CEO As Chief Customer Officer

In preparation for our upcoming Customer Experience Forum in New York at the end of June, I’ve been having phone discussions with our speakers and their people. Yesterday Robinette Dixon from Sprint pointed out something I hadn’t quite realized. Two of the companies that are speaking have a lot in common despite the fact that they could hardly be in more different industries.

First there’s Sprint. Dan Hesse took over as CEO of Sprint, which is headquartered in Kansas, in December of 2007.  He immediately made customer experience a priority and set out to ingrain customer experience into the company’s culture and processes. You can see evidence of the results in the 15 percentage point rise Sprint made this year in our Customer Experience Index.

Then there’s H&R Block. Our Day Two speaker, Sabrina Wiewel, is Chief Tax Network Officer at that company, which is also based in Kansas. But the bigger coincidence (no, this isn’t a post about Kansas) is that H&R Block also got a new CEO recently: Russ Smyth, who took over in August of 2008. Like Hesse, Smyth made customer experience a priority. Among other changes he literally flipped the corporate org chart upside down to put customers at the top, and re-engineered how the field offices interact with customers.

What’s fascinating to me is that in both companies we see a new CEO taking on the mission we typically associate with a Chief Customer Officer: transforming the firm from product-centric to customer-centric. This is a fundamental change that involves shifting the culture, reengineering processes, modifying the rewards system, and potentially a whole lot more.

The reason that more and more companies make this change is because customer experience is fundamental to business success. For example, customer experience correlates to the three most common measures of loyalty, including willingness to purchase another product from a company. In other words, if your organization offers a poor customer experience it’s more likely to put itself out of consideration for that next dollar spent.

And when we just look at the online channel we see that not supporting customer goals can result in an average large retailer losing over $30M a year in sales that went to competitors or were abandoned altogether.  

I hope you’ll join us in New York to hear what Dan and Sabrina have to say about the ongoing transformations at Sprint and H&R Block. When it comes to customer experience “we’re not in Kansas anymore” – so it’s kind of cool that Kansas is coming to us.