Jeanne Bliss: how to build your customer-driven growth engine

Jeanne Bliss on Twitter
Jeanne Bliss on Twitter

In 2006 Jeanne Bliss published “Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action“. Since then she has been helping leadership teams and CCOs (Chief Customer Officers) to find their united voice and become customer leaders.

As each business (and each market, customer, context, leader, etc.) is different “finding that united voice” is a task for leadership teams and CCOs themselves. It’s not some universal recipe you can write down and apply anywhere, there is no cookbook. What Jeanne Bliss does is coaching them to find that voice and build their customer-driven growth engine.

Taking responsibility: find your united voice and act

I emphasize it as all too often leadership teams work in disconnected ways, making it harder for their organizations to “become” customer-driven growth engines. I’m sure you recognize that. I also emphasize it because (at least as) often leadership teams, LOB executives and people in all sorts of roles and teams look for recipes. Regularly they even seek these recipes completely outside of their own organization or simple fully outsource the questions they have and the answers – recipes – they seek because of all the wrong reasons and with the wrong investments and approaches as a result.

Having the operational areas own the responsibility and having them share the administrative parts of this work would be heaven (Take the Cross Silo Assessment and Get 11 Implementation Tips)

Among these wrong reasons are the comfort zones they seek, ‘outsourcing’ responsibility, the fear of taking the wrong actions and fear in general. It’s probably kicking in an open door when I say fear isn’t always the best advisor. More accurately: fear is not the best thing to ignore when important changes and actions face your business. A leader embraces the challenges at hand and collaboratively finds the way, involving the right stakeholders (including customers) and seeking coaches rather than miracle solutions that simply don’t exist. The snake oil.

Growth champions are invariably customer-driven. Organizations thrive when they have found a united, customer-driven voice and an actionable road map to go beyond lip service and even beyond passion. They know “How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine” and act upon it.

Jeanne Bliss on customer experience - quote from Chief Customer Officer 2
Jeanne Bliss on customer experience – quote from Chief Customer Officer 2.0: How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine

Building a customer-driven growth engine: break it up

What I wrote so far is based on what I see happening in many organizations since a long time. And so has Jeanne Bliss as these thoughts are solely inspired by two paragraphs in the introduction of her new book, this month in a store near you.

Meet “Chief Customer Officer 2.0: How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine“, Jeanne’s book you will want to have when struggling with the challenges you face to become a customer champion. And isn’t that everyone’s struggle in this day and age?

Thanks to Jeanne for sharing the first chapter and time to take a look at it. As mentioned, in the past ten 10 years, Jeanne has been coaching CCOs and leadership teams in their transformation toward customer-driven growth (after having been a CCO for 25 years herself). In those past 10 years (more or less the time that went by since the first “Chief Customer Officer” book) there have been so many changes affecting the customer and thus impacting organizations across the globe – as they need to (at least) align around “changing” and more expecting customers.

Your job is to take customers off the spread sheets and survey results to advance a conversation within your organization about the lives of your customers – their experiences – and who they are (Make Them Listen by Translating Customer Data into Engaging Customer Stories)

These challenges might seem – and are – massive. Yet, again, ignoring them (for instance by letting someone outside your organization fully solve them for you) is not the way to go. So, I for one, am thrilled with Jeanne’s new book as it offers – and helps you build – a road map ‘en route’ to become a customer-driven growth engine. Jeanne, who is a customer experience expert and shares great lessons on her website and on her “Chief Customer Officer” blog where several topics in the book are touched upon, puts it this way in the book: “Like you they [the CCOs and leadership teams she coached] needed a way to break this work up and accomplish it in a realistic manner”.

The first customer leadership competency according to Jeanne Bliss - honor and manage customers as assets
The first customer leadership competency according to Jeanne Bliss – honor and manage customers as assets

Learning from customer leaders: building an actionable road map

With the role of the CCO – and other executives roles with customer leadership responsibility – increasingly embraced in many organizations across the globe in the past decade, it’s time to learn what these people – and the leadership teams they are part of – have learned.

Chief Customer Officer 2.0 - the book
Chief Customer Officer 2.0 – the book

Because their challenges were very similar to your challenges, regardless of your exact function. With customer-centricity and the customer experience being key for your growth these lessons aren’t just for CCOs and the likes: they matter all the way from the board and leadership (where responsibility and initiative need to be) down to those numerous areas where action needs to be taken.

You already know some of these challenges. Silos are the eternal one. The turf wars, the lack of vision and of leadership. Ego. A challenge – and question to ask – is also how to, I quote Jeanne, “earn the right to business growth by embracing employees and customers and delivering an experience they want to have again and tell others about”. And how to organize it all, act, make it happen in reality.

If you take a step back from all the evolutions we’ve seen the past decade, you’ll notice a lot hasn’t really changed. Quoting Jeanne again: “Organizations still rely primarily on areas of expertise or silos to run the business. Annual planning is still done (mostly) silo by silo. Lagging indicator surveys still often drive point-in-time action to try to improve results (not always the customer experience) and the customer is often still the only one experiencing the outcome of this disconnection”.

You know it’s true. What has changed – or rather, continued to change – is the power shift where we see that customers increasingly DO lead the dance. Take social media, for instance, as one very obvious example. Even if you heard the story before, social media has effectively enabled customers to speak out – and sometimes shout – about their experiences.

The role of the CCO is to work with the leadership team in building the consistent behaviors, decision-making, and company engagement that will prove to the organization that leaders are united in their commitment to earn the right to customer-driven growth (Chief Customer Officer 2.0: How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine).

The – evolving – questions to ask and (the) answer

With all the mentioned changes and the advent of social and big data, for instance, it’s important to not chase the shiny new object, as Jeanne warns in the book. And certainly before you have the essence right. Although the altered customer context and new shiny objects need to make us rethink and continuously look at this essence.

This – and all the other phenomena mentioned earlier – are just some reasons why you want to learn from the lessons today’s customer champions needed to learn the hard way. What customer leadership competencies does it take to succeed? What are the roadblocks? What is the practical impact when you want to apply the core customer leadership competencies in practice: in the way you market, the way you develop products, how you conduct annual planning, how you reward people, etc.

These are the questions Jeanne Bliss answers in “Chief Customer Officer 2.0 – How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine”. And in this article all I covered was…the intro.

Stay tuned for more and get your copy.