The World of AI and Chief Customer Officer



CCO role is ever changing and differs significantly. At the minimum CCO role is responsible for Customer Support, Customer Success and Customer Data teams. They are responsible for Customer Experience metrics. In some companies, they extend to include Customer journey definition and mapping. This makes a CCO role to be truly cross functional across (marketing, sales, operations, product). When it extends to include employee experience as it maps to customer experience, this role overlaps with people division.

We also see that the role names are different based on the industry it represents.

  1. Chief Customer Officer

  2. Chief Experience Officer

  3. Chief Commercial Officer

In 2016, McKinsey study showed only 39% of the organizations had a customer-centric role. A Gartner study in 2020 shows that 90% of organizations have a customer-centric C-suite role. The Technology sector, to include IT, SAAS, Software and Internet Services, has led in the increase of the role of the CCO, with 46.5% of CCO’s working in this space. The role did not start at a tech company though!


History of the CCO role

The CCO role is still quite new, the first appointment to which was Jack Chambers, the CCO of Texas New Mexico Power (TNMP), in 1999. In 2003 there were fewer than 20 people in the world with the obscure title of Chief Customer Officer. These included a small handful of trailblazers including Marissa Peterson of Sun Microsystems, Doug Allred of Cisco, and Jeff Lewis of Monster.com. Most people at this time had never heard of the title and many of these couldn’t fathom the need for another member of the C-Suite.


Early CCOs were more of a “Chief Customer Service Officer” whose primary focus was on customer service and retention. Their efforts centered on helping their company “play nicer with customers.” Some were focused on finding ways of keeping customers from suing the company, and some are unfortunately still stuck here.


Despite much success, some of the early pioneers faced such an uphill battle that they ended up leaving or retiring early. Some were forced out the moment the company’s revenues hit a speed bump. Another had a heart attack, retired, and left the field altogether.

However, not all suffered such dramatic fates. Many succeeded and carried the torch forwards, paving the way for others to follow.


The Genesis of the Chief Customer Officer

Because of the role still forming, a number of CCOs still have to explain what their role is.

It used to be that the CCO used to be reporting to the CMO. But, almost in all cases, CCO reports directly to the CEO. The CCO must be the ultimate authority on all things customers, understanding customers better than any other individual in the company and driving the company towards common Experience goals. This role is most effective by being the senior-most role.


The CCO role is evolving into more of a “Chief Customer Strategy Officer,” focused primarily upon driving profitable customer strategy at all levels of the company with the express goal of acquiring, retaining, and serving the right customers for greater profits. It is no longer a “nice to have” designation; for many companies it is business critical and primary source of competitive advantage.


In contrast to the wider picture, the 'Customer' sector is a great place for gender diversity, with 46% of Chief Customer Officer and Chief Experience Officer appointments being female and of those, 6% of CCOs and 9% of CXOs Chief Experience Officers, were from under-represented ethnic groups.


The Chief Customer Officer of Today

There were just 500 Chief Customer Officers in the world just a few years ago. A quick search on linked-in shows around 9400 execs in this role. As every business is turning to be "As A Service" business. Customer Experience is at the forefront of business model innovation. The CCO role is evolving into more of a “Chief Customer Strategy Officer,” focused primarily upon driving profitable customer strategy at all levels of the company with the express goal of acquiring, retaining, and serving the right customers for greater profits.


Even though initially people with marketing background came to this role, because of the strategic nature, we are seeing people with operational experience and data background are critical and very successful in these roles. The role is most commonly very data driven, and is responsible for creating actionable insight for use to improve Customer Experience and commercial profitability.


AI and Looking ahead for the CCO

The CCO by definition is designed to drive customer and corporate strategy into the C-Suite and throughout the company. Because CCOs can provide the authoritative view of the customer they are uniquely qualified to shape corporate strategy to guide the company in the coming years. As well, CCOs must be the authors of customer strategy to define customer portfolios, prioritize customer retention and acquisition efforts, create greater customer value, and increase loyalty. All of the strategies that come in to play requires a data oriented approach.


With Customer and operational data split across many systems, it is imperative that AI is in the heart of the metrics for any CCO.

Chief Customer Officers, regardless of their industry or tenure share three common goals:

  • Drive profitable customer behavior: To help customers use products more, and more often, the CCO must focus on initiatives such as value matrix, product usage, customer retention, customer loyalty, satisfaction, and improving the customer experience. As well, many CCOs will use in-depth customer insight to inform the sales and marketing efforts to acquire more of the “right” and profitable customers.

  • Create a customer-centric culture: One of the most important roles of the CCO is to help create a strong, customer-centric culture complete with accountability and ownership at all levels in the company. CCOs that fail at this imperative incessantly put out fires and burn out as nobody else takes ownership. CCOs must prioritize customer initiatives to drive the most profitable initiatives with the greatest customer impact. This is done by change management and change management becomes easy when you can show data, trends, patterns, anomaly and benchmarks. They must put a face on customers and help employees (especially the non-customer-facing employees) remain focused on driving customer value.

  • Delivering and demonstrating value to the CEO, the Board, peers, and employees: Because the CCO role is new and some is not fully defined in every organization, the CCO must strive to deliver demonstrable value to all stakeholders, not the least of which are the CEO, the Board, and peers. AI provides the ability to show results in real time. It is able to provide patterns of product issues, experience gaps and even data gaps to drive the strategic change that the board needs to take. This is the only way to cement the role and has to be done effectively. It provides value to the CCO as well as to the peers.

In summary, the CCO role is the key most data-centric role in every organization. Artificial intelligence, Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing techniques along with semantic inference models like Ascendo can greatly help with external and internal goals of Experience metrics.


CCOs are seeking to build out data-driven customer journey and operationalize internal processes around customer journey data. Ascendo fits perfectly in this vision and helps to turn the organization proactive towards customer experience while elevating the experience of internal team members and customers in every interaction.


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