The rise of the chief customer officer and what it means for businesses

If there is one priority businesses have for 2015, it is to become more and more customer-centric. To that effect, globally, the industry is seeing the rise of the chief customer officer (CCO), a new role within the C-suite to understand critical issues related to their customers, their demands, and behaviors.

Whilst not as prevalent in Asia at the moment, it is perhaps the one thing to look out for in 2015.

The CCO council defines the chief customer officer “an executive that provides the comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer and creates corporate and customer strategy at the highest levels of the company to maximise customer acquisition, retention, and profitability.”

According to a study carried out by the council, the chief customer officer is becoming a staple of modern business: 22% of Fortune 100 companies and 10% of Fortune 500 companies have adopted the role. It is common in small companies and, to a lesser extent, enterprise companies, but inexplicably uncommon in mid-size companies.

I sat down for a chat with Michael McLaren, MRM/McCann’s global CEO, who concurred this trend is on the rise. “Several clients have moved to this way of doing business. They have what is now a chief customer officer and what this signals is a huge shift of focus towards customer-centricity,” he said.

Businesses are now putting the customer right in the centre and orienting the company around it.

CCOs typically report to the CEOs and function independently, and as McLaren says they have an end-to-end remit, and are much like the “Ombudsman, rolling across the organisation” measuring and monitoring touch-points and looking at pain points of customers when dealing with the company.

Questions over the future of CMOs, their role in the organisation have always come up in industry forums and discussions from time to time. There are also various surveys indicating why CMOs are not considered for CEOs role. Could CCOs be the next natural step for marketers?

“If the marketer is the voice of the customer within the organisation, then they are best suited to assume the role of a CCO,” McLaren said.

What does this mean for companies?

In a highly silo-ed oraganisation structure, a CCO is perhaps a solid step to break these silos down. This sort of reorgansation within companies also has bigger implications for the marketing agency landscape.

Whilst at one point, agencies were busy building specialties within their structure, large global agencies serving global clients have moved towards a centralised set up to serve these clients.

MRM/McCann has recently snapped up Cisco’s global demand generation duties and new business from Microsoft as their AOR. For Microsoft, which was an IPG global win hubbed out of McCann WG Singapore for the Asia Pacific region, the agency group has put together a consortium.

The business unit is recognised globally as m:united, and in Asia is lead by Nicholas Handel, IPG Lead; Simon Clancy,  strategic lead; Peter Hibberd, creative lead and Avanesh  Sharma as finance lead with Rob Doswell as CEO of McCann Worldgroup Singapore.

McLaren added the burden of integration is higher in bigger, global clients, both in terms of time and money. “If the agency partners can deliver that for you – it will allow marketers to do what they’re supposed to be doing, which is marketing.”

The study done by the CCO council further stated that currently, the role is most commonly found in technology sectors and is largely concentrated in the US; however, worldwide adoption has increased in recent years.

What impedes the adoption of this across companies though, is partly the lack of standardisation in how it is defined and also challenges of proving definitive ROI.

“In earlier days, the CCO role was a terminal position. Most CCOs retired from their jobs; they were not usually promoted. For the first time, however, CCOs are experiencing upward mobility, receiving promotions to COOs, presidents of business units, and even CEOs,” the study said.

Rayana Pandey
Marketing Magazine Singapore
An international business journalist, Rayana has been in Singapore for eight years and loves everything about the city-state - well, almost, with hor fun and popiah topping the list. A part-time actor and a social volunteer, you’ll find her out and about either on stage honing her public speaking skills or back stage volunteering for the National Day Parade or Chingay. Travel, meaningful conversations and meeting new people keep her going.

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