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The role of the Chief Customer Officer

We hosted a breakfast roundtable on the role of the Chief Customer Officer, titled “Should the CEO own the customer experience?”

The session was co-led by Georgia Hartley-Brewer, Senior Consultant in our Retail Practice, and David Walmsley, who has most recently held the role of Chief Customer Officer (CCO) at House of Fraser.

customer experience

David, who is an expert in delivering customer-led digital transformation, walked the group through the five pillars of success that Jeanne Bliss describes in her book The Chief Customer Officer 2.0, using examples from his varied career. These are:

  1. Honour and manage customers as assets
  2. Align around experience
  3. Build a customer listening path
  4. Be proactive with the experience - reliability & innovation
  5. Leadership, accountability and culture

For a full transcript of David’s presentation please click here.

Following the talk, the group discussed whether the role of CCO was an interim one, or whether it should have a Full Time Employee at its helm. The answer was, it depends: on the level of transformation required, on the internal capabilities and the capacity of these individuals, and on how close you are to customer-centric mecca.

One thing we all agreed on was the need for an effective balance between a CCO and a CEO. If the CEO is very commercial then the CCO can be a more creative force. If the CEO is very brand-design led, and if this is to the detriment of the P&L (as is sometimes the case in owner-managed Fashion brands), then the CCO must have a more commercial skill set. We also agreed that the CEO needs to drive the values of the organisation. Without this leadership a customer transformation from the inside is doomed. One attendee gave an example of this happening despite their “programme” having a brilliantly equipped CCO.

This led us on to discussing whether customer experience should ever be described as, or delivered as, a change programme. We said that doing so can be dangerous; it implies that the changes required are siloed to business as usual operations, and it can scare off potential Board advocates because the word programme is synonymous with a budget request and with delivery complexity. Customer-led transformation needs to be embedded in, and inherent to, the business. However this is managed, the role can become redundant once the organisation is operating in a customer-centric way. In these situations the mantle can pass to Heads Of (in other words, transformation does not have to be a permanent Board level role, nor does it need an interim or a consultancy to deliver it).

When customer experience KPIs are being discussed in weekly trading meetings ahead of week-on-week margin points, that’s when you know you’ve transitioned the business to focus on the things that your customers care about. When the behaviours and actions of your teams are driven by these learnings and you can see the dial moving, that’s when you know that you’re winning.

One executive attendee complimented the “broad set of views and cross-sector of experience” and another CEO called the roundtable discussion “excellent, with varied points of view”. Other feedback included how “relaxed” the session was and how “current” the topic and presentations were. We have a curated attendee list for our Retail & Leisure events to ensure that everyone gets the best out of the session.

If you would like to register your interest in our next roundtable please contact Georgia Hartley-Brewer or Stuart Hogg.