Chief Customer Officers – Bob Thompson


Chief Customer Officers:

It’s Time to Build a Voice of Customer Command Center

Like Innovation and being the “Chief Innovation Officer”, the CEO has to be focused on many elements to optimize the business and get the desired results.   This week’s Guest Blog is written by Bob Thompson of who just released a great book all about the Chief Customer Officer: Hooked on The Customer.
Nothing beats a face-to-face meeting to get customer feedback. Some researchers think that words express only 7 percent of human communication. The other 93 percent includes how the words are spoken to convey emotion and body language such as gestures, posture, eye movement, and facial expression.  Emoticons aside, it’s hard to convey a raised eyebrow or shrug in an email!

 Obviously large enterprises with thousands or millions of customers won’t find face-to-face meetings a practical means of customer feedback. So customer surveys are commonly used to collect feedback, often with the help of Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) systems. But surveys are just one of the six dimensions of feedback you can use to understand the health of your customer relationships.

Ground Control to Major Tom

For space launches NASA needs a facility to bring mission feedback into a central location for analysis and decision-making. Likewise chief customer officers need a Voice of Customer (VoC) Command Center to cope with today’s multi-channel world. In most cases a VoC Command Center can be a virtual resource. Short-sleeved white shirts and buzz cuts are optional!

In addition to surveys, customers and prospects “speak” explicitly to your business via information captured from website forms, unstructured text in comments or emails, and audio recordings of call center interactions. And that’s not all. Customer behavioral data from CRM and other transactional systems are examples of implicit communication that can signal when a customer is likely to defect—a critical bit of feedback these days when retention is a top priority.

Of course the hot new communications channel is social media, which can also be used as a source of real-time feedback on what customers and market influencers think of your brand. At Gatorade, for example, marketers built a mission control center with six big monitors to display social media data and visualizations from Twitter, blogs, and other public sources.  Dell launched a similar social media ground control center to track conversations and internalize the feedback.

This is the right concept, but monitoring social media separately is as limiting as only listening to customers via survey responses. We have enough silos already.

The time has come to implement a next-generation VoC Command Center to holistically manage all feedback channels.

  • Structured feedback: Surveys, web experience data, and churn signals are mostly data that can be easily processed with conventional information systems.
  • Unstructured feedback: In their raw form, text, speech, and social media need help from analytic tools to become actionable information.

Chief customer officers must get a complete picture of the health of their customer relationships. If your organization has been managing feedback independently by channel, it’s time to start building your VoC Command Center.


Bob Thompson is an international authority on customer-centric business management who has researched and shaped leading industry trends since 1998. He is founder and CEO of CustomerThink Corporation, an independent research and publishing firm, and founder and editor-in-chief of, the world’s largest online community dedicated to helping business leaders develop and implement customer-centric business strategies. His book Hooked on Customers (April 2014) reveals the five habits of leading customer-centric firms.
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