As CEO, you clearly need to know the financial and operations sides of the business, so those in Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) roles have often taken up the CEO position. Those with a strong CX background often made the long list but not the short list. 

However, change has been coming for a while. Chief Customer Officer (CCO) roles have started to become more common on boards over the last decade, typified by Katy Taylor, incoming CEO of Wightlink Ferries, who first took up an executive role at Go-Ahead Group as Group Commercial & Customer Director over ten years ago.

Over time, the customer voice has become stronger and louder. The customer journey has become more critical to business success. Chief Customer Officer roles also now have a broader remit, often covering P&L and people management responsibilities.

Katy’s outgoing role as Chief Customer Officer at Southern Water is a great example. She has significant P&L experience as part of her remit, as well as leading a large team of 600, including 60 in engineering operations roles, making her experience far more rounded. She also feels that another important element of her background has a strong role to play:

‘I think Chief Customer Officer roles can often be more aligned with the core purpose of the organisation. In the case of my new role at Wightlink Ferries, it’s all about community and bringing people together. I know I can really add value here as CEO. Ultimately it’s all about being able to achieve commercial success from providing services that are shaped around that core customer purpose’. 

This resonates with Amanda Newton, appointed last autumn as CEO of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, following a successful consultancy career and executive roles focused on customer insight.

Her vision of success is clearly based on customer purpose: ‘It’s always about the customer for me. I feel that levels of aspiration can be quite low in the social housing sector and my goal is that customers would still choose us if they had a full choice. They should feel a sense of ownership and be proud to live where they do’.

Her mantra as CEO is to base decisions on a real understanding of the conditions that residents live in and what they need. Her focus is on building a culture that makes it easier for colleagues to do their jobs and help people, using language that customers can resonate with. In Amanda’s words: ‘Bring your whole self to work and be proud of what we do’.

In summary, it’s clear that the CEO role is increasingly focused on customer understanding and impact, alongside the more traditional finance and operations skillsets. This is encouraging news for ambitious leaders in senior CX roles...and of course for customers!

NOTE: Accelerator helps organisations build a customer-focused culture. We’ve worked with Katy, Amanda and many other senior leaders who are ambitious for change. Can we help you? Please give us a call on +44 845 260 6886 or email 

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