Why You Need a Chief Customer Officers (CCO)

Why You Need a Chief Customer Officer
The Jasons Take on... Logo
The Jasons Take On...
Why You Need a Chief Customer Officers (CCO)

Episode Description

The last few years have seen the rise of a new customer focused C-suite role – the Chief Customer Officer. This role is part of the shift to organizations being more customer centric and delivering customer focused outcomes and values. Join us this month for a conversation talking about what this new role is, why it’s important and how it fits into the wider organization and why more and more companies are seeing it as part of their strategic shift to customer centricity.

Come join us for this unplugged conversation with the two leading Jasons in customer success. Jason Noble, a UK based visionary customer success executive and leader, and Jason Whitehead, a US based customer success and software adoption leader, discuss a variety of topics and issues of importance in the field of customer success.

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Jason Noble: [00:00:00] Good afternoon. Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the latest episode of the Jason’s take on podcast series with myself. Jason Miller. We’re based here in London, in the UK and my partner in crime. Mr. Whitehead, based over in the States. Say a quick. Hello, Jason.

Jason Whitehead: [00:00:13] Hello, Jason.

Thanks everyone for

Jason Noble: [00:00:14] joining us. Excellent. We are, this is the first one that we’ve done where it’s just the two of us for a while. We don’t have a guest this week. We’ve got some more guest episodes lined up. But we want to talk about something that I think both of us feel is, is something that’s really exciting.

We’re seeing a lot of growth in the industry around this, and it’s why you need a chief customer officer in 2021. So we’re going to talk about where the need for the roles come from. Uh, the rise in this role as a new member of the C-suite, why organizations are doing it, why someone not? I really just dive into a bit more.

I think there’ll be a really interesting conversation because as I said over the last couple of years, we have seen a massive growth on this. Um, I’m I’m Jason noblesse upset. I’m based in the UK currently as the global VP of customer success for Finley. Um, and Jason, I’ll let you do quick. Introduce yourself.


Jason Whitehead: [00:01:02] Thanks. Hi everyone. I am Jason Whitehead, CEO of Tritons and co-founder of success chain success between.net. I’m focusing a lot on customer success and user adoption, and really the people to embrace technology as part of their day-to-day working life. So it’s really great. Fun of

Jason Noble: [00:01:18] check us out.

Excellent. I know we’re going to be talking about success chain a couple of episodes time. So keep an eye out for that one. That would be really cool to do. I’m really excited about that one, but don’t forget guys, you can have a look on Twitter on our LinkedIn group. Do come back with any comments there.

We’d love to hear what you guys think about this new role. And as always, we have a bowl challenge question for you. And this one really is to give you guys something to think about. Question this time is what can you do in your organization to forge the need for a strong chief customer officer role in 20, 21 and beyond.

So have a think about that one. Jason, let me push the first question over to you. So what, what exactly is a chief customer officer? Yeah. And it’s so

Jason Whitehead: [00:01:55] nice to see this role becoming so prominent and coming forward, but it really is that latest member of the C-suite providing that comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer and really getting the whole corporate.

Um, or cooperation and customer strategy at the highest level to really make sure that everyone’s focusing on acquiring and retaining the customer, delivering great experience and making sure they’re doing a profitable way, which I think is really key. And for a lot of this happened, I think a lot of times customers were really more of an afterthought, especially back in the world of on-prem before the whole subscription business model was, you know, we have a customer we’d like to keep them, you want to do a quick sale.

There was less concerned about what happened after the sale was complete. And I think that. The subscription business, we’re all coming in. It’s changed a lot of that. So I see, you know, this role really is someone who’s spearheading all the customer facing teams in the business and really driving that focus across the entire organization.

Um, what, uh, what are your thoughts? What else, when you

Jason Noble: [00:02:50] mentioned that? I think it really, for me, it’s gotta be a role as well. It’s really champion that focus on the customer internally, but it’s also a message for external businesses, but it’s also your external market and customers. But it it’s champion the focus on the customer to really get the entire organization to focus on the customer success.

