Ted Uczen
NuEdge's chief customer officer is changing the way his staff and customers think.
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There's a new title in the world of corporate hierarchy: chief customer officer, or CCO. Case in point, NuEdge Systems, a company specializing in CRM solutions for enterprise marketing automation, recently named Ted Uczen its CCO. While doubters may question the need for such a position, Uczen and industry experts suggest that as business becomes more customer-centric, the work of a CCO will become essential to success. Consequently, Uczen says, the door welcoming CCOs into the industry is wide open.

Uczen describes his position as the "ultimate customer liaison for both good and bad [feedback]." He has his entire company thinking differently about their jobs and how they affect the customer. It's no longer just in the hands of the customer service department. He ensures that all substantive decisions revolve around the customer. "We have a service level agreement with our customers. It needs to work for us as well as for them," he says. "We want constant evaluation of that agreement."

Uczen believes that as CRM grows and this type of evaluation becomes standard practice, "the market will force this type of senior implementation on CRM." For his part, he intends to redefine the way NuEdge deals with its customers--and how its customers communicate with the company. By changing the level of CRM expectations, he hopes to develop even more meaningful customer relationships.

So what does it take to be a good CCO? Uczen says that effective CCOs need to take an outside-in view of business from the customers' vantage. Exercising the art of communication, visibility and value management rather than prescriptive control has Uczen comfortably in the CCO driver's seat. He follows through on his promise to be proactive by meeting with every customer, every year (sometimes twice). Asking questions like, "Are we meeting your needs?" and "Are you [our customer] meeting your customers' needs?" help solidify his agenda.

His ability to exercise the art of communication effectively came from his years of ad agency and marketing work, including corporate training for RTMS. And with bachelor's degrees in both psychology and philosophy from Ripon College in Wisconsin, Uczen says that these fields of study prepared him for problem solving (philosophy) and his constant interaction with customers (psychology).

Uczen doesn't worry about the longevity of the CCO. He prefers to concentrate on what he can accomplish now. He says the trend for implementing the new senior position is inevitable because of the success he has had by changing the mode of customer service from reactive to proactive. And according to Meta Group, 25 percent of global 2000 companies will have implemented the position of CCO by 2003. It seems the industry has already decided the fate of the CCO.

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