Thursday, March 10, 2011

Impact of the role of the Chief Customer Officer

Back in May of 2005, I wrote about the role of the Chief Experience Officer, beginning with Challis Hodge's 2001 description of the role (as first held by Marc Rettig) and culminating in Jeffrey Rapport's 2005 advocation of the creation of the role in modern companies. In mid-2007, I updated the story, describing additional advocations of the creation of the role, a conference panel discussion I led of the pros and cons of the role, and the 2007 highly-publicized hiring of a Chief Experience Officer by Cleveland Clinic.

Forrester Research's initial advocation of the creation of the role in 2006 referred to it as a CC/EO -- a Chief Customer/Experience Officer. Subsequently, the word "Experience" in the title lost favor, and creation of the role of the Chief Customer Officer has taken off. There is even a (somewhat dated) book available about the role and a member-led advisory network of CCO peers.

Who is filling these roles? According to Forrester's Paul Hagan:
"The majority are internal hires who have a significant history at their companies: median time at their firms among those we studied is nearly eight years. A third of the CCOs previously held division president or general manager roles, and almost as many worked in a marketing and/or sales position. On the flip side, about one-fourth of these CCOs formerly held operations positions."
As noted by Samantha Starmer in UX Magazine, UX people are not the ones getting these newly created C-level positions. Plus, all sorts of departments are expected to be scrambling to play a major role in customer experience (CX) moving forward. This has prompted Samantha to warn:
"Given the current power of CX at the C-level, UX practitioners must step up our game, otherwise we will lose progress we have made to be more deeply involved in strategy beyond just performing usability services. We need to act now to be part of the broader CX solution. If we don't proactively collaborate across divisions and organizational structures, we will be stuck playing in the corner by ourselves. If we don't figure out how to manage partnerships with other departments in a collaborative, creative, customer focused way, the discipline of UX as we know it is at risk. CX management will take over."
In her article, Samantha emphasizes the need for UX to partner with marketing, an entity with which UX has had a strained history. Such partnerships have the potential to work wonderfully well, as suggested by the successful merger of user experience research and market research to form a Customer Insights organization a few years ago at Yahoo! (see "User (experience) research, design research, usability research, market research, ..." and "Why Designers Sometimes Make Me Cringe").

Partnership with organizations other than marketing is also important. Successful examples, led by UX, include those described by Secil Watson in "The Business of Customer Experience: Lessons Learned at Wells Fargo" and me (and others) in "Improving the Design of Business and Interactive System Concepts in a Digital Business Consultancy" and "Perturbing the ecosystem via intensive, rapid, cross-disciplinary collaboration."

How do you partner successfully? Genuine collaboration is a key, and the keys to collaboration are many, as I've addressed in past blog entries. See, for example:
Learning about other organizations' needs, goals, ways of working, etc. is also key. Take a look at what Misha Vaughn did to enable UX to impact and be appreciated by Oracle's sales force.

All of this and more -- e.g., getting UX moved from a cost center to an investment center (Brandon Schauer, MX 2011) -- may be essential to ensuring UX plays a vital role in the ballooning world of CX and CX management and to getting UX management personnel recognized as among the stronger candidates to fill the CCO role.

For more, see "Audio and slides for 'Moving UX into a position of corporate influence: Whose advice really works?'", "Ownership of the user-customer experience," and "Where should 'User Experience' be positioned in your company?".

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