Chief Culture Officer And Chief Customer Officer: A Winning Combination

There’s a new member of the C-Suite showing up with increasing frequency: the chief culture officer. Instead of spreading the responsibility of creating and maintaining the corporate culture over multiple executives, the chief culture officer takes nearly full responsibility. Their job is to cultivate a strong culture, especially as business and employee needs cause the culture to evolve. It’s no coincidence that the chief culture officer position is growing in popularity now—more and more organizations are realizing the importance of culture and the role in plays in creating a quality experience for employees and customers. In fact studies have shown a clear connection between culture and things like a company’s reputation, financial performance, and attitude of its employees.

But the culture officer isn’t alone; in an ideal world, they work with another fairly new position—the chief customer officer—to create a dream work environment. The chief customer officer is the main advocate for customers. Their job is to know everything about customers, to connect with them, and to share their needs with the rest of the company. The combination of a chief culture officer and a chief customer officer is especially powerful. Though the two people have slightly different focuses, they can come together to build a customer-centered culture that resonates throughout the company. However, only a handful of companies are taking advantage of this compelling combination.

Email marketing company MailChimp leverages the combination of a chief customer officer and a chief culture officer to build a company focused on both its customers and its employees. The chief culture officer is tasked with overseeing the company’s HR, recruiting, and education teams, while the chief customer officer advocates for customers with the product and marketing teams. Together, they have helped build a company with almost all five-star reviews from employees on Glassdoor and consistently solid reviews from customers.

New employees at MailChimp don’t actually do any work for their first week on the job. Instead, they are showered with company swag, celebrated by their new co-workers, and introduced to representatives from each department to see how everything works together. Perhaps most pivotal to immersing new employees in the customer-first culture is when they join the research team for a “Customer Chat” to learn the needs and challenges of the customers and to get trained on the same MailChimp app customers use. No matter if the person is working in marketing or accounting, they leave their first week with a strong understanding of what the company stands for and what their individual role is in helping the customer—the perfect combination of culture and customer. The internal motto is “Listen hard, change fast”, and the company’s culture puts customers first and contributes to a strong customer experience.

Chief culture and customer officers can work together in a number of ways. In some companies they report to the CHRO, while others report directly to the CEO. One of the chief culture officer’s main responsibilities is to ensure recruitment, onboarding, training, and customer service all reinforce the company’s culture. The chief customer officer is a champion for the customers and ensures the culture is truly as customer-centric as it claims to be.

Why does this all matter? Because culture is at the root of customer experience. A culture that encourages, celebrates, and supports employees naturally leads to being centered on customers and offering great customer experiences. However, the disease of apathy is facing businesses because many workers simply don’t care. Most businesses open their doors with founders who are wide-eyed and bushy tailed about what they have to offer the world. The company grows, the workload increases, and years pass until the enthusiastic founder who feels ownership over the customer experience is replaced by employees who can’t wait until their next break or vacation. Even if workers know that customers can smell their apathy, they simply aren’t getting paid enough to care.

This is where a customer-first culture plays such a huge role. Companies today need to be cognizant of the structures put in place that make employees glazed over and do something that counters that glaze. That’s why culture matters. It plays such a vital role in the reputation, growth, and success of a company that entire C-level positions are dedicated to shaping it. With their chief responsibilities to build culture and customer loyalty, chief culture officers and chief customer officers can fight apathy by building a sustainable culture where everyone feels valued. Culture translates to customer experience, which translates to growth and increased revenue.

Culture is powerful, and dedicating more places at the table to recognize that can lead to huge gains for companies.

Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, author of More Is More, and keynote speaker. Sign up for her weekly newsletter here. Go farther and create knock your socks-off customer experiences in your organization by enrolling in her new Customer Experience School.

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