Over the course of the last few years, an increasing number of brands have added a new executive responsibility to their C-suites… the CCO, or Chief Customer Officer.

And they’re in good company. In fact, large pioneering companies from across a broad swath of industries have brought this position onboard to help decision-makers better navigate the rapidly changing front lines of customer satisfaction. And affirm the growing importance of the intersection of data analysis, digital engagement, product delivery and after sales service.

Brands such as Allstate, Dunkin’ Brands, FedEx, McDonald’s, Philips Electronics, Under Armour, USAA and Walgreens, to name just a few.

Building Product Brands, listen up. As commercial transactions continue to shift from in-person to online, the role of customer service will only grow in importance.

Customer (service) is always right

The CCO is the voice for the Customer Service department — responsible for uniting C-level executives, along with the rest of the company — in developing and executing programs that promote customer-centric values.

Some of the main responsibilities of the CCO may include:

  • Creating and implementing customer service response strategies
  • Developing better customer loyalty programs and enhanced staff service training
  • Leading a customer-centered mindset within the company
  • Implementing practical applications for the wealth of collected data
  • Championing high-quality, long-lasting customer relationships to boost engagement, advocacy and brand expansion

Of course, customer service is — and has always been — a priority for any business. But the emergence of these executive positions demonstrates very clearly that something else… that is even more important, is happening.

In an increasingly competitive marketplace inhabited by ever-more educated audiences, “service-as-a-differentiator” can become an important selling proposition. And critical for driving sales and marketing alignment.

A lot of organizations have been product-centric or channel-centric, but now there’s this growing sense that there’s this need to be more customer-centric,” says Augie Ray, vice president analyst, who covers customer experience at research and advisory firm Gartner.

Certainly the pandemic has caused a lot of organizations to realize that they weren’t in touch with their customers — they realized that they need to listen more.

According to a 2021 survey of 3,000 CEOs from the IBM Institute for Business Value, delivering better customer experiences and developing stronger customer relationships will be their two highest priorities over the next two to three years.

Building customer-centric brands

The New Year is a critical juncture to re-dedicate customer service as a priority for Building Product Brands. While developing and positioning better products and solutions will remain vital for R&D, cultivating a customer service-oriented culture requires three strategies that every brand team must focus on: Motivation, Focus and Perseverance.

More than ever, people who work for their organization want to feel like they’re continually affirmed and supported.

So, why not demonstrate that culture… externally at the same time? Great customer service culture extends positive sentiments out the door, towards both customers and prospects. After all, when an audience member knows he or she is valued, then a Building Product Brand is well on the path to making every prospect, a customer. And every customer, a loyal repeat customer.

Surveys confirm that aligned service helps to foster increased sales:

Think about your own experiences on the receiving end of customer service… both good and not so good.

What often stands out as good service stems from authenticity, rather than perfection. Audiences want to be heard. And to have their concerns validated. Delivering FAQs or lines from a script isn’t enough. Instead, brands need to provide true engagement and demonstrate a commitment to remedying a situation. And consistently express gratitude for their customers’ business.

That kind of customer service approach can begin with a variety of cost-effective resources and programs. But the marketing strategy — and unique selling proposition — must stem from a company culture that fosters it.

Tips to build customer-centrism

So, how do brands get started? Consider these six steps to build a customer-centric foundation.

  • Build diverse teams. When a brand or business unit seeks to build a customer service culture, it needs a diverse mix of positive, empathetic people. A well-knit community… that wishes to better understand the vital needs and feelings of its customers and prospects. Groups of people who have unique perspectives and can address problems quickly. And who can better create mutually-rewarding opportunities. After all, quality customer service is a team effort. And the best teams are built with diverse teammates… with different vantage points.
  • Value your relationships. Building Product Brands that are invested in creating a customer service culture, recognize that quality relationships are the real currency of success. Whether communication is electronic, over the phone, or in person… the initial contact sets the stage for a positive experience. When a team listens better — with empathy — they also strengthen trust in a brand.
  • Make problem solving an art. Organizations that build a customer service culture empower team members to solve issues. This empowerment can take many forms, but it almost always has the same goal — to give brand teams the opportunity to really make a difference.
  • Support graceful accountability. Organizations with a great customer service culture hold their team members accountable with grace and respect. Accountability means that everyone is “in it together”. And that they depend upon each member to give their best… to keep audiences satisfied.
  • Celebrate wins joyfully… and often. Customer-focused organizations celebrate milestones, team successes, individual accomplishments and anniversaries. When someone delivers great service, they share that traction and add the process to “best practices”. When someone overcomes a particularly difficult challenge, they make a point to recognize it. And when the unthinkable strikes, they work together to overcome it… and celebrate the victory.
  • Collect data… and put it to good use. Monitoring website and social analytics enables the collection of contact and demographic information from every journey. And asking customers to evaluate their experiences with your brand and provide reviews creates an even better brand promise for pending prospects. Don’t keep that information secret. Instead, leverage it to follow up with customers and to reward loyalty. Create paths for finding new customers, improving products and driving more sales.

Yes, a Chief Customer Officer’s job description is focused on satisfying customers and helping to grow brand loyalty. But before an executive search is considered, why not develop that mission in 2022 with existing capabilities… as a core tenant of a well aligned sales and marketing team?

If you’d like to explore ways to leverage your brand’s sales and marketing alignment potential or would like some help putting customer data to work for you… we’re here to help. Send an e-mail to sk@klberandassociates.com to get the conversation started.