More and more, companies are competing on the basis of their customer experience, as differentiating on product innovation alone is not enough anymore. To add yet another layer, the accelerating pace of technological changes can actually hinder companies in their quest to provide the best possible customer experience if they are not able to adapt to trends quickly enough. So what does this mean for businesses? How do you adapt your model to push customer service to the forefront in the midst of an ever changing landscape? Insert the rise of Customer Service Executives.

Already, 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies have some type of chief customer officer, and that number is only growing. While titles can vary anywhere from Chief Customer Officer to Chief Experience Officer to Vice President of Member Services, the function of these roles reside on the same baseline. Their roles are not just about fixing the problems that currently result in unhappy customers, but also (and maybe even more so) about accelerating growth by shifting priorities for the changing competitive landscape. For these executives, the focus is solely on the customer and the customer experience. Within this, they can be focused on centralizing various components common to all customer service interactions across all channels, looking for ways to implement more self-service and automation technology or even on pushing necessary organizational changes that can improve the overall customer experience.

The challenge with this position is that they are senior leaders in a new position. About 82% of CCOs have spent two years or less in the position and 55% have been in the position for one year or less. The majority of them are internal hires who have a significant history with the company. The most common previous roles include Division President or GM, marketing and/or sales and operations positions.

Having a senior executive who is solely focused on the customer experience is important in all businesses today. However, just simply creating the position to have it is not enough. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies considering a CCO should establish three preconditions for success:

  • A strategic mandate to differentiate based on customer experience
  • A portfolio of successful projects that create buy-in and cultural maturity in the organization
  • A uniform understanding within the executive management team for what the position can (and is going to) accomplish

So, what is the exact formula for hiring the right CCO? Well that's something that is still being figured out today. As stated before, most CCOs have been in the position for two years or less and they differ in their backgrounds. However, there are a few traits that tend to make for a better CCO:

  • They have broad exposure across different functions through previous roles, but also deep expertise in one relevant domain
  • They have a business-centric mindset with expertise in technology, and not the other way around
  • They understand the global marketplace and understand the intricacies associated with different regions and different customers
  • Most importantly, they have a love for helping people, a devotion to growing the business and a desire to improve the overall customer experience

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March 21, 2016