Every now and then, aspects of your business will be in need of refreshing to stand tall amongst the competition.

But staying ahead of the curve isn’t an easy feat, especially when it comes to making changes from within. With new roles and even whole teams cropping up in the modern business landscape, it can be tough to decide which route will best put the customer at the heart of your organization.

Whether your team is in an early or mature stage, it’s worth considering how you want customer success to be represented in company-wide initiatives. As Shari Srebnick, Head of Client Success (US) at Searchmetrics, puts it: customer success needs to be viewed beyond its department. To any CSM, the value of customer success is obvious.

But with someone in the C-suite for CS? There you have a representative there, disseminating your values and making CS part of the company philosophy.

Read on to learn about:

So… what on earth is a CCO?

What is a Chief Customer Officer?

A CCO is a Chief Customer Officer, the executive C-suite’s representative of customer-centric operations.

It’s a role that’s becoming a recognizable pillar in the SaaS world, with a steadily rising number of companies adopting the new C-Suite role. The Chief Customer Officer Council discovered that 22% of Fortune 100 companies and 10% of Fortune 500 companies have a CCO within their ranks – pretty exciting if you ask us.

The relevance of CCOs can be measured by one thing: how effectively they propel the mission of customer success across the company. Their role fuses customer and corporate strategy.

What does a Chief Customer Officer do?

A Chief Customer Officer is responsible for positioning their company’s wider plans alongside their team of Customer Success Managers’ daily tasks and strategy, ensuring their KPIs are aligned with targeted metrics.

As an interdisciplinary role, the CCO needs to have an in-depth understanding of all elements of the customer-buyer journey. The reason for this? Their job is to understand how that customer has been brought through the sales process, why they’re a client of the company. This knowledge is critical for the CCO’s overall strategy of driving customer loyalty, thus solidifying the customer base and generating revenue for the company.

Looking to implement a revenue-driving new initiative like monetizing customer success, but ordinarily need C-suite buy-in? That's where a CCO comes in.

Chief Customer Officer job description

As the Chief Customer Officer, you will be the voice of the customer (VoC) and champion a customer-centric culture across the entire organization. Your key responsibilities include:

  • Driving a relentless focus on delivering exceptional customer outcomes, value, and experiences through cross-functional alignment and seamless customer journeys.
  • Developing and executing customer success strategies, programs, and initiatives to maximize customer retention, loyalty, growth, and advocacy. This includes leveraging data analytics, voice of the customer programs, and feedback loops to deeply understand customer needs.
  • Leading your customer-facing teams including customer success, customer support, professional services, training, education, and customer operations.
  • Partnering closely with sales, product, marketing, and other functions to ensure tight coordination on customer acquisition, onboarding, adoption, expansion, and renewals.
  • Acting as the customer advocate, engaging directly with key accounts, infusing the voice of the customer into decision-making, and identifying growth opportunities through business development efforts.
  • Managing core metrics such as NRR, GRR, churn, CSAT, customer health, advocacy/references, and cost of retention.

The ideal candidate will have 10+ years of leadership experience in customer-facing roles, exceptional strategic planning abilities, strong business acumen, and a proven track record of implementing a customer-first mindset to drive growth.

An advanced degree, expert emotional intelligence, communication skills, and deep customer service domain expertise are required.

Why should customer success be represented at C-Suite level?
Customer success is finally getting its seat at the big table with other C-level executives, with the role of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) establishing itself in the SaaS industry. But why is it so important for customer success to sit pretty at the top table? Let’s get stuck in.

Advocating customer success at C-suite level

We’ve previously honed in on the significance of having customer success represented at the C-Suite Level, having interviewed the legendary Michelle Wideman, Silverfort's own CCO. Customer success can only be taken as a serious change for good when its concerns are addressed to the big decision-makers, specifically the CEO.

In this interview, Michelle addresses a number of challenges CS faces internally. Cross-departmental collaboration is a huge topic when it comes to advocating customer-centricity. Michelle asks two all-important questions:

  1. Are other departments ensuring customer experience to the maximum in the sales process?
  2. Can the finance team streamline the payment process to avoid unnecessary friction and pain points for the customer?

Michelle reinforces the point that the CCO position enables executive influence, drives accountability, and offers solutions in their position. Being in the C-Suite provides the perfect platform to disseminate the monumental benefits of a well-oiled customer success strategy across an entire company.

Chief Customer Officer and organizational structure

Understanding the various structures of CS teams globally is a nuanced and enigmatic topic, something we’re super keen on investigating further. As CS grows as a function globally, so does the complexity of its teams. This is a subject Jeff Justice Williams considers on our podcast CS Build.

Jeff’s the Senior Executive of Enterprise Customer Success at Box and notes the parallels between the globalization of customer success and the rise of remote working since the Covid-19 pandemic. Jeff advises that now is the time to become an expert in the international market.

But how do location and company size affect CS teams? Is customer success structured differently based on the industry? Do companies with varying growth stages adopt the CS function? These are the questions we wanted to find out in our report, The State of Customer Success 2021. And boy, did we.

The State of Customer Success 2021
The time has come and your patience can finally be rewarded. Without further ado, here it is: the State of Customer Success 2021.

In a survey taken by over 200 customer success practitioners, the majority of our participants held the position of Customer Success Manager (38%) with only a tiny 1.6% of respondents representing the C-Suite.

While we discovered that our collected data wasn’t populated with responses from CCOs, it’s worth remembering the leaps CS has made in the last decade and how this number may change in years to come. Yes, this figure is low at the moment, but we expect the number of CCOs to increase in correlation with the evolution of customer success in modern businesses.

Source: The State of Customer Success 2021

Rebecca Fenlon is the Head of Customer Success at Cognassist, a leading SaaS platform that offers personalized learning through cognitive assessments. Rebecca’s of the opinion that a CS team “should ideally report directly to the CEO or a CCO, and be parallel to sales and marketing – not sitting underneath them”.

This, of course, makes perfect sense. You wouldn’t have your company’s most senior CS team member reporting to the Head of Marketing or Sales, would you? Not only could this muddle team objectives, but it hinders the CEO from fully understanding the value of customer success. A CCO can provide an unadulterated, concise review of the work a customer success team does for a company.

Want to know more about the role of the CCO?

We have an entire community over on Slack dedicated to sparking new, exciting conversations about customer success. Head on over to CSC's Slack channel to learn about CCOs from CCOs.

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