Chief Customer Officer Insights from AceTech Ontario

AceTech

Sam Puchala
Partner, SATOV Consultants

Earlier this year I wrote an article for the Globe outlining the top reasons for companies to have a Chief Customer Officer. Without repeating all the details, the basic premise was that in the era of customer centricity companies need a senior executive that owns the end to end customer experience. This executive needs to be empowered to make decisions across what today are individual silos: marketing, sales, operations, human resources, etc.; if it impacts the customer, the CCO needs to be accountable for it.

I had the opportunity to explore these issues while leading a panel at the AceTech Ontario CEO conference in Muskoka in earlier this month. Joe Dunsmore, the recently retired CEO of Digi International and Chris Rasmussen, the CEO of Doxim were my co-panelists. One of the more interesting insights that came from the discussion was the necessity of CEOs becoming CCOs in most medium sized companies.  Large companies often justify a layer of management above some functional groups. The smallest companies can just combine several functions and bundle them into a CCO position given their small scale.

Midsize companies however are in a tougher spot. The functional jobs still need to be done. The jobs are too big to be consolidated but there is insufficient scale to create another management layer. A CCO that works in parallel to all the functional leads is a tricky position because in order to be effective the CCO needs to have real authority. It can be done – the CCO can have direct authority over one functional area, say call centers / customer service organization for example. The CCO can then have indirect authority over other functional areas through direct control over measurement metrics, performance targets, process adherence, etc. However, most of the CEOs in the room felt that the more sound solution is for them to take on that mission and make the CCO role their chief concern.

Of course most CEOs also need to focus on corporate strategy, acquisitions, raising capital and other critical imperatives not tied directly to the customer. This can lead the CEO to take his eyes off customer. It is therefore critical to ensure that in those situations, the culture, metrics and rewards are already sufficiently entrenched to blunt the impact of reduced focus – or to invest in a CCO.