The Customer Information Officer

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Jack Cassidy, Cincinnati Bell’s CEO spoke to a group of CIOs the other night about the CEO’s perspective of the CIO and I was lucky to attend. In a friendly but direct way, he provided a “swift kick in the pants” to the audience (yes, swift kick in the pants is something my dad says).

He asked the group to rank the C-level execs in terms of their importance from the CEO’s perspective - here’s the result:

  1. CFO
  2. COO
  3. Head of Sales
  4. Head of Marketing
  5. Chief Counsel
  6. Head of HR
  7. CIO

He began an exploration of the CIO’s position on the list by asking and answering this question:

Q: What is the purpose of business?

A: To attract and retain profitable customers.

With this as a backdrop, he asked each person to think about how much of his or her time was spent working with the leaders and teams who deal with this question every day.  Many in the audience talked about support meetings or meetings with vendors, while few talked about regular discussions with their sales, marketing or customer service counterparts.

C is for Customer

John Sviokla and I recently wrote about the dual role of the CIO and the need to increase focus on customers, products and markets to keep executive level status.  But, to make it more tangible and address what a CIO can do, let’s break it down using Cassidy’s question.  What can the CIO do to make a meaningful contribution in attracting and retaining profitable customers?  With access to people, information and computing power, the CIO is uniquely positioned to know and respond to the customer.

CIO’s Customer Role What Can a CIO Do? Examples
Attracting Customers

Develop sticky customer/consumer apps

Develop a deep understanding in 3rd party customer data

Retaining Customers

Develop new ways to enable self-service

Develop/expand customer loyalty programs

Make sense of customer feedback

Understanding Profitable Customers

Develop mastery in customer value analysis, lifetime value and segmentation

While many have tried to redefine what the “I” in CIO stands for - innovation, instigation, integration, irritation - I think I’ll work on the “C” instead.  How about Customer Information Officer?  I think that’s the focus that will keep the CIO in the c-suite and maybe even move her up Cassidy’s list.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Dominic

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