As it appeared in the Daily Nation on November 20th 2018
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu
When Safaricom created the role of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) a few days ago, I felt a wave of excitement. My excitement was not because I am a Safaricom customer but because I am a firm believer and an advocate of the need to have the voice of the customer loud and clear in the C-Suite. Anyone who has followed through the evolution of the C-suite knows too well that the CCO is a rare position in most organizations. The CCO role is possibly the newest entrant into the C-suite. I expect that in the next decade, this role will become widespread globally and even here in Kenya.
Globally, the first CCOs were appointed in the late 1990s. The role started spreading slowly within the fortune 500 companies. By 2014, a CCO council study reported that 22% of Fortune 100 companies and 10% of Fortune 500 companies had the role established. The study further described the CCO role as quickly turning into “a staple of modern business”. Today, this role, which is heavily concentrated in the USA and continues to change in scope, in accountability and in influence. In Kenya, the role is largely unfamiliar to many. Only a few Kenyan organizations have a senior executive holding such a position often with a manager or director title. Many that are purported to champion the customer in their organizations are not fully part of their executive-management teams. Some fall under functions such as marketing, commercial and even operations thus dwindling the voice of the customer.
Smart customer centric companies such as Oracle have appointed seasoned senior executives to the role of the CCO. Such a CCO takes charge of how the organization relates to its customers as a whole. This is in an effort to break down functional silos that prevent most organization from having seamless interactions with their customers. In addition, the CCO helps put the customer at the centre of high-level decision made in the boardroom. As the CCO role continues to emerge and evolve, it has gone beyond customer service excellence to driving profitability and survival. In some companies, the role brings together all functions that relate to the customer. In the case of Safaricom, the CEO pointed out that CCO role has brought together many functions that include consumer business, sales operations, customer care service, brand marketing and experience as well as digital and market development. Overall, a CCO role is very critical in driving how a business understands its customer, views its business and aligns the two.
Today, every smart company is keen on customer satisfaction and retention. To drive these business aspects, the CCO is likely to become a key feature in the C-Suite. As a result, some previous C-Suite titles might even become obsolete and get absorbed by the CCO. In Kenya, with Safaricom’s appointment of a powerful CCO, it is likely that many other organizations will follow suite. Any CEO fully committed to customer retention and who is planning to drive a customer-first mentality across their entire organization needs to consider appointing a CCO today.
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy