Becoming customer centric

One of the byproducts of the increase in customer-centric companies has been the expansion of the Chief Customer Officer. In 2003, fewer than twenty companies in the world employed a Chief Customer Officer (CCO), but by 2015 more than 1 in 10 Fortune 500 companies and over 1 in 5 Fortune 100 companies had instituted that role. What does a Chief Customer Officer do?

He or she:

  • Ensures that the company understands who their customers or clients are, at a deep level;
  • Builds lasting relationships with those customers; and
  • Ensures that they serve those customers at the highest level.

Despite the increasing recognition of the importance of becoming customer-centric, research suggests that many companies fall short in their ability to actually be customer-centric. A 2014 survey of senior marketing executives showed that, although 73% of respondents viewed customer-centric focus as critical to their success and that of their organizations, only 14% said that customer-centricity could be considered a “hallmark” of their companies and only 11% thought their customers would characterize their companies as customer centric. Those statistics suggest that many companies pay only “lip service” to being customer-centric.

Once again, your opportunity emerges from the shortcomings of your competitors. To compete successfully in today’s environment, you must commit to becoming customer-centric by putting in place the systems that ensure you will actually be customer-centric. Designating a CCO increases the probability that Concierge Customer Service will achieve the desired results. Why? Because Concierge Customer Service has the highest probability of success when it is led by someone for whom the customer is their chief priority, rather than just one of their priorities. That’s why your company must seriously consider how you prioritize this key strategy. For example, if you operate a relatively small business with limited personnel, you may not be able to devote a full-time staff member to serve as a CCO. In that case, consider putting your best people-facing manager in place and make the responsibility for Concierge Customer Service half of his or her role.

Establishing a Chief Customer Officer dovetails beautifully with another critically-important trend, the creation of the Chief Profit Officer (CPO). The CPO:

  • Elevates the importance of profitability,
  • Evaluates the profitability of various actions,
  • Ensures the company pursues profitable strategies, and also
  • Ensures that customer service remains paramount in priorities and practices.

Establishing these two C-Level roles ensures that the intertwined outcomes of profitability and customer service receive the priority they deserve. Instituting them formally differentiates your company in the marketplace and does much to ensure your success.

Remember, though . . . we are focusing on your customers and your employees—because, keeping your customers satisfied requires that you also keep your employees satisfied. In other words, being “customer-centric”—becoming a company whose mission focuses squarely on the customers who generate your profit—means that you must simultaneously be “employee-centric.”

As Ken Blanchard and Colleen Barrett describe in their book Lead with LUV, Southwest Airlines embodies this principle. Because Southwest is so famously customer-centric, one might expect that their idea of “leading with LUV” would be to put their customers first. But they explain that they actually put their employees first; their customers come second, followed by their shareholders. As Blanchard puts it, “[s]ervant leaders know that financial success is a byproduct of how their people and their customers are treated.” (Blanchard, K. and Barrett C. 2010. Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.)


BookWant to learn more?

This blog post is based off material from my book with Randy MacLean, “YOU CAN’T SERVE THEM WELL IF YOU DON’T KNOW THEM WELL: Capturing and Captivating Customers with Concierge Customer Service™”

You can get the first two chapters for FREE here.

If you’d like a full copy of the entire book, you can get it here.


Dr. Jeanne Hurlbert, President of Hurlbert Consulting is an expert in sociology and survey research. After spending more than 25 years in academia, she now uses her extensive behavioral science expertise to help companies like yours distinguish yourselves through customer service. What sets her approach to customer service apart is that she begins by helping companies meld research and marketing to find out exactly

(a) what their customers want and

(b) how well they’re succeeding in giving customers what they want.

You can schedule a consult with her by going to www.ConciergeCustomerService.com; you can call her at 888-590-9677; or send an email here. And, if you’d like to complete her complimentary assessment to see how well you’re doing in knowing and serving your customers well, just go to www.FixYourService.com.