And this, this is what we’ve talked about before, and this is customer success when it’s not just a department, but it means actual customer outcomes and delivering those. So this person is all about raising the profile. So it is the whole business. That’s thinking about this and customer success is there as a way of working on a business.

Philosophy. And I think it’s critical that what this person does is it’s different to your CEO. Your COO is someone that’s putting the focus on the customer across the business. I think we, you could also look at it as a chief collaboration officer. It’s just the chief customer officer and it is it’s about that.

It’s the exec who helps break down those internal silos, getting that cross organization collaboration. I think that’s key because it is. For me, it’s very much a horizontal role is someone that talks to product talks to sales, but just make sure that everyone’s talking about the customer. And now that I remember a colleague, a friend, actually some time back talked about his role as the chief complaints officer, which although it’s a way of looking at it.

I, I, you know, perhaps there’s too many challenges to focus on outcomes when they’re looking at reactive things and just being about complaints. But this really is about that organization wide. Collaboration and success, which I think is really important.

Jason Whitehead: [00:04:27] Yeah, no, absolutely. It is. Um, so, you know, as we always like to ask sort of set some context here, you know, why are we talking about this now what’s changed.

Do we need this role? And how is this different than just the BP of a customer success team?

Jason Noble: [00:04:40] I think it’s a great question. And I think a lot of it depends on your organization, your maturity and the customer base as well. You know, it’s not something that everyone needs today, but I think if you look back.

Couple of years. So in about 2000 and 2003, actually, so a couple of years, that’s almost 20 years ago, which is quite scary. But back that long, there were fewer than 20 people globally that had customer, the chief customer officer as a title. This is according to a survey by Gartner, but then jumping through to kind of the last couple of years, they’ve seen that more than 35% of organizations.

Now, like the roll. So only so 65% of organizations have now got a chief customer officer, which is really, really exciting. And that trend is growing and growing. I think for me, the role is it’s the ultimate evolution of really your customer success managers or your customer success team is someone at the C-suite.

That’s driving customer success as a business philosophy at the executive team. It’s, it’s about being more commercial when it comes to our customers and driving growth. I think we’re beginning to realize more and more the customer success and customers are our growth engine and the focus isn’t just about churn, but about revenue growth and growth and value for the customers.

And as we said earlier on, I think it says it’s a massive statement, both internally. And externally that we’ve got someone at the C-suite focused on customer outcomes. That’s a huge statement. And I think so, you know, if we look at what’s what’s changed and where, where has this need come from for this? I think we’ve seen the growth and demand for customer success and the awakening in businesses that are existing customers are super critical to our own success and growth and that this needs to be beyond just a team.

So quite often, Customer success starts as CSM starts as a team, but this is really about that evolution. I think ultimately what it does is it really helps drive that profitable customer behavior. Any other thoughts that you could address? Yeah,

Jason Whitehead: [00:06:44] I think, I think you covered a lot of great stuff there, you know, I think to your point too, is the coming up with this training customer centric culture across the organization is so absolutely key and really getting everyone focused on that.

You know, we’ve done a lot of, uh, uh, podcasts here. Talking around the issues of handoffs and handlers and disconnect between the different departments and really getting everyone to realize that no, the customer is going to determine our success, our profitability, and the product alone. Isn’t going to get us there and having the best product in the world with horrible customer outcomes, horrible customer experience, isn’t going to get you there.

So really I think bringing that business perspective to it all is pretty key, you know, and, and I think it’s also. Has a big impact on how competitive we’re seeing, you know, our companies building strong CS team, and they’re focusing on delivering outcomes, you know, cause we’ve talked about this many times and getting times, you know, I think a customer success and customer outcomes, that’s the new battle, your competition.

