Forrester: Chief Customer Officers key to "orchestrate" customer experiences… and change

Forrest Research just published a new report by CX analyst Paul Hagen, with some very interesting insights into the emerging role of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO).

But first, let me take back what I said a few years ago. Around 2007 I predicted that the CCO would be a temporary trend. My argument: the job isn’t needed if customer-centricity is a part of how a company does business. And indeed, you rarely see the job position at companies leading the pack in customer loyalty surveys.

Since then, my research has found precious few (5-10%) companies achieve “stage 4” in their customer-centric maturity. Here’s how companies tend to progress over time.


CEM tends to come into play as companies progress from targeting customer to extract value (stage 1, a CRM meme) to being responsive to requests for improvement and genuinely trying to engage with customers (stages 2 and 3) to deliver value.

So what does the CCO have to do with this? Simple: the CCO is the leadership position to help a company progress on its customer-centric journey.

And now, back to the report…

Hagan writes that one key CCO responsibility is “orchestrating” experiences. I agree and like this term a lot. It’s been clear to me for a few years that poorly coordinated multi-channel interactions are a huge source of customer frustration. In 2010 I wrote about the need to “harmonize” the cross-channel experience, and I’ve used the analogy of an orchestra conductor in speeches since then. That “conductor” can be the CCO.

One mild surprise, given the amount of CX hype right now, was that “Chief Customer Officer” remains the most popular term for the “executive leading customer experience (CX) efforts across a business unit or an entire company.” Forrester says they’ve found 730 such leaders, and 45% have the CCO title while Chief Experience Officer came in second at just 18%.

I was happy to learn that 85% of CCOs sit on the executive management team, a big jump from just 50% in 2012. Thankfully, it seems that few companies give the CCO title to a lower level staff position — like someone responsible for rolling up VoC reports for the company. That’s important, but not really a leadership role with enough clout, in my view.

Although the title of report suggests that orchestrating experiences is the key job, a bit later it gets to the real work — organization change. Because becoming the chief advocate for customers means dealing with organization silos which means dealing with people and politics.

With that in mind, Forrester says one precondition for success is a “strategic mandate,” which means “the executive team must define the purpose for appointing a CCO, build customer experience into the company strategy, and adopt companywide customer experience metrics that correlate with key business performance outcomes.” Agree completely, but those few words cover a lot of ground.

What’s next for the CCO? Well, I still think that in the very best companies the CEO is also the CCO, and customer-centricity is just a normal way of doing business. Nothing to see here, run along.

But that leaves 90%+ of the business world with great career opportunities to help companies of all sizes on their customer-centric evolution. My new prediction: The CCO job will be around for another 20 years, and probably more.

As you can see here, CCOs are most likely to come from prior jobs in operations/process/quality, LOB management or marketing. Less commonly, from sales and customer service.


Thanks to Forrester for providing a review copy of an excellent report: How Chief Customer Officers Orchestrate Experiences.

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