June 5, 2017 – Customers matter. It sounds simple, and obvious. But these days, companies are coming to better accept and understand that concept and weave it into their strategic vision. So it is that businesses of all kinds are increasingly bringing aboard chief customer officers (CCO), the most effective of whom wield influence across an organization and into the C-suite. And though the titles can vary from place to place, the customer-drive mission of the role remains the same.
Barbara Porter was recently named chief customer experience officer for Senn Delaney, a Heidrick & Struggles company. As a key player in a firm that helps clients transform their culture, and ultimately achieve better results, the effects of her work stand to be far reaching.
“In my new role, I’ll be looking at culture shaping from the perspective of the consumer, with the understanding that customer service is essential to our business’s ability to grow and meet changing market needs,” said Ms. Porter, who is also a partner. “We will also be working to align our own organization cross-functionally to meet current and future client needs across all of our business lines.”
That translates into added value for Senn Delaney’s clientele, right down to the very employees who will ultimately drive their companies forward. “Our clients are constantly looking for new ways to optimize talent and ensure organizational success,” said Ms. Porter. “By working to ensure that we can meet client needs across all of our business lines, we can also focus on providing the right talent to our clients in the right way.”
Ms. Porter has upwards of 20 years of experience in customer experience strategy across organizations and in helping steer organizational and cultural change around customer service. Before joining Huntington Beach, CA-based Senn Delaney as a principal last year, she was executive director of the customer practice at Ernst & Young. She also founded Integrity Builds Trust Services (IBT), a sales organization that served the energy industry as well as companies in technology, financial services and manufacturing. After IBT was acquired by Nicor National, Ms. Porter stayed on, serving as vice president of customer service and business development, among other roles.
Why the Proliferation In C-Titles?
A handful of new C-suite titles have been cropping up at businesses around the globe, according to a new report by search firm Odgers Berndtson and authored by business journalist Gary Mead. According to the report, executives climbing the corporate ladder are in hot pursuit of titles that include the words ‘chief’ and ‘officer.’ Among them: chief happiness officer, chief privacy officer, chief people officer, chief digital officer, chief knowledge officer, chief customer officer, chief luminary officer, chief innovation officer, and chief observance officer. There’s no simple answer as to why C-titles are proliferating now at such a rapid rate ….. Here’s some further reading from Hunt Scanlon Media.
New Officer Titles Continue to Flood the C-Suite
While the corporate ladder may no longer be so steep for some, many workers, according to a number of reports, still think they deserve a promotion — and this is leading companies to feel pressured to hand out ‘better’ titles to make up-and-coming staff feel more valued.
Chief Customer Officer
Relatively speaking, CCO is a new designation. It came into existence in 1999, with the appointment of one Jack Chambers to the role for Texas New Mexico Power, according to the Chief Customer Officer Council, a MA-based peer advisory network. In 2003, the world had but 20 CCOs. Now 500 people hold such jobs.
“It’s an emerging role, and one-third of all CCOs serve in the technology space,” said Ms. Porter. “The growth comes from rapid changes in customer and employee expectations, many of which are discovered through customer service functions in varying organizations. Historically, all outcomes and feedback – positive or negative – have been shared through customer service’s cross-functional role in bringing departments together.”
It’s not a job one learns in school, and in many respects it’s one that is still taking shape. “There isn’t currently an MBA curriculum around chief customer officers, but the Chief Customer Officer Council is quite helpful in terms of providing frameworks and curriculums for customer experience professionals,” said Ms. Porter. “The role almost always evolves through on-the-job training, as those across organizations learn how to integrate and profitably grow through a customer-focused lens.”
The CCO position demands knowing the company’s customers well, usually better than anyone else in the organization. CCOs also have to understand how the customer experience fits into the bigger workings of the company. “A good chief customer experience officer promotes collaboration, listens attentively and understands the importance of aligning diverse groups of functions around a common strategy or goal,” said Ms. Porter.
Sometimes, getting the message out across an organization can pose challenges. Not everyone is open to change, or to making adjustments in how they perform their duties. “Part of developing a customer-centric focus requires deeper understanding of how functions can work together,” said Ms. Porter. “Because of this, you may meet resistance in helping those around you understand how their role affects those outside of their function, making effective communication and collaboration all the more important.”
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Chase Barbe, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media