It’s, it’s less about features and functions. It’s really about that. And having someone across, looking across the entire organization who has both the skills and the authority and the role to do that and say, let’s break down some silos, let’s get doing this. This is going to be absolutely key. And, and I think we’ve learned over the years, especially with CS teams, there’s so many that still struggle with internal alignment, you know, whether they’re lining within their CST, but, you know, with product, the sales, with marketing, really getting that done, we see, we need someone who’s going to drive this forward at that executive level.

Um, and, and as you said before, it’s about being that collaboration officer. And I think people seeing that left to their own devices that doesn’t happen, organically organizations don’t just suddenly have a cultural, uh, customer. Focus culture. You need to have someone in there champion and driving and reinforcing every step of the way and making sure just about every part of the organization.

So I think those are some of some things that I would throw out there. Hey, Jason. So tell me though, why are some organizations still not seeing the need for seeing cl I mean, how far I’ve come along, but, you know, I think there’s also in both numbers, but also what is that role

Jason Noble: [00:08:45] within that? Yeah, I think that’s a really great question.

I think the thing is, you know, we’re seeing a demand for this and I think that demand will grow and yeah. No. Do you need the role to be customer focused and customer centric? No, you don’t. But, but I think there are some key things that this role can do to drive that. But I think a lot of organizations are still still growing.

They’re still evolving that they’re still doing customer success, that for them is working. But for me, it’s, it’s kind of an evolution and maturing of it. And I think, you know, not everyone sees the need for the role right now, but we are seeing that shift happening across industries. And I think as we move into.

Kind of almost into Q2, scary enough now in 2021, and having gone through a really challenging last 12 months with COVID still going on, you know, the big focus that people have put on customers, the investment that’s gone into customer success has gone up a gear, massive gear, and this really needs to continue.

And I think we have seen already starting this year, there’s been a number of moves in new appointments for chief customer officers. I think the other thing is that the, the chief customer officer role is quickly becoming a key driver in this digital transformation that businesses going through. And also that’s been accelerated through, through COVID in the pandemic.

I think a lot of businesses that aren’t mature yet in customer success, or stop looking at it, being very reactive and kind of in the old way of doing it. If you want. And that’s just being a barrier to change for them. They still have a CFO. They might have a chief sales officer or a CEO, but they just don’t see why they need this new C-suite role yet.

But it is, it is changing. And I think the challenge is that people aren’t seeing the value in it yet. They’re not seeing the value in it versus what are they doing today? You know why, if I’ve got a chief commercial officer, chief revenue officer where the, where your customer success team does report sometimes.

What else does this bring to it? So I think the still a case to be made and still to help justify this for a lot of organizations, you know, it, it needs to be about growth. It needs to be about growing the business and the size that we’re at. Um, and you know, it’s not, it’s not just that we’re bringing in another C-level role.

I think you’ve got to really take a step back and to help organizations move away from the challenges they see with us. You know, some do struggle because it’s another C-level role. There’s an investment needed for this. Right. I think if you, if you view chief customer officers, someone that’s leading your customer success team, it’s very difficult to justify the role.

But if you view your chief customer officer as a chief collaboration officer that is breaking down those internal silos, focusing on the customer, focusing on getting that customer centric approach across the organization, then it’s quite an easier case to make an easier to justify it. I dunno. What, what would you say Jason is some of the goals and objectives for our chief customer officer?

What are their responsibilities? And if they have a team, what would,

Jason Whitehead: [00:11:45] yeah. Yeah. I think there’s so much variation there as well, too, but I really liked the idea of the chief customer officer checking the outside in, you know, you’ve got internally, you’ve got your CRL and your, and your sales folks and chief operating officer, really that inside out view.

And I think you need someone who’s going to say really. What is it that our customers need, what’s going to get us, retain these customers and start there and working backwards. And I think that’s perfect thing for a CCO to start to really do and say, you know, are we closing this loop here and where we need to go?

So I think part of that comes with their representative voice of the customer and the business. And they’re out there talking to the customers. They’re bringing the feedback experience that everyone needs in every meeting. Now this can be a lonely position at times to, to do all that. And I think the CCO needs to be obsessively customer centric and helping your business learn how to collaborate more effectively, which, you know, every business puts in place, their own processes, their own way of doing things and their own way of onboarding customers and servicing customers and things like that.

