Are chief customer officers just CMOs in disguise?

Chief customer officers can be found on the executive board of a growing number of UK brands. In the last few months alone, Pret has hired its first CCO Barnaby Dawe, while his former employer Just Eat replaced his CMO role with a CCO, appointing Peter Duffy from easyJet.

Elsewhere, when Hostelworld’s CMO Otto Rosenberger left, Kristof Fahy took on a new CCO role. At the BBC, Kerris Bright is the first CCO, while TfL’s Chris MacLeod was promoted from marketing to customer director.

And it isn’t just anecdotal evidence of a shift. According to data compiled by recruitment consultancy Talecco, the CCO is on the rise. In 2014, just 14 UK companies had a customer chief but by early 2017 that number had risen to 90, with 46% of those introduced in the previous 12 months.

“These figures show the growing emphasis being placed on the customer agenda,” says Talecco’s report. “The chief customer officer is the executive ultimately accountable for both customer strategy and all customer initiatives across the business. They effectively become the voice of the customer in all business decisions.”

But why is the role necessary? The description of a CCO as “becoming the voice of the customer in all business decisions” sounds like a CMO. Is there a real evolution here or have businesses failed to understand what marketing is and so resorted to giving it a new name?

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