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giles lury

Renewed focus on customers has ushered in a shift at the top of the marketing business

The CCO will see you now Giles Lury is director at The Value Engineers and author of How Coca-Cola took Over the World: and 100 more amazing stories about the world’s greatest brands

The customer is well and truly king again and at the centre of everything we do

Things are changing at the top of the marketing game. A number of companies have recently been adding to their C-Suite of executives, but rather than more marketing directors becoming chief marketing officers, it is chief customer officers that are on the rise. Led by a number of high-tech companies, then followed by retailers, service brands and now even FMCG companies, chief customer officers have been appointed in ever-increasing numbers. Various surveys suggest that it may be as many as 50% of companies that now have a CCO. Though still a relatively new addition to the array of three-letter acronyms, there is already a trade body for CCOs: The Chief Customer Officer Council. It provides what it says is the ‘proper’ definition of a CCO as “an executive who provides the comprehensive and authoritative view of the customer, and creates corporate and customer strategy at the highest levels of the company to maximize customer acquisition, retention and profitability”. CCOs are therefore responsible for all activities relating to customer relations, including marketing, sales, call centres, user interface, finance (billing), fulfilment and post-sale support. They have control of technology, data, digital, insight and innovation and, in many cases, they are also responsible for customer service and the physical operations (store, branch).The CCO typically reports to the chief executive, and is, in nearly all cases, a member of the board of directors. So why are they on the increase? Firstly, there has been a shift in focus. If the nineties and the noughties were the decades of the brand, this decade has seen a return to the pre-eminence of the customer. While their importance never really went away, brands, branding, and especially rebranding, were all the rage. Yet over the past few years, we have

seen the emergence of ‘the customer experience’, understanding ‘the customer journey’, and many and varied ‘customer touchpoints’. The customer is well and truly king again, and at the centre of everything we do. Looking at the stream of announcements about the appointment of new CCOs, the recurring theme is driving company growth and integrating functions to help the business become more customer-centric. One cause for the emergence of CCOs is that marketing directors are seen as ‘just’ marketing specialists – not all-round customer specialists. Marketing directors deliver communications (including advertising and design), innovation and insight, but are not necessarily involved in all those other customer touchpoints; from call centres, to online user experiences, store formats and layouts. These activities fall into the remit of most CCOs. The rise of the CCO is also a reflection of the growing role and importance of data. Tesco and Netflix are obvious examples of data-rich organizations – customer data. It is this customer data that provides the information on performance and insight on effectiveness that is crucial for a CCO, and roots their role in delivering directly and measurably to the bottom line. Research by the likes of Marketing Week shows that, while it does vary to some degree by industry sector, CCOs tend to come from ‘multichannel’ roles, with experience of both traditional and digital, though the latter is most important. The same research suggests a unanimous view of what their next role will be – chief executive, of course. While it may be a little premature to say that the chief marketing officer is passé, they do appear to be going out of fashion. There is a new C-Suiter on the block, and if marketing directors want to move into this role, they will need to take a broader role; as digital experts and specialists in customer touchpoints. Q1 2018 Dialogue

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Dialogue Q1 2018  
Dialogue Q1 2018