3 Qualities Every Chief Customer Officer Needs to Be Successful

Customer experience and engagement are key to your company’s performance, and many businesses are adding the role of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) to their C-suite roster. The CCO is responsible for ensuring the end-to-end experience for customers. From uniting all customer-centric initiatives across complex and institutionalized organizations to driving a shift in mindset.  They work with every person across internal teams to embrace and actively design and make business decisions and outputs (products, services, processes) with a focus on the customer.

As the CCO role evolves, expands, and continues to become a key role in business, there are some integral qualities they need to master to help drive the customer experience transformation to maturity.  In my interview with Genesys Chief Customer Officer, David Sudbey, he gives perspective on three fundamental areas that impact the customer experience.

Q: Whether personal or business, a key factor in every relationship is trust. As an organization begins a customer experience transformation, how important is trust from both an internal, organizational lens and from the view of a customer?

David Sudbey: I believe that you cannot do anything without trust. It is an inherent human quality. When we are young, we tend to be very trusting. We trust that when our parents tell us something, it is with our best interests in mind. This is proven to us because of the actions and environment our parents create for us. The same can be said of our customers. They rely on us to be open and honest. That is proven when we consistently deliver on our promises and we show them, through the environment we create, where we are genuinely caring and understanding. When we get it wrong, own it and be upfront. From an internal perspective, our team members need to see that their leadership has their backs. While a cliché term, servant leadership, is key for your internal teams to understand that what they are being asked to do by their management is also being DONE by management. Saying one thing and doing another is not helpful. It’s a team sport and leaders need to be a player/coach.

Trust from the perspective of both customer and internal team members is built from many small actions over a period of time. Warren Buffet has said, “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” So, trust is not a gimmick, trick, or technique, it is about your character and the character of your organization. We, as leaders, and as an organization, become trusted in the eyes of our customers and our employees by how we show up – it’s not about how well-crafted our messaging is or by how shiny we make our packaging.

Q: You mention that part of strengthening the relationship with our customers is in how we show up. Tell us how we shape the company culture and what that effect is on customers’ experience.

Sudbey: I, along with many of my peers and practitioners, will say it’s about accountability. In shifting the mindset of your business to center your decisions around the customer, it’s important that we build a vision and a strong philosophy. This vision and philosophy must be supported in actions. These actions happen when we own it.

We want our employees across our organization, from the front line to the back office, to be passionate about delivering exceptional customer experiences. To do that, we must properly enable and empower our teams. It’s common to fall into a trap of assigning accountability without empowerment. We must avoid doing that to our internal teams as it will manifest to less than desirable outcomes for our customers. In shifting our business towards customer-centricity, we must be prepared to invest in our employees- give them the tools and training they need to own the actions so they can concentrate on doing the right thing for our customer.

I have spent a lot of time in an around contact centers in the Fortune 1000 over the past 30 years and I am convinced that the frontline has the customers best interest in mind. But where it can fall apart is in how management supports them from processes, products, delivery and other upstream/downstream dependencies. If they don’t feel like the rest of the enterprise is supporting them, they get worn out and beaten up. In shifting our business towards customer-centricity, we must be prepared to invest in our employees- give them the tools and training they need to own the actions so they can concentrate on doing the right thing for our customer.

Q: You, along with many experts in the customer experience field, talk about the power of moments and the importance of making each interaction count.  What is it that makes those moments which differentiates a company from the rest?

Sudbey: Psychologists believe that, when we think of the experiences we’ve had, we don’t think of them in play-by-play or minute-by-minute terms. We focus instead on a few particular moments—the peaks, the pits, and the transitions. We can turn a pit into a peak moment or make the transitions memorable.  Jeanne Bliss mentions every employee can be a memory creator. And this is done when we meet the customer where they are when they engage your brand. Often this requires empathy.

Empathy isn’t something you can study or train for, it’s a natural human element. It is being genuine and authentic. What this does is that it removes barriers between you and your customer, so you can get to solutioning faster. It is a combination of trust and accountability. And a two-way street of honesty and transparency. It levels the playing field for the customer and allows them to know that you’re rooting for their success.

It all sounds really simple, but I know it is hard stuff. Especially when you are in the middle of a critical escalation with a customer or struggling to find the balance of ensuring your teams are trained but still need them to put in their regular work hours.

At the end of the day, customer experience transformation is hard. It takes years and it’s a continuous improvement practice. While it boils down to a business decision, it is important to remember that it all involves a human-centered approach. Trust, accountability, and empathy are building blocks and foundational elements to every relationship. Know your principles, have integrity, do right for your employees and watch them delight your customers.

For additional resources on customer experience, check out the CX educational resources.