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customer experience
Shaun Smith
  • By Shaun Smith
  • Apr 14 2008

Why customer focus is good for the CEO’s career

Andy Milligan writes…

CEO tenure has increased on average in most parts of the world. But, the number of CEOs who lose their job because of poor performance has also increased.

Look at the CEOs who stay longest in the UK - Sir Terry Leahy, for example - and you find those who are most obsessively focussed on the customer. So, if you are having trouble convincing the CEO of the centrality of the customer experience to your organization’s success, try focussing them on the centrality of the customer experience to their own job tenure.

In 1995, one in eight departing CEOs around the world was forced from office. In 2006, nearly one in three left involuntarily, according to Booz Allen Hamilton’s annual surveys of CEO tenure (their figures for 2007 are due out later this year).

The reputation of the organization’s brand or brands is the one thing that ties together the different stakeholders that the CEO has to please in order to stay in post - customers, employees, investors, the community, environmentalists and opinion formers. And the customer experience, which is where you deliver on your brand promise, is where that reputation stands or falls.

For many years, brands were the playthings of marketing departments and responsibility for them stopped there. However, intangible assets, including brands and reputation, now make up around 75% of the value of listed companies, clearly making them far too important to be left to the marketing department alone. The CEO needs to have his or her eyes on this particular prize; their own position depends on it.

As Sir Stuart Hampson, the former chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, one of the UK’s great stakeholder businesses, said in our book Uncommon Practice:

“Focus on the sources of profits (customers), not on the profits themselves.”

It’s a message every CEO should take to heart. For their own good. The Customer Experience, then, should be at the top of the CEO’s agenda.

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Andy Milligan
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