And some organizations are just extremely rigid that they won’t flex around that to meet the needs of the different customers. And I understand the need of, you need some structure to be able to scale and grow and deliver things practically. You need to make sure that you are listening and being responsive.

And, and I think that’s something that the chief customer officer can bring and say, does this still make sense? Are we actually achieving our goals here? Um, you know, I think there’s also that the C deal bowls, the leadership gap, you know, bringing the customer voice and perspective directly to the board.

Hopefully, you know, they should be a component level because if the board is not obsessive about customers and their outcomes, their experience, um, they’re definitely missing a trick here because that’s going to be the growth drivers we keep talking about. That’s going to be. Or the revenue is coming from, they need to be on top of that and make sure they’re doing the right things.

So I think, I think that’s pretty, pretty critical all around there. Uh, what else would you add to them?

Jason Noble: [00:13:31] I, I think that that’s some key things that kind of outside, outside in view is a really key one to do. And I think, you know, customer leadership is a really strong driver of a customer led company.

Culture is important to have that there. The other thing I’d say is that. The chief customer officer brings in what I’d call the third pillar alongside sales and operations. It brings them insight into what is happening in the so-called magic loop, the plan, and build from product management and engineering versus demand and sales, marketing, and sales.

Um, and then you’ve got customer experiences, customer success, or having that third pillar brings you a balance of power, which is super important. You’ve got. Ops looking internally, you’ve got sales focusing outwardly as far as closing the next sale and having, having someone that can give a balance between them is really key.

And I think the other thing it really does is it helps shift some of the focus. You know, I don’t want my sales team to have to worry about existing customers. I want my sales teams to be looking at new business, new opportunities, building up the pipeline. And by having this role in this exact level in there, it helps shift that and gives the more focus to those teams, which is really important to do.

And I think you’ve, you’ve also got to have someone that’s kind of looking beyond just the, the balance of power as well, especially with a recurring revenue model where sales never end and you CCO. Role really provides a strong signal into why we’re doing this. And it sends a message out to our customers.

And I think they do have a team. Absolutely. And very often, you know, it’s not too dissimilar from what a VP of success would have. It’s it’s for me, it’s all of the customer facing parts of the business. So it would be a customer success management function. Your customer support function, training renewals.

I would put renewables. I’m the chief customer officer and then professional services implementation. So it’s all of the customer facing parts of the business that look after customers. Once they’ve been going through the sales process. I think that’s the really key thing.

Jason Whitehead: [00:15:33] And, you know, another thing that I think is different now that we’ve already seen the shift, uh, there’s so much social information out there of testimonials could embed people on Twitter, people on LinkedIn sharing, good and bad experiences.

And there’s all the reviews. I assume that the G2 crowd and all these other things, that if you are not delivering a superior customer experience, everyone’s going to know about it pretty quick. And people are going to hear that. And they’re going to be a little bit more concerned. They’re going to reach out to more people.

No, I think gone are the days of just getting a reference from the customer, your customers that have a great experience that you want to channel to people now have a way of finding out for themselves where they are, and I know what I’m buying software or services. I go rates and reviews to understand what others’ experiences have been, you know, and I think you’ve got to be on top of that.

And so now I think people have hoped for the best, but now they’re realizing this is a real, not just about retaining current customers. It does impact your future sales and your future growth as well too.

Jason Noble: [00:16:29] Oh, that’s such a key thing is you’ve got to kind of understand what customers are saying about you and what the impact is.


Jason Whitehead: [00:16:35] So Jason, you re we’ve talked about the summit. I think there’s a lot of value to the company to have their chief customer officer. Um, but you know, what are the benefits to the customer, their vendor as a CCO and how is it different if they have, you know, they have some vendors that don’t have a CCO and some that do, or as they’re looking at future vendors and wading through the prospects, what are the, what are the perks.

