This article explores the methods and benefits of creating an executive‐level position accountable for maintaining and enhancing the value of the customer base as an asset. This position is referred to as chief customer officer (CCO). The article is based on the author’s recent study of companies with a CCO, including Sun Microsystems, Cisco, Hewlett‐Packard, Unica, Monster.com, Fidelity, The MathWorks, and others. The study was conducted using personal and telephone interviews with executives with the defined function, whatever their actual title. The interviews were supplemented with documentary material. The CCO, by whatever title he or she may go, uses various methods to continually gather customer insight, to disseminate that insight throughout the organization, and to drive change so that the organization consistently meets customer needs quickly and profitably. To do this, a CCO needs sufficient authority and respect across divisions and functions, and needs to be held accountable for measurable results (although they may not be the familiar metrics). Three types of CCO are the generalist, the service‐revenue driver, and champions by committee. This article addresses executives in companies frustrated by declining prices and margins, decaying sales, lackluster market performance, and unprofitable customers. Such problems reflect a lack of customer insight, or of ability to act on it, and call for the creation of a CCO role specifically tasked with gathering such insight and using it to drive company change and initiative.
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