Chief Customer Officers

How do you serve the needs of your customers when you don’t know what those needs entail?

English: A business ideally is continually see...

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Moreover, how does that situation get rectified when there is no one who is focused on discovering and voicing those needs?  “Oh,” you say.  “That doesn’t seem possible.  After all, we have entered a time when customers share their thoughts freely and the tools for engagement are widely available.”  I know – that was my response to the questions too, except I asked them after looking at a piece of research from the Economist Intelligence Unit, reported by Marketing Profs.  A little disturbing:

Only six in ten senior business leaders view their companies as customer-centric, and only 56% report a clear understanding of customers’ tastes and needs…only 19% of CMOs play a leading role in connecting customer-facing functions.  21% of the respondents believe it is a shared responsibility across multiple roles. A plurality, however, believe the CMO should represent the “voice of the customer.

Maybe that’s the problem – “marketing” officer is by definition focused on advancing the goals and messages of the organization.  Perhaps we should instead be calling someone the CCOChief Customer Officer.  Their job is to be focused on advancing the customer’s needs.  They can use research and social tools to discover what’s on customers’ minds and translate those insights into goals and tactics for the organization.

As it turns out, such a position does exist in some companies.  It’s relatively new but I think it’s an area that will become critical across most businesses over time.   I’m sure there will be the usual delays as corporate infighting takes place as the roles become redefined.  Too bad – it’s a missed opportunity.  I thought this bit from the MediaPost article was interesting:

Customer insight, data-driven analytical capabilities and social media expertise are among the CMO skills that respondents say are becoming increasingly important. These and other technical skills are critical because they help CMOs justify marketing investment based on facts, not assumption, enabling them to build credibility throughout the organization.

In a phrase, OMG.  So we want to get in touch with our customers so we can be more credible and so we can increase our marketing spend?  In my opinion, not so much although I do agree with the first part of the statement.  The best way to justify any expenditure is through results, and the best way to get those results is to be in lock step with your customers.  The CCO role can help make that happen. Do you agree?

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