Jason Noble: [00:16:55] All right. See, that’s the outside interview. Isn’t it. That’s kind of looking the other way now. I think it’s that there’s a couple of benefits for us that I think really helps have an impact on your customers. You know, what is around visibility? So, so it helps them run the business, understand what is happening for you customers.

And there’s obvious benefits that from a customer, it also gives clarity as to what happens when a prospect in the sales cycle comes through to be a customer. And again, that, that has absolutely obvious benefits for your customers. That seamless transition from sales through to growth with your business through to the customer side of the business is a critical one to have.

And as you said, you know, that customer feedback is so important. We want our customers to feel and know that they’ve got a voice when they say something we’re listening to what they’re saying. I think it also gives them. Clarity and really powerful messaging. They know that you’re focused on their growth and their outcomes.

And they’ve also got an exec who’s there as a point of escalation has a clear route of escalation for concerns and issues and a dedicated customer focused, exec and team for all of that. I think it also means that customer experience cuts of satisfaction are front and center for you and your customers.

And that your customers know about this. And ultimately to go back to the advocacy thing, your chief customer officer is the chief advocate for your customer customers and ensures that as a business, you listen to customers and that you’re driving actions from what your customer is saying. I think that is really critical.

So a lot of benefits, both for us as a business, which then translate to benefits for customer, but there are some specific ones for the customers, right. And

Jason Whitehead: [00:18:35] I think those are all great too. And I think, you know, one of the other things, Chris to me is. If there’s a vendor out there that has a CCO, and they’re this focus on customer experience and customer outcomes, and particularly, um, I’ll have more confidence that they’re going to make sure that internally they’re putting the right resources to making their, into bringing the resources that I, as a, as a customer need to make sure I’m successful with their product in my organization.

And I think if you don’t have that, that role or that someone with the authority to do that and really responsible and looking for that. Chances are, they’re not going to be providing as many resources for you or the right news sources that you need to be successful as a customer. So I think it’s very telling me that you can have just that little more confidence that, okay, they’re going to be on top

Jason Noble: [00:19:17] of this.

Right. I think that’s the key thing. And it is knowing that someone’s going to take ownership of it. You know, it’s owning that whole customer experience in delivery of the outcomes. Let me, let me give the next question back to you then Jason, you know, so how does your chief customer officer work around or work across the business and who, who do they report into and how do they engage with your board?

Jason Whitehead: [00:19:38] I think it’s so telling who they report into and a level of board engagement sends not just gives them the credibility they need, but it sends a very strong signal to your organization of how serious you are about customer, but in the customer first. Um, I’d like to see the CCO report directly to the CEO, and I’d like to see them have more level of responsibility or they’re in there with the board issues, providing guidance and recommendation, talking about what needs to happen.

Like not how this is gonna impact the future of the organization, if you do or don’t do those. So I think that’s absolutely key. And if you can start to have your CCO have clear visibility and be fallen and have a CEO taking actions to support them, you know, I think it’s one of those things, you know, I often say I got to come up with this, but it was, you know, we judge ourselves by our intentions, but we judge others by their actions.

And I think if the action is the CEO is reported as having the CCO report directly to them, if the CEO is front and center showcase in the CCO and their work that they’re doing, that goes a very long way to getting everyone else on board. And I think the CCO needs to be able to have the authority to.

Um, you know, w we want them to have this role to, you know, bust silos and to get people aligned. They need to have some authority where they can call in and cross cross department teams and get things focused and moving. And, and, you know, you can still have salespeople report to sales and product and reports of the product folks, but you’ve gotta be able to task them to work together collaboratively with other groups as well, too.

And I think the CCO needs to have some authority to make that happen as well. Um, what are your thoughts on that?

Jason Noble: [00:21:07] Yeah, I think some really key points there. And I think it is, it’s a board level role, you know, it should report into the C E O absolutely. Uh, I think, you know, if it doesn’t, it’s difficult to kind of get the message that yes, we’ve got an exec responsible for the customer.

