Chief Customer Officer

Jeanne Bliss Explains How to Overcome Organizational Barriers to Attain a Customer-Centric Culture

July 13, 2006

This is a book about what it takes to shift your organizational culture to be more customer-centric. It’s a must read for any customer-centric executive; not just for Chief Customer Officers or for those who aspire to that position. The hardest aspect of customer experience work—making it easy for customers to do business with you and designing and delivering a differentiated end-to-end customer experience that will grow your base of profitable, loyal customers—is shifting your organizational culture. Every business unit and department has its own focus and its own metrics. These goals and metrics often conflict with one another when you try to design and deliver a wonderful experience across silos. This book, Chief Customer Officer, is an accurate and useful guide that will help anyone—whether you sit at the top or the bottom of your company—understand how to move your organization through the steps required to shift your company’s culture to deliver a great customer experience.


Learn How to Change Your Culture to Be Customer-Adaptive in Order to Deliver a Better End-to-End Customer Experience

We’ve spent 20-plus years working with organizations in aligning their business and technology strategies to make it easier for customers to do business with them. Yet we never cease to be amazed at how hard it is for most organizations to actually adopt and implement customer-centric policies and practices. In particular, we notice how hard it is to operationalize customer experience improvements that span companies’ organizational silos.

As I read Jeanne Bliss’s useful book, “Chief Customer Officer,” I found myself nodding in agreement all the way through and saying to myself, “Yes, that’s why client X or Y is having so much trouble getting her organization to behave rationally!” I realized how useful it would be to our clients to have these common dysfunctional organizational behaviors crystallized so well and to have these useful prescriptions and proven antidotes handy.

All Execs Should Read This Book

Don’t be confused by the book’s title. This isn’t solely a handbook for the few hundred people who are currently chartered to lead their companies’ cross-organizational customer initiatives. It’s really a book about the ins and outs of achieving some things that every organization aspires to: delivering a unique and memorable customer experience, growing customer loyalty and profitability, gaining stakeholder alignment, and executing quickly and well on customer-critical issues.

The Author Knows Her Stuff

Jeanne Bliss is a consultant based in Seattle, Washington, who has spent 25 years leading customer initiatives at five large U.S. companies: Lands’ End, Allstate Insurance, Coldwell Banker, Microsoft, and Mazda USA. So her insights and lessons come from her own trials and errors as well as from her consulting and research with companies such as Baxter Healthcare, Capital One, Canadian Pacific Hotels, Continental Airlines, Denmark’s International Health Insurance, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Harrah’s Entertainment, Royal Bank of Canada 3M, Wachovia, and from recent interviews with chief customer officers from Cisco Systems, The Colorado Rockies baseball team, the Evercare Company,, Nautilus, and Unica.

Jeanne’s in-the-trenches experience and insights will help you successfully tackle some of the thornier organizational problems that we’ve all encountered over the years.


  1. Understand your company’s “power core” and work with it, not against it, to evolve your corporate culture to become more customer-centric.
  2. Work with your power core leaders to socialize appropriate “guerrilla metrics” for measuring business success. Combine these guerrilla metrics with service performance metrics, customer listening metrics and operational metrics to acclimatize your organization to improve customer experience across silos.
  3. Determine whether your company is ready for a customer leader. If so, position (and support) your customer leader in the correct place in your organization to be successful.
  4. Have your executive leadership develop and adopt a roadmap to shift your organizational culture.


You Can’t Fight or Change Your Organization’s “Power Core”

Among the most useful insights I found in this book were: a) the observation that every company has a power core--a central modus operandi--that you can’t change and shouldn’t try to change, and b) that there are specific tactics that will work best for each distinct power core. The first half of the insight isn’t startling--we all know or can quickly figure out where the power axis is in any organization and where peoples’ bread is buttered. It’s the second half that I found most useful: what to do with that knowledge in terms of instilling new behaviors.

The six power cores that Jeanne describes in detail are listed below. As you read through them, think about which one best describes the market strength (the dimension your company uses to differentiate itself), the roots or DNA of your organization, and the most predominant (and highly valued) skill set in your organization.

The Six Predominant Power Cores Described in “Chief Customer Officer”

  1. “Product Power Core. Resources and success metrics center on product development, not necessarily on customer focus.
  2. Sales Power Core. Quarterly targets and sales goals pull the weight in the company. The ‘sale’ is the focus, sometimes at the expense of the rest of the experience.
  3. Marketing Power Core. The marketing department defines the tenor and tone of the relationship with customers.
  4. Vertical Business Power Core. Execution in the vertical business (e.g., publishing, pharmaceutical, insurance, telecoms, etc.) is how success is defined and measured and forms the core of power.
  5. IT Power Core. IT projects have an inordinate amount of impact. They receive high levels of funding and a strong voice in defining company priorities.
  6. Customer Power Core. Company decisions come from understanding what will drive greatest value to customers in the short and long term.”[1]

Jeanne Bliss points out that very few companies actually have a customer power core. (Lands’ End, where she began her career, is a good example of a company with a customer power core.) Most companies are driven by one of the other five. Jeanne admits that there may be other power cores; these are simply the most common ones. She also suggests that your company may have a primary and a secondary power core, both of which you’ll want to take into account.

Take Away #1: You Can Take Constructive Actions by “Dancing with Your Power Core ”

Once you’ve identified the power core of your organization, the goal is not to try to shift your core from product-centric or sales-centric to customer-centric. That won’t work, according to Jeanne. Instead, she recommends ...


1) Summarized from Bliss, Jeanne 2006, “Chief Customer Officer: Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action, ” Jossey-Bass, pp. 18-22.

2) Ibid, p. 103-110.


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