How to Be a Great Chief Customer Officer

Media Inquiries: Contact Karen Budell, CMO

Media Inquiries: Contact Karen Budell, CMO

Chief Customer Officer may be a cool, new corporate title, but many people don't understand exactly what that job entails, according to Jeanne Bliss, who literally wrote the book on the subject: "The Chief Customer Officer."

Bliss, who has a quarter-century experience in customer experience (CX) positions at five corporations, delivered a concise five-point job description today to a CX-savvy audience at Totango's annual Customer Success Summit in San Francisco.

She followed Totango CEO Guy Nirpaz, who provided his own six-point manifesto for customer success to the standing-room-only crowd of 400 marketing professionals from eight countries.

Silos and Duct Tape

Bliss began by noting that it is no longer feasible for teams within companies to work within silos because customers "bounce between silos" in their various contacts. "Customer success is not about every silo working separately," she said. "The work [of the CCO] is about uniting the company."

Pulling together the different parts of a corporation in a sort of forced collaboration isn't easy. "Sometimes it's about becoming the human duct tape of the organization," said Bliss.

She's not a big fan of the notion of customer loyalty. "Loyalty has become something we try to get from customers," she said. "I like the word desire."

The difference is that customers should want to do business with your organization. Bliss said 80 percent of buying decisions come from three perceptions that customers develop on their own by speaking with their friends or by surfing online: experience, reliability and "how did you feel" afterward.  However, there are generally 10 to 15 key inflection points with the company that determine success.

In the Customer's Shoes

Her five key competencies for the CCO job are often not clear to other employees, including the chief executive officer, Bliss said.

  1. It's  important to think about the customers as "an asset" of your business. She said she relies more on "customer math" than on surveys. It's more about customers who are "voting with their feet."
  2. Walk in the shoes of the customer rather than simply looking at customers as a set of data. That said, she advised using the data to identify where customers are in the pipeline and interact with them at key points such as evaluating the product, buying and implementing it, using the product, assessing benefits and trying to grow sales. Don't wait for renewal time, she said. Instead, do a "pre-renewal" to find out if your company helped the customer with service and support and by holding a customer meeting. It's also important to call lost customers.
  3. Engage in "focused customer listening" through support and call centers to help identify comments that surface in high volume. "Volume is power. Volume is something that will get your people to work on," she said.
  4. Insist on reliability management, which amounts to accountability to customers.
  5. Unify the organization around key goals. A CCO cannot do all this work alone; it takes cross-functional teams from throughout the company. She suggested bringing all the parties into a room to identify the most important projects and then ask who on each team will help accomplish them.

After presenting her five requirements, she spoke on the importance of making sure the CEO is on board. The chief executive must take personal ownership, drive accountability, provide air cover, and show patience.

6-point Customer Manifesto

Nirpaz offered six more points for marketers to consider just before Bliss took the stage. "We have to earn customer loyalty every day," he said. "The cloud has changed dramatically the way the world operates ... We need to think of new rules -- new rules for a new world."

His "customer success manifesto" included:

  1. Value: Customers must get the value they signed up for.
  2. Customer Actions: How customers are getting that value.
  3. Real-time Sensors: We can no longer rely on historic snapshots.
  4. Contextual Engagement: Deliver what customers expect when they expect it.
  5. All Customers: It's not enough too focus on high-value customers.
  6. All Users: It's a mistake to focus only on decision-makers.

Originally published at