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Defining the role of the Chief Customer Officer

I’m sometimes envious of my mailman, Steve. Now, don’t get me wrong – I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to drive around delivering the mail all day. By almost every measure, my job is infinitely cushier than that of the average postal carrier. I’m not outside in rain or sleet or dark of night carrying heavy parcels up winding driveways. Sure, there are days when I’m in 12 hours of meetings, but I’ve never had to run from a stray dog during a planning session (yet.)

But still, there is one area where Steve has a distinct advantage. His friends and family most likely understand what it is that he does all day. Mine? Not so much.

Ross: What is Chandler Bing’s job?
Rachel: Oh! Oh gosh, it has something to do with numbers.
Monica: And processing!
Rachel: Oh, well… and he carries a briefcase!
Ross: Ten seconds. You need this or you lose the game.
Monica: It’s, um, it has something to do with transponding.
Rachel: Oh, oh, oh, he’s a transpons… transponster!
Monica: That’s not even a word!

Friends, Season 4 Episode 12

Whose fault is it that none of my friends and family know what I do all day? Easy – it’s my fault. When I describe what I do, I try to make it sound impressive instead of making it understandable – and I’m not alone in doing so.

Last year the Chief Customer Officer Council got together and defined the role of CCO as ” 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 maximize customer acquisition, retention, and profitability”.

Did your eyes glaze over when reading that definition? I know mine did. I’m certainly not going to respond to the ubiquitous “So, what do you do?” question at a cocktail party with “I provide a comprehensive and authoritative view …” unless I’m trying to bring the conversation to an abrupt and awkward conclusion.

I’ve come to determine that, too often, in the corporate world people describe their jobs with way too much precision and technical jargon for fear that if they oversimplify, the person they are talking with won’t be suitably impressed with just how important their job is. But imagine if my mailman told people that he facilitates the transmission of tangible objects from sender to receiver – would you be impressed, or just confused?

From now on, when someone asks what it is that a CCO does, instead of hemming and hawing about maximizing customer lifetime value and analyzing qualitative feedback, I’m just going to say:

“It’s pretty simple – when a customer loves a company they stay longer, spend more, and tell all of their friends. I make sure we are doing the things it takes to maximize the customers who love us and minimize the customers who dislike us.”

I think Steve would approve.