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What Is the Difference between a Chief Marketing Officer and a Chief Customer Officer?

I’m often asked about the differences between a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) and whether the Chief Customer Officer encroaches upon the role of the Chief Marketing Officer. A simple, flippant way to answer this is “only if the CMO allows it.” In some companies I’ve worked with, the CMO is so myopically focused on outward — bound marketing and “pushing” information on the customers that it takes a CCO to bridge the gap between what marketing hopes customers want and the customer reality.

Jim Novo writes about the lack of analytic rigor so often found in marketing departments and fears the expulsion of marketing from the boardroom and their replacement by IT and Chief Customer Officers. I sincerely hope the Chief Customer Officer doesn’t replace the CMO or VP of Marketing in the board room.

In truth, the really good Chief Customer Officers I’ve worked with and written extensively about serve a very different but complementary function. They need to know what the customer needs, wants, and is willing to pay for better than anyone else. Marketing needs to apply their strategic and tactical prowess to figuring out how to profit by delivering customized products and services that exactly meet these needs and wants.

Marissa Peterson, former CCO of Sun Microsystems, owned much of the analytics as part of the Sun Sigma process. Jeff Lewis, former CCO of Monster.com, created a very small team to analyze customer data. These two CCOs recognized that their every success depended upon knowing their customers more solidly and completely than anyone else in the company.

The Chief Customer Officer role should be viewed as an “enabling” role, one that enables & facilitates the deep understanding of customers and prospects and assists all organizations in doing what they do best. At the highest level the Chief Customer Officer should bring accountability to the boardroom. The CCO should enable Marketing to raise awareness and drive sales and profits; R&D to develop products that exactly meet customer needs; Customer Service to quickly and efficiently resolve customer issues; and Finance to appropriately capture customer value in terms of payments received.

In summary, the role of the CCO should not be to replace any other function but to assist and strengthen every other function as the organization strives to deliver goods and services that customers need, want, and are willing to pay for.