A Quote about the CCO Council from Curtis Bingham
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Conversations with the CCO: Influencing to Action

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What gives the CCO the ability to excel with peers? The feedback I receive is that besides experience, the real key is the ability to speak the same language. This Conversation features Peter Quinn, CCO for Lawson, a global enterprise software developer that was recently acquired by Infor. Peter’s path to the CCO role diverged in multiple directions, but ultimately that diversity of experience is what he says gave him the ability to influence others to action.

Curtis Bingham: Peter, what in your background has enabled you to be successful in the role?

Peter Quinn: I have over twenty years in the enterprise software industry, but my highly diverse background is what gave me entry into the position. I started out as an accountant in the UK and eventually entered the software industry as a financial consultant. From there I got into financial application marketing and product management before becoming vice president of marketing operations worldwide for Lawson. My experience doing business throughout Europe, the major centers of Asia Pacific and for the last twelve years in North and South America gave me a broad view of the world from an enterprise software perspective.

For five years I was a general manager with a business unit with over $100M in revenue. With this experience I am able to have peer level conversations with our general managers and speak the same language. That geographic diversity and business-lead experience has allowed me to walk the walk and talk the talk. We are not trying to deal just with sales or support issues; it is the whole experience of the customer in dealing with our global organization. The broader the background, the easier it can be to navigate through the internal organization to make behavioral changes happen.

CB: What does your ability to speak the same language help you accomplish?

PQ: It’s not one of those things you broadcast or put on your resume; being able to make things happen is just a natural outcome of the types of conversations that you have. You are immediately empathetic to what your peers are saying, and they very clearly understand that you know the issues.

For example: at the end of a quarter, the sales team is focused on making their numbers and thinking about what tradeoffs they are willing to make to achieve their numbers, even though they know it will cause pain down the road. Anyone who has run a sales team, business or division knows what those difficult decisions are like. As a result, you are able to sit across the table and propose a new process to improve customer experience with a deep understanding of what they are already facing. They know you are not proposing a fancy, unproven idea from the outside that they need to implement on top of everything else they are doing.

CB: We’ve talked previously about this notion of earned authority. A CCO is appointed with some level of positional authority, and early in a customer-centric initiative everyone is curious as to what the role means. The CEO lends authority by banging the drum and everyone pays attention, but as new or different priorities divert the CEO’s attention, that borrowed authority tends to wane. You brought a fair amount of earned authority that increased even after you entered the CCO role. How did that happen?

PQ: I actually think that borrowed authority by and large makes people listen to you in that you get on agendas and into meetings, but it very rarely gets them to do anything. The chief customer officer’s big challenge is how to get action. To be honest, the CCO needs to manage by influence; command and control strategy for customer experience doesn’t work too well.

I did not set out with a plan for building the authority level of the chief customer officer. I leveraged those in the organization who were most open to developing a customer-centric culture and who were following the types of guidance, processes and procedures that we were proposing. I instituted a set of metrics or KPI across the company and started to make winners and losers very, very visible. No one wants to be put on any list as a loser. Appealing to the competitive nature of people in our industry works very well.

CB: In an earlier conversation you spoke about the challenge of overcoming the GM’s desire to drive and be accountable for their business units and their industry. You, as well as others, point to the need for quality data to prove your value. Relative to data, when did everybody realize that appointing a CCO was the right thing to do?

PQ: We use Net Promoter Score. We had a business division that was doing just okay, not great. In one survey period they dipped dramatically. Then they dipped again in another period. That PNL suffered tremendously about six months after we started to see their decline in the Net Promoter Score.

At that point, once our CEO saw we had delivered the NPS picture before our accountants provided the financial information, he said, “This is important. I get it.” It’s similar to moving people’s mentality from lagging indicators of business to leading indicators of business. When people stop thinking purely on the lag factors and think about leading indicators instead, they start to come around. It takes two years to really make an impact or get the message out. You just have to let the time pass, and once you see the correlation between trustworthy data and financial impact I think you are beginning to get your job done.


"At SAVO, we are dedicated to our customers' success. We have organized our teams around it, developed programs to promote it, and we measure ourselves based on their success. I look forward to working with other members of the council to explore innovative ways to drive the imperative
of customer success to
the forefront of an
strategic initiatives."

Brian Study
SAVO Group