provider can be a goldmine for insight into customer needs.

  • Leverage a crisis. When something horrible happens to a customer, this is a great chance to rally the troops who are probably feeling disappointed and embarrassed, and implement actions to make sure it does not happen again. 

 At that point, the bell rang and we had to draw a line on the flip charts (and the venue bar had just opened –  hey, CCOs get thirsty too…).

These are big topics and there is clearly a wealth of detail to explore in this high level list. Comments and further ideas are very welcome below, and we will aim to unpack some of these golden nuggets in more detail on customerbullseye.net going ahead.

Huge thanks to all participants who were so open yesterday.


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