The Rise of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) as a Change Agent

The horizon of the CCO designation is expanding. In this write-up, I have focussed on how chief customer officers can act as change agents in a B2B SaaS organization.

Chief Customer Officer (CCO) as a Change Agent
Chief Customer Officer (CCO) as a Change Agent

Whether big or small, any organization needs one or more change agents to initiate the necessary change in the business environment. A change agent is an individual who can be an insider or outsider who assists an organization in initiating the changes necessary in the business’s operations. You can consider a change agent as a catalyst who brings necessary change, i.e., a person who inspires and influences others to bring out the change in the organization.

A change agent promotes and champions changes that need to be made. The primary role of a change agent is to concentrate on people and the interactions that happen with them. The change agent inspires and influences key individuals to drive necessary changes that are necessary for transformation. This includes changes to their desires, attitudes, and behaviors.

When it comes to B2B SaaS organizations, there is a growing interdependency on the relationship between the change agent and key decision-makers. CCOs have now taken over the role of a change agent in an organization to ensure that they bring about the necessary changes that drive home advantage to their business.

The role of CCOs as a change agent in B2B SaaS organization 

Over and above the roles and responsibilities held by CCO, these are some of the duties that you may see CCOs perform when they play the role of a change agent in B2B SaaS organization: 

Establish customer metrics to define the relationship with the existing customers 

As a change agent, it has become crucial for the chief customer officer (CCO) to establish customer metrics to manage customers as an asset. This is where the voice of the customer can become a key determining factor in tracking real-time issues that customers are complaining about.

The best way to drive the results through the voice of the customer is by conducting surveys like NPS and uniting all the departments of the organizations to get a consensus.

A CCO can become a key driver as a change agent by optimizing their listening skills through various web and social media mediums. They can also curate a uniform platform for comprehending and undertaking requisite actions to engage with all functional heads of respective departments.

Have a unified view of providing the greatest value to the customers 

As a change agent, the CCO needs to have the most objective of providing the highest value to the customers. Customer First is one of the pillars of growth for a CCO, and as a business unit, they want to be an early adopter of it.

The very first thing that the CCO needs to do as a change agent is to participate in weekly management meetings with C-Suite executives and discuss the feedback received from the customers. And then deliberate what needs to be done to go a step ahead. It is one of the best ways to initiate the changes needed in an organization. CCO is the best person to bring about that change in an organization by stressing on providing the greatest value to the customers.

A CCO also needs to define what customers perceive to be of high value and then take it to the next level by discussing the differentiating experience customers expect from the organization. Discuss which types of customers you want to affiliate with in the first place, and then take the next steps. Create common dominators that set the customer experience you wish to provide your end-users.

Gauge the changing customer behavior and then adapt to the change and innovate quickly 

Today customers have become very smart. They are looking for new experiences. And so, they will not hesitate in letting off a product if they get a pleasant experience with an altogether new product. This is where as a change agent, CCO needs to understand the changing customer behavior. As it is today, the B2B SaaS market has become a lot more competitive. If the CCO cannot decipher the customers’ needs, it will become too late for them to sustain their existing customers and attract new ones.

So, the CCO needs to have a fresh take on the changing expectations of each customer and then set their bar higher by adapting to the change. This can be done by having an open discussion with all the heads of the departments in an organization and letting them know what customers demand today. How is it poles apart from the early days? What steps need to be taken so that you can again become the apple candy in the eyes of the customer. As a change agent, you need to drive home the change and innovate swiftly to have the upper hand in the B2B SaaS business space.

Advise the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the organization based on the feedback received from the customers 

As a change agent, the CCO must ensure that the feedback they receive from the customers needs to be passed on to the chief executive officer. This is important as any change that needs to be done in the product needs to be approved by the organization’s CEO.

The CEO is the principal decision-maker in an organization. And, if the CCO feels that there is customer feedback that can have long-term consequences on the business, they need to discuss it with the CEO. The CEO will then decide whether there needs to be a major change that needs to be done in the product in subsequent releases based on the customer feedback to improve customer experience.

