CRM Starts in the Executive Suite
Chief customer officers are proliferating
in organizations that embrace customer centricity.
Customer Relationship Management, March 2004
by Vicki Powers
What do Coca-Cola, Sears, and Sun Microsystems have in common?
They all believe in customer centricity enough to employ chief
customer officers (CCOs)—an executive-level position focused
on all aspects of the customer.
CCOs slowly started appearing
on executive rosters around the new millennium. But a surge of
activity in 2003 has added a plethora of companies to the list
of those forward-thinking firms that first embraced CCOs. United
Airlines added this position last May; Alcoa hired a CCO in June,
and Kellogg joined the pack in October. CCOs also appear on the
executive rosters of Campbell Soup Company and NuEdge Systems.
Is this another management fad? Not really, according to Scott
Nelson, vice president and distinguished analyst in CRM at Gartner.
was something that was definitely becoming in vogue a couple
of years ago," Nelson says. "It slowed down a
bit because of the economy, but I expect to see CCOs as a more
prominent position now that the economy is picking up. It's becoming
more of an accepted business practice, especially as organizations
want to make CRM a revenue-enhancing strategy."
that 10 percent of Global 2000 enterprises through 2005 will
promote executives to the senior management level with a CCO
position. (According to Nelson, this estimate extended 12 to
18 months beyond original predictions as a result of the economy.)
What sets a CCO apart, say, from a chief marketing
officer? CCOs serve as an organization's primary customer advocate
at the executive level, which ties into an enterprisewide CRM strategy.
CCOs also cultivate a customer-centric culture and bring the customer
experience under one umbrella. Although the responsibilities vary
in different organizations, CCOs carry the clout to proactively
serve customers and represent their needs to senior management.
says organizations that have CCOs believe they can use technology
as a competitive differentiator: "Since CRM is
a technology-enabled business strategy—and it goes hand-and-glove
with the concept of a CCO—it tends to be those firms that pursue
this most aggressively."
Alcoa, a global aluminum manufacturer
with 120,000 employees, added a CCO as one of several steps taken
to renew its commitment to the customer. "We renewed and
articulated detailed principles regarding our customer value," says
Veronica Hagen, CCO at Alcoa. "Our goal is to present a
single face to our customers. The chief customer officer is just
one step in this journey. It's a major initiative, clearly sponsored
by our chairman/CEO."
Hagen focuses her CCO responsibilities
on guiding principles like developing deep customer relationships
and maintaining a customer-focused culture. "I think there
is a much greater awareness in the company of where we are with
says. "It's simply putting the metrics in front of people
to help them make better, customer-focused decisions."
believes a CCO can significantly impact the success of CRM initiatives
by pulling initiatives out of the departmental silos and elevating
them to an enterprise level. This is evident at Alcoa, where
customers are seeing a difference just six months into Hagen's
"There has been a pull from our customers to take
a more integrated approach to the business," Hagen says. "If
we can help customers solve their problems, that really creates
a greater value for them. We clearly believe [that] if you grow
your customers, you'll grow your business."
a Future CCO ?
- If your company fully embraces CRM, it may soon need
a customer advocate at the executive level. Here's
Organizations that have CCOs often can better use technology as a competitive
- CCOs bring the customer experience under one umbrella.
This can improve the success of CRM initiatives by
pulling them out of the departmental silos and elevating
them to the enterprise level.
- Gartner estimates that through 2005, 10 percent of
Global 2000 enterprises will promote executives to
the CCO position. Companies that do so first can create
a competitive advantage.