Voice for the customer: The impact of internal customer advocates

March 4, 2014

By Dr. Gary Edwards

Chief Customer Officer, Mindshare Technologies

When was the last time you reviewed your privacy settings on your phone? A quick check will likely reveal a shocking number of apps that have access to your GPS location, contacts, photos and even microphone. You may remember granting some of those permissions, but you probably weren't aware of most of them.

In the wake of the NSA revelations and the Target hack, it isn't a reach to say that consumers have limited protection today. Most people know that the price of using social and digital tools means some sacrifice in privacy, but retailers can do more to protect their customers and keep their paying patrons' best interests in mind.

As retailers large and small increase their investments in Customer Experience Management (CEM) and Voice of the Customer (VoC) technologies, customers are being given a voice, but is that enough? To ensure all customer concerns — from employee performance and product selection to the ever-touchy subject of privacy are being heard, customers need someone inside the organization who is constantly fighting on their behalf.

Chief customer officer (CCO) is one of the newer additions to the C-suite and an executive role that has gained steam in the "Age of the Customer." According to the Chief Customer Officer Council, there were only 10 CCOs in 2010. Today, there are more than 450 worldwide with this title or something comparable, including yours truly. My fellow CCOs and I all operate on one guiding principle: to deliver better customer experiences by influencing strategy in all aspects of customer relations, from call centers and finance to sales and marketing.

Here are three ways a CCO (or other internal customer advocate) can keep the customer at the forefront of an organization:

  • A unified customer-centric front: By coordinating efforts across multiple internal organizations, CCOs ensure each department operates from a customer-centric perspective. When there is a constant focus on improving and enhancing the customer experience internally, it successfully translates to brand locations.
  • Leverage VoC data: Many retailers use VoC programs to gain a deeper understanding of the customer experience. VoC technology can tell retailers what their customers love and what they should keep doing, and more pressingly, what is driving customers away and how to rectify that immediately. Insights from VoC data are a customer advocate's greatest ally in identifying areas of improvement.
  • Voice for the customer: As an internal advocate for the customer, a CCO pushes back when necessary – do we really need to ask for all this data? Is this what's best for our customers? By ensuring key areas of importance to customers are being considered and protected, a CCO helps a company find win-win solutions for both the brand and the customer.

If you are not of the 450 or so companies with a CCO, I invite you to consider introducing one to your C-suite, or taking a similar measure to reaffirm your company's commitment to making the customer's concerns — including those regarding privacy a priority in all decisions. While this many sound self-serving, I do not intend it to be. Boardrooms are filled with representatives from marketing, sales, financial and product teams isn't it about time the customer got a place at that table?

Gary Edwards, PhD, has led worldwide and domestic research on customer and employee behavior for more than 20 years. Photo by Jeffrey Montes.

Topics: Customer Experience , Customer Service

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