The Changing Role of the C-Suite

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By Donna Peeples, Chief Customer Officer, Pypestream

Your typical C-suite includes a COO, CFO, CMO and CIO working closely with the company’s CEO to manage the operations, finance, marketing and information systems to keep the company running and delegate higher up decisions to experts and leaders in each department.

In recent years, there’s been a shift toward creating leadership roles focused on customer experience and leveraging data to improve business results including a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) or Chief Digital/Data Officer (CDO), in addition to related roles across customer service, mobile and social marketing, product design and experience, among others.

The way leaders work together across business functions is constantly evolving to ensure real-time data and collaboration is informing the latest strategy and updates provided to the CEO.

What’s driving these changes?

New leadership roles such as the CCO or CDO continue to emerge as the c-suite evolves. So, what’s really driving these changes? I mean, the C-suite is a pretty exclusive club and it isn’t often that they’re accepting new members!

First and foremost is improving the customer experience and realizing that customer experience is so much more than customer service. As always, the key to a great CX is delivering end-to-end experiences that are successful, memorable and easy for the customer, as well as repeatable to achieve scale for the business.  To successfully grow, companies need to deliver a great experience across channels and create elegant and seamless hand-offs between internal departments and functions. This includes channels such as mobile messaging, where consumers spend the vast majority of their time communicating.

The CCO and CDO roles have emerged to focus on delivering a stronger customer experience. To not only develop and market products and services, but define how those products and services go to market and how the company empowers employees and remote teams to deliver greater value to customers.

Increasingly organizations are doing this with a distributed workforce. According to Entrepreneur, 34% of the US workforce, are considered contingent, temporary, diversified, or freelance employees today, with that number expected to reach 40% by the year 2020. Managing and maintaining relationships with these independent employees, while maintaining a strong focus on the customer experience and delivering the brand promise is a big part of the CCO role.

Second, many legacy or incumbent organizations are hoping that by making changes to their c-level positions, they can break down functional silos that can often compromise an organization through the tendency to carry-on a divide and conquer mindset. With each c-level manager focusing only on their performance of his or her own team, the entire organization and ultimately, the customer can suffer due to a lack of shared information and cooperation.

By merging existing roles, creating new roles, and changing the relationships and responsibilities of the C-suite, organizations expect to see more cooperation, innovation and productivity. The pace of global change is on the increase - we’re solving for problems today that have no historical precedent. It’s clear ‘that doing things the way we’ve always done them’ isn’t good enough anymore and neither are the incremental improvements that so many industries have relied upon for so long. Incumbents are burdened by legacy thinking, systems and organizational architectures that create gaps and reward a culture of inertia. So often it’s the customer obsessed executive with a start-up mentality that companies hire to fill the void.

Third, and most importantly, new technologies and the increasing importance of data and digital marketing in business are drastically changing the way that organizations operate, requiring functional specialists. As organizations adopt new technological resources and leverage big data to fine tune their sales processes, they will require experts in these technologies and techniques to step into higher level roles in order to ensure their best use.

Evolutions Taking Place

While many positions are being consolidated, and combined in order to eliminate friction between teams, making it easier to scale organizations and create more shared value – some new positions are being created to tackle more specific problems and lead teams who have seen increased importance.

Customer service and experience is one such team. As organizations look to become more customer-centric, c-level roles such as CCO and CDO have become vital for organizations that aim to leverage data to provide a better overall customer experience - from awareness to advocacy and throughout the customer journey.

While the Chief Customer Officer manages the overall customer experience when it comes to interacting with an organization, the CDO ensures that the experience, when digital communication is involved, is seamless, while connecting insights and data to all channels, including the more traditional. Together the CDO and CCO must work together to ensure that any contact between the customer and the company can easily move from digital to human (or vice versa) without any issues.

A great example is the development of chatbots by large brands and enterprises to intelligently automate their business. According to a new survey, 44% of US consumers would actually prefer communication with a chatbot versus a person for common customer service requests. Before introducing a chatbot to customers, however, companies need to understand: how will a bot add value to the conversations customers are already having? What specific problems will it solve? How will it improve existing processes for customer service, communication and commerce?

At Pypestream, we partner with large enterprises and brands to make sure they’re taking the right approach. Before we deploy bots with an enterprise or business, we look for the repeatable interactions and conversations with customers where chatbots could add value. From there, we test and expand the chatbot’s capability using both business and behavioral data.  Once tested, the company’s team, including often a CMO, CDO or CCO, will work with Pypestream to deploy the chatbot, market the tool to customers or prospects, and manage the overall experience - ensuring seamless transitions from the bot to higher-touch interactions that require dedicated people.

Where We’re Going From Here

Digital disruption and business transformation has already been affecting the lower levels of organization for years and now it has reached the top where it's causing huge shifts in roles and responsibilities. However, in a world where organizations are customer-centric instead of product-focused, these shifts are meant to be largely beneficial for the customer more and more as seen through a digital lens.

Changes in team leadership should lead to increased collaboration between teams, greater innovation in product development, and – most importantly – greater customer satisfaction and loyalty. Your typical C-suite isn’t going to work anymore, now is the time to respond to digital disruption and customer-centricity with leadership that can foster stronger relationships both internally and externally.

About the Author

As CCO of Pypestream, Donna works with brands to strengthen relationships with customers through the company's secure mobile messaging platform. A pioneering and strategic executive, Donna has a dynamic record of driving sustainable growth and stellar business results. Prior to joining Pypestream, Donna was CCO for AIG. She is also a member of several boards including the Customer Experience Professionals Association and the Rutgers CX program, where she teaches along with other experts in the field. Reach Donna on twitter @donnanpeeples.