Should You Have a Chief Customer Officer or a Chief Omnichannel Officer?
In a recent article and video for Forbes, “The Case for a Chief Omnichannel Officer,” Blake Morgan (@BlakeMichelleM) argues for the inclusion of a Chief Omnichannel Officer in the C-suite. This would be an executive who manages all employee and customer touchpoints across the organization, getting them out of silos and creating visibility into the customer experience. But isn’t that the same thing as what many companies are calling their Chief Customer Officer? Go take a couple of minutes to watch Morgan’s short but insightful take on this topic.
Chief Omnichannel Officer vs. Chief Customer Officer
Morgan differentiates between a Chief Customer Officer and a Chief Omnichannel Officer by pointing out that a Chief Customer Officer typically doesn’t have the purchasing power of a CMO or CIO, while a Chief Omnichannel Officer does. In other words, a Chief Customer Officer ends up acting more like a consultant floating from island to island within the organization, advocating for customers. In contrast, Morgan sees the Chief Omnichannel Officer as being more empowered in his or her ability to actually purchase and manage the integrated technologies and other resources that make up all the internal and external communications channels the company uses.
This is an interesting take on the need for an executive besides the CEO whose attention and power spread across departments and functions to unify the entirety of the employee and customer experience. I do wholeheartedly agree that a company needs to take a holistic approach to managing customer touchpoints and getting them out of silos. I also agree that there needs to be C-suite visibility into customer experience. But I disagree slightly with Morgan’s case for the presence of a Chief Omnichannel Officer being the way to do this.
My Take: Stick with Chief Customer Officer
Morgan indicates that a Chief Omnichannel Officer’s focus is on technologically empowering employees and breaking down internal silos so that, by extension, the customer experience becomes smoother as well. She’s not wrong that the employee experience directly impacts the customer experience and that access to a powerful, well integrated technology infrastructure is what enables employees to work across business functions and deliver a cohesive and consistent customer experience. However, I think Morgan is advocating that the tail should wag the dog; she’s taking an inside-out rather than outside-in perspective. It always has to start and end with the customer.
Customer experience should have a senior leader who directs the effort to map customer journeys across the customer lifecycle. And that senior leader should have the power to direct the resources necessary to ensure consistency of content across the touchpoints with which customers engage in those journeys. But let's stick with that executive being the Chief Customer Officer, who has the right outside-in perspective guided by customer-centricity. As the picture with this article illustrates, too many chefs spoils the customer experience broth. That said, in agreement with Morgan’s case for a Chief Omnichannel Officer, we do need to give that Chief Customer Officer purchasing power and put them in charge of a shared services group made up of employees from marketing, lines of business and IT, who can then work with their respective departments at the tactical level.
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Image from ChicagoNow.
About John Zimmerer
John Zimmerer is the senior director of marketing at Topdown, where he leads market research and outreach efforts for the company's customer communications and customer experience products. Most recently, John has been researching and writing about the future direction of the technologies that power customer experience, and is regarded as a thought leader in this area. John has nearly 20 years of software product marketing experience. His areas of expertise include market research, analyst relations, public relations and digital marketing.