Staying Afloat: Why the CCO Is Key to Keeping Retail Doors Open  

The retail industry has felt the impact of online shopping and, in 2017 alone, 5,855 high street retailers shuttered their doors. The first quarter of 2018 shows little hope for a storefront revival. In this piece, Kris McKenzie, SVP & general manager, EMEA, Calabrio, tells RetailTechNews that changes in customer behaviour have greatly determined the fate of many stores. Sky-high expectations, whether that’s online or offline, have caused a shift in everything from the tools retailers use to roles within the C-suite. If retailers want to stay afloat, they must make changes to have the right people and technology to deliver the experience that consumers want.

The changing C-suite

It’s not just the customer experience that’s becoming more complex; the roles of the CEO, CMO, and CIO are becoming more complex, too. Customer data is everywhere, and CMOs and CIOs, in particular, must implement tools and strategies that somehow turn the massive amount of customer data into increased revenue and topline growth in stores and online. As these roles continue to evolve, and customer expectations continue to increase, successful retail strategies hinge on a key addition to this duo: the Chief Customer Officer (CCO).

Often, the CMO owns the customer experience, increasing acquisition and revenue across all retail channels. Given that responsibility, many CMOs now control, or heavily influence, customer-focused technology spend. But there’s a problem: the CIO traditionally oversees technology selection, deployment, security, and support, and the newly empowered CMO may infringe on the CIO’s domain. These blurred lines of ownership in the C-suite can be a point of contention, especially given that the CIO has the power to stop a new customer experience technology implementation dead in its tracks. Given the power struggle, it’s clear why 47% of CMOs say that they lack the right tools to understand customer challenges.

Is technology the silver bullet?

In all the disruption, many retailers think tools and technology are the answer that will finally allow them to thrive. However, this is only part of the equation. The other part is going back to the very basics of customer service: listening to customers. While CMOs and CIOs are using technology to capture massive amounts of customer data, from in-store purchase history to website or mobile activity, that data alone doesn’t tell a complete story. The rest of the story is locked inside the voice of the customer; and it’s the CCO who can unlock the right insights that allow retailers to flourish. Why? Because the CCO has a direct line to the source of customer interactions: the contact centre.

Kris McKenzie, SVP & GM EMEA, Calabrio

Contact centre agents are in the throes of building customer relations and brand loyalty. Every day, customers connect with retailers across channels (web, phone, email, text, and more) and it’s contact centre agents who are on the other end of the line. As customers relay their requests, speech analytics and natural language processing technologies are capturing those interactions, giving retailers access to a treasure trove of information from customers themselves.

Unfortunately, many retailers don’t do anything with that information: 56% of senior leadership say they only sometimes or occasionally use data from the contact centre to inform decisions. However, McKinsey highlights the importance of customer interaction analytics, and stresses that these insights can build customer loyalty, improve the employee experience, and drive revenue increases of 5-10%.

The rise of the CCO

Customers will continue to find new ways to communicate with retailers, which will only make the contact centre more important – especially for retailers that are fighting to stay alive. Unfortunately, the contact centre is often siloed from the rest of the organisation. With the CCO, those data silos will be destroyed and powerful customer insights will be unleashed.

With robust contact centre technology, retailers can quickly measure changes or trends in customer sentiment that will inform marketing and customer experience strategies, enabling CMOs to quickly measure reaction and make informed decisions. As customer insights pour into the C-suite, the CIO will be equipped with the right information to validate the need for customer-focused technology implementations. With the help of the CCO, this contact centre data will finally take its rightful place in the C-suite, allowing retailers to deliver the experience that customers want.

As the C-suite power triangle forms with the introduction of the CCO, he or she will bridge the gap between the CMO and CIO, allowing voice-of-the-customer data to become a fundamental driver of customer experience strategies. CMOs will be able to quickly measure customer reaction and make informed decisions based on customer sentiment, while CIOs will be empowered to make technology decisions based on customer data and insights.

It’s a customer-centric market and retailers must keep up with demands, or even more will close their doors in the coming years. Data is critical to giving customers what they want; but CMOs and CIOs can’t manage the influx of data alone. By extracting the voice of the customer, and leveraging contact centre insights, the CCO rounds out the C-suite trifecta, bridging the gap between the CMO and CIO and finally allowing retailers to turn technology into insights that will build relationships with customers for years to come.