I think you need somebody that has that responsibility so that you see our needs. They know who to go to, to talk about customers, which is a really important thing to do. I think gone.

Jason Whitehead: [00:21:35] And frankly, if the CEO does not want the CCO to report directly to them, that speaks volumes about the quality of see, you know, if they try and duck them under the chief revenue officer or someone else, that’s very telling.


Jason Noble: [00:21:48] But I think it is, it’s the maturity of the business now at the right point, then this should happen, you know, and it’s not something that every business necessarily needs right away. You’ve got to be at the right levels of growth. And I think what the other thing that they do is that the CCO really allows.

Board and the exec team to make sure that all of the department, the team goals, the objectives, even compensation are all focused around the customer. And that for me is the really key thing that you, you work with all the teams to push that customer centric, goals, and objectives across every business, every part of the business.

Jason Whitehead: [00:22:25] Yeah. And I liked that piece about making sure compensation is there extending that, that goes a long way to the CCO, really needing to make sure that motivations and rewards are aligned with the customer outcomes they want. And I think that’s an area where many times, especially I think in the sales area, there’s still a lot of outdated business models where people haven’t really kept up with, you know, trying to incentivize and compensate for recurring revenue and the customer outcomes.

We talked about it, but I don’t think we’ve quite gotten them yet. Uh, but you know, Jason, just for, as the last question, cause I think that really comes into them. Shouldn’t the CCO have revenue responsibilities and if so, what would that look?

Jason Noble: [00:23:01] Yeah, I think, I think they do to an extent and, and ultimately the, the metric you’re looking at is net revenue retention.

So looking at growth for existing customers, the health of the business through our customers and then, yeah. The related numbers through this. So you’ve got your expansion, your upsell, your customer opportunities from existing customers, growth for existing customers, but you’ve also got downgrades, cancellations churn.

So I think it’s the. It’s revenue, but as net revenue retention, as the responsibility, they need to have that, that for me, I think is super critical and you’re seeing more and more organizations bringing that, that metric in. And you know, it’s not just about a revenue number. It’s about a net revenue number, which I think is the key thing.

Jason Whitehead: [00:23:44] Yep. No, I agree. I think they should definitely have revenue responsibility and I think there’ll be some transition periods. If you’re an organization bringing a CCO for the first time, uh, you know, Hey, we’re still not. Bringing an ideal customer profile. We’re still not selling to the right people. So there’s going to be some potentially some churn until they start to resolve those issues.

But if I’m a CTO with, with, um, you know, a revenue goal and being compensated on this, I’m going to be pretty interested to make sure we’re really targeting the right people and that we have people focused on the right stuff, making that case to the CEO and to the CRM, all those pieces. So I think, I think that’s absolutely key because without.

I mean it’s it’s business without having a time to some sort of revenue piece,

Jason Noble: [00:24:23] what are we doing? I think it’s great revenue associated with your customers. That’s the key thing, you know, it’s about. And if you driving value for your customers, if you’ve got the right understanding of what their outcomes are, the focus is on lifetime value.

You know, if there’s a metric that makes perfect sense to us. I agree. Well, let me, let me ask the questions, guys. That’s kinda the conversation with, we hope you’ve enjoyed it. But let me give you a reminder of kind of what a bold question was for the session. So what can you do to forge the need strong chief customer officer role in your organization in 2021?

I will get my words out. So again, guys, thank you so much. We’ve really enjoyed this conversation. This is a topic that we’ve seen a lot of traction and growth on. Over the last 12, 24, 36 months. And I am confident we’re going to see a lot more. So it’s a really good one to get a good understanding of it.

So we’d love to hear your thoughts do come back to us. Thank you for me in the UK.

Jason Whitehead: [00:25:22] And thank you for me in Washington, DC. Take care everyone. Bye guys.

Jason Noble: [00:25:25] Bye bye.



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