Most business experts agree on the importance of the customer’s insight, especially as technology makes it easier for them to communicate with one another via social networks, texting, and ratings websites.
The most popular solution:
Implementation of a CCO
The CEO empowers a Chief Customer Officer (CCO), responsible for ensuring quality of the entire customer experience (the relationship a customer has with a business at every touch point, from advertising all the way through buying and using the product or service). According to these experts, the CCO should be strongly backed by the CEO. This is because some of what the CCO may have to say is contrary to what other board members want to hear, but it needs to be said. It is the voice of the customer.
Personally, I believe in a completely different strategy to ensure incredible customer experiences:
Transformation of the CEO to a CCO
The CEO serves as the “customer with a big imagination.” He remains ignorant to the “technical aspects” of the business, purposefully, to keep him blind to what’s possible and stay focused on what should be.
The customer does not care about “what’s possible.” The customer also does not care about cost-cutting, technical limitations, or mistakes in development. It is department head’s responsibility to constantly innovate and improve to turn the “dream” into a reality. This philosophy was made popular by Steve Jobs, named “the reality distortion field.”
- The COO interprets the wild ideas of the CEO, turning them into possible, executable steps and delegates them to the various departments. In a sense, the COO “runs” the company, inspired by the CEO.
- The various departments stay in touch with visits from the CEO, who maintains and inspires the overall vision.
- The various departments may run into difficulties executing certain aspects, at which time the CEO will serve as a “problem solver” to seek creative solutions to their deadlocks.
- The CEO also motivates the departments with his passion for the vision, his viewpoint as an average customer, and his unwillingness to accept excuses as an answer. There is always a workaround.
- The concept flows from dream, to pattern, to design, to strategy, to process, creating a more refined product as it reaches each level.
- The last level is the outlook, at which point the CEO will see, touch, and feel the product that will hit consumers (as a customer). He will be able to see how the finished product matches up to the original vision… In some cases, it will be an improvement. In some cases, it will be inferior and sent back to a certain, earlier stage in development.
As a “customer,” anything less than a “wow” at this stage, from the CEO, is unacceptable.
After the product release, results from numbers compare with steps in the development. Steps in the development can be refined for further enhancement of future products released.
Why Should the CEO be the CCO?
What shows that customer experience and satisfaction comes first more than by making the top-ranking official responsible for it? I’m not just talking about publicity here, I’m also talking about the message sent to the entire company, internally. Why should a CCO have to be so heavily backed by the CEO to clarify the message of how important customer experience really is?
With the CEO responsible for customer experience, it shows an undeniable devotion to the overall satisfaction of the customer; and that message is coming from the top. The CEO being ignorant to certain knowledge allows his imagination and his desire to build the ideal product unstinted by technical limitations. This is not dissimilar from how Apple ran during its most creative period.
Steve Jobs was a visionary who dreamt up products that customers would want and pushed the individual departments to innovate and improve to create that vision. He had minimal to no technical skills by the time he was the great innovator we think of him as. Too often, CEO’s become too far removed from what customers want and rely too heavily on metrics and costs, when they need to put themselves in the shoes of the customer.
This strategy requires a different style of CEO than is typically recruited to run multimillion dollar companies, but it is a more effective, long-term strategy to make sure that there is constant innovation and excellent experiences. Since the CEO is ignorant to certain aspects of the details, it also requires that he be surrounded by a strong team that make up for his weaknesses, to allow his strengths to shine. If it is a “Steve Jobs” visionary-type CEO, then it’s prudent to surround himself with very detail-oriented people.