7 Tips for a New Chief Customer Officer

Congratulations!

You now have the honor of leading your customer-facing organizations and being the face of your company to your customers. Maybe you have been working toward this position for a long time. Or maybe accepting this new challenge was an opportunity that you just couldn’t resist. Whatever the story, you now want to demonstrate that you truly belong at your company’s executive table.

Here are 7 tips to help you get started successfully:

  • Understand Your Org Structure – Review the roles, responsibilities and success metrics for each of your functional organizations. Learn how the various organizations work together to deliver the customer experiences and business outcomes for your organization. Identify any glaring gaps or functional silos and seek to understand their root causes. 
  • Talk to Customers and Partners – In addition to learning about the customer experiences and offerings from your internal teams, make it a point to seek out executives from several of your key customers to hear about their experiences and start to build relationships with them. These should include customers who are happy with your company’s solutions as well as those who are struggling. Listen particularly closely to whether or not your teams are providing differentiated experiences based on the size, value or other relevant segmentation.
  • Align on Desired Outcomes and Tie How Your Team’s Work Contributes to those Results – Align with your CEO and CFO on the most important results from your organization. Confirm what you may have heard during your interview process to ensure that you clearly understand what is expected of you and your various functional teams. More importantly, begin to show a pattern of being able to tie the work done by your organization to these measurable desired outcomes. Create transparency to your goals by communicating them to your leadership team and your broader organization. Reinforce how each team’s work contributes to these outcomes all the time.
  • Understand the Growth Drivers – Seek to understand how your various functional organizations each contribute to company growth and revenue profitability. This can include direct and indirect impacts. Take a deep dive into the P&Ls of each functional team so you can understand the most important levers. Review the current fiscal year strategic plan and your budget. Seek out your finance business partner if you are lucky enough to have one. They have the potential to be a tremendously valuable asset to you and your business.
  • Assess your Leadership – Assess your leadership team and their managers for their understanding of the current business levers, their ability to internalize customer needs, and their capability to drive the results that you were hired to achieve. Listen for their commitment to the values and professional development you expect to reinforce across your teams. Engage them in the development of your future state strategy. 
  • Leverage Internal Processes to Establish KPIs and Reporting – Quickly get the reporting and dashboards in place that you and your leadership teams will need to assess performance of the business against your primary success metrics. This will demonstrate your commitment to using data to inform your business decisions. Create a pattern of sharing those results with the executive team, your leadership team and your entire organization. 
  • Establish your Internal and External Network – Identify the cross-functional peers across your company that you need to build particularly strong relationships with and invest time to nurture those relationships. The most important cross-functional executive peers are likely to include your sales, product, marketing and finance leaders. If you have an opportunity to seek out guidance from one of your company board members, that can be a great way to get a sense for how investors view the importance of your role. Also begin to identify a set of peers at other companies

One last tip is to make sure you prioritize where you invest your own time and organizational resources. It may be tempting to try to tackle many big challenges from the start. You may also feel at risk of being pulled into solving the day-to-day fire fighting and crises that are often a hallmark of customer-facing organizations. Make a conscious effort to maintain appropriate balance between delivering results in your current period with your need to address the strategic improvements required to be prepared to scale for the future.

Count me among the many cheerleaders you have out there rooting for your success! I would also be happy to become part of the early network of peers that you can lean on for best practices, encouragement and support. Good luck to you!

Rod Cherkas

Rod Cherkas is a well-respected consultant, advisor, author, and speaker. He has been a post-sale executive at several of the world’s most customer-centric companies including Intuit, RingCentral, Marketo and Gainsight. He is the founder and CEO of HelloCCO, a strategy consulting firm that partners with innovative companies across diverse industries to develop, execute and scale strategies for their customer-facing functions. His clients rave about their “repeatable results with Rod”.

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