The alphabet soup of C-suite executives includes everything from CEO to CFO, CMO to CIO, COO to CSO and more. There’s one that has grown in popularity over the last decade: CCO or Chief Customer Officer. Consumers base their satisfaction not only on the product they purchase, but also on their overall brand experience. The role of CCO (or CXO, Customer Experience Officer) places the customer experience front and center, helping companies focus on the experience they deliver and meet the changing wants and needs of their target audience.

According to KPMG Advisory’s 2018 U.S. Customer Experience Excellence analysis, the quality of company interactions experienced by American consumers declined in 2017, despite significant investments in the customer experience. The cause is attributed to customer expectations that are rising faster than most companies can respond. Some businesses are hiring CCOs to help solve this challenge.

CCOs lead efforts to continually enhance the customer experience, something that must evolve as needs change and as new ways are developed to meet those needs. Chief Customer Officers emphasize customer-led thinking and help companies get closer to customers, allowing them to better anticipate changing expectations. In an increasingly competitive environment, companies that fail to meet consumer expectations are far less likely to receive a second chance. That’s why many businesses are beginning to see the value in appointing one person over the customer experience.

A study by the Chief Customer Officer Council found 22% of Fortune 100 companies already have a C-level customer officer on their teams. Ford recently made Elena Ford, the great-great-granddaughter of Henry Ford, its Chief Customer Experience Officer. PricewaterhouseCoopers also announced the appointment of its first chief experience officer in 2018.

To be truly customer-led, CCOs go beyond the typical data that’s been used in the past to identify and understand customers. For example, a customer journey map provides an in-depth visual representation of every touchpoint where a customer interacts with a company. Pain-points within the journey can be identified and addressed, which increases satisfaction and drives business growth.  

As a foundation of customer knowledge is built, it is the CCO’s job to share that information within a company. The CCO brings the customer perspective to business decisions and across multiple departments, from call centers to marketing to customer support. CCOs lead the transformation within a company to become more customer-focused.

Poor customer service costs businesses more than $75 billion per year, according to the 2018 “Serial Switchers” report issued by NewVoiceMedia. The role of CCO can prevent these breakdowns in the experience by helping other C-level executives as well as customer-facing employees gain a better, more in-depth understanding of the customer.

The CCO fosters collaboration among internal teams and, in certain cases, among customers as well. Front-line employees work directly with customers and often have the best insights into the experience, where it might be breaking down and where it needs improvement. Additionally, collaborating with customers when evaluating services and support helps create a customer-led environment.

The chief customer officer is a company’s customer champion whose mission is to uphold the experience. The CCO doesn’t simply react to problems that already exist, but instead acquires an in-depth understanding of customers and proactively improves their experience by anticipating their changing wants and needs. It’s this customer-first mentality that will propel companies to the top of their industries, focusing both on the experience and products they sell.