Work with the C-Suite executives to create messages that reinforce and drive the culture change forward 

CCOs also need to work with the C-Suite executives more often than not to curate messages that can have long-term effects on an organization’s culture. It is already known that CCOs always talk about improving the customer experience. But, to achieve that, sometimes it is important to start from within.

Suppose the CCO feels that the employees facing the customers need to change their behavior to excel in the customer experience. In that case, it is time for them to discuss this with the C-Suite executives and then create messages that reinforce and drive home a culture that customers look forward to associating with.

Present yourself as a strong, rational leader of cross-functional teams and groom successors 

The CCO needs to put on the hat of a visionary as a change agent and look at the long-term prospects while training their subordinates. It is time for the CCO to set the right example for all the teams they are working with. This can be done by doing the right thing all the time. Their subordinates will always want to replicate the things that the CCO does. And, so as a change leader, the least a CCO can do is to be a good leader.

The next objective is to groom successors who can take over their reins when they pass the baton to the next possible candidate to take over their responsibilities. This can always happen when the CCO is promoted to the higher positions at the C-Suite level. Hence, CCOs need to groom their successors so that the organization is not short of skillsets when it is time for them to move up the hierarchy in the organization.

These are some roles that CCOs need to play as change agents in the B2B SaaS setup. In the forthcoming section of this blog, we will focus on some of the traits that CCOs need to develop to become the automatic choice as a change agent in the B2B SaaS organizations.

What qualities do CCOs need to develop to become change agents in their B2B SaaS organizations? 

Here are some of the qualities that CCOs need to develop to become change agents in their b2B SaaS organizations.

Immense knowledge in the business discipline which the change has impacted

The CCOs typically work in an organization to excel in the customer experience or customer service. Imagine if a customer provides negative feedback to the organization by highlighting what they did not like in your product. This is where the CCO needs to know to make the right decision by highlighting the things that did not work in the product. They can do that by discussing it with the CEO. For this, they need to have adequate knowledge on the various facets of customer experience and customer service that can impact the customers once they have paid for the subscription of a product.

The willingness to take tough calls 

There are times when CCOs need to take tough calls after discussing with the organization’s CEO. It can be about a customer success professional not being able to provide value to the customer or relocation of resources to enhance the customer experience. Such calls need to be taken by the CCO as a change agent to grow to the next level in the organization.

Showing flexibility and openness to accept the fate of innovative ideas 

As change agents, CCOs might have many ideas floating in their heads. But, not all of them can be executed by the CEO. CCOs need to understand this fact. Although they are flexing their brains and coming up with innovative ideas, the CEO will take the final call on them at the end of the day.

Hence, the CCO needs to be flexible and open to accept that there may be times when their innovative ideas may not be accepted by the CEO, which is not a bad thing. It gives them another opportunity to work on a new set of innovative ideas and present it to the CEO.

A high degree of courage to go against the tide to achieve the objective of change 

At times, the CCOs need to take a call that even the organization’s CEO feels is a bit risky. At such times, if the fate of the decision lies in the hands of the CCO, it is time for them to take the high degree of courage and go against the tide to achieve the objective of change. This requires a big heart on the part of the CCO with an equal share of risk. But, if it pays off, the entire onus of success will be on their shoulder!

Comfortable working during times of uncertainty 

There might be times when the going might become tough as a change agent for the CCO. During such times, the CCO needs to stay calm and understand that this is just a passing phase and that they will come out as a winner in an uncertain situation. They need to think of it as a phase where they have been allowed to prove their mantle within the organization.

Concluding Thoughts 

If the CCO needs to take the role of a change agent seriously, they need to prepare for the challenge that lay ahead of them with both hands and ensure that they set the right examples for their team members.31

Since it is a new role for the CCO, it might take them some time to get used to the various facets needed to excel in this role. But, with time, you can rest assured that the role of CCOs as change agents will evolve. We will see more and more B2B SaaS organizations using CCOs as change agents to bring about the much-needed change in the organization from the customers’ perspective.

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