"I want to create the best experience and highest value for customers"
Guido Schenkel named ultimate.ai's new Chief Customer Officer. His mission: taking customer service to the next level.
Guido, you’ve just been named Chief Customer Officer! How does that feel?
I feel like I should respond to this question with a GIF. But I guess I can settle for saying: It feels great! Obviously, it’s a big step for me personally, for my own career. I’ve had a number of senior management roles in a number of other great companies over the years, which have allowed me to discover that building and driving strategy is something I really enjoy and excel at. So, being able to focus on strategic challenges and to drive solutions even more in an executive role sort of organically developed into a personal career goal for me. More importantly, though, it feels great because it makes a statement.
That statement is that ultimate.ai genuinely cares deeply about customer success and is committed to doing everything it takes to create both the best possible value and the best possible experience for our customers – and for their customers, as well
That’s a culture I’m proud to be a part of, and one I’m excited to help take to the next level.
For those who don’t know, could you explain a bit about the role and what it entails?
I think the first key piece of information about the role of Chief Customer Officer is that it is a pretty new concept. Not only at ultimate.ai, but in general. That’s obviously not to say that we invented it.
Appointing a C-Level executive to take charge of all customer-focused operations has become increasingly popular in the past 10 years, with over 22% of Fortune 100 companies having a similar role in their organization.
However, that number decreases significantly as you move down the Fortune list, and in our space (and industry), similar roles are not yet particularly established. But I believe that will, and definitely should change.
Essentially, a CCO takes on strategic responsibility for all topics related to customer success and the customer experience in their organization. Not so much by heading up specific teams or departments, but rather by facilitating productive collaboration between all parts of the organization that affect the customer journey. For example, that can mean driving strong alignment between sales teams and customer service or customer success teams to enable proactive resource planning. Or it can mean helping to optimize feedback loops for product teams, so valuable customer insights systematically find their way onto the product roadmap.
The bottom line is that a good CCO ultimately fulfills the same function that, in my opinion, every C-Level role should: Empower the organization as a whole and everyone in it to be their best and ensure that their work has the highest possible impact.
In your opinion, how does the CCO position tie into the bigger ultimate.ai mission and vision?
When a company appoints an executive for all things customer-related, it is a strong indicator that it has understood that customer success and customer experience can no longer be feasibly considered the siloed responsibility of individual teams, but that these topics have to become, and really already are, the cornerstones of a holistic approach that informs the culture of the entire organization. To turn this understanding into a practical approach successfully, various disciplines and teams need to be aligned and collaborate cross-functionally in a scalable way.
Our vision at ultimate.ai has always been to revolutionize the way businesses think and practice customer service; to automate the “basics” so that customers can get help quickly and reliably, while human CS specialists can focus on the more complex, interesting, and rewarding tasks and cases.
I’ve spent a lot of my career in B2C customer service, working my way up from the proverbial trenches. So, I can confidently say that I have a fairly good understanding of the common pain points and bottlenecks.
And I genuinely believe that our product and approach can significantly alleviate and eventually even completely eliminate most, if not all, of them, leading to better experiences and better results for everyone involved.
With that guiding vision in mind, the question then became how we can make sure that we are consistently delivering the same level of service to our own customers that we want to help them deliver to theirs. And, for us, one central answer was: collaboration. As I mentioned earlier, we believe that one of the keys to making our customers successful is to understand “customer success” as a holistic concept that the entire company strives for together. And that’s also what we want to keep doing or get even better at, at scale.
However, continuing to operate in this way can become somewhat of a challenge when you naturally (and inevitably) move from being a typical “jack of all trades” start-up, where everyone can and does simply jump on new tasks and projects as they appear, to a more structured, specialized way of working. A distinct risk of this development is that you end up with relatively siloed structures inside your organization, where most people now do one thing and one thing only (or at least primarily), with very little interaction in between. But interaction and collaboration are not only generally extremely productive, they are also at the heart of our approach to customer success. By installing a new leadership role with the specific responsibility to increase and empower collaborative structures we are meeting these challenges head-on.
Why add the CCO role now?
The simple, but equally exciting answer is that we’re growing like crazy. At this time, it’s no longer a well-guarded secret that ultimate.ai has recently closed a very successful Series A, and that will only accelerate our growth even further. And while it’s … well, not necessarily always easy, but certainly possible to find creative, bespoke solutions to make each and every new customer successful as a young, scrappy start-up with only a few handfuls of valued clients, the truth is that that simply doesn’t scale.
In order to ensure that we can continue to create the best possible experience and highest possible value for all our customers as we grow, we need to devise and implement new, robust processes for everything from onboarding, to training, to managing live operations and the ongoing relationship.
We already know this today, so we want to act on it today, instead of waiting until it becomes a problem for us down the road.
At the same time, as mentioned before, we want to send a clear message to our current and future customers: “Your success is our first priority!” And what better time to do that than right now? As we are taking our mission to create the best virtual agents to the next level, we want to double-down on our promise that that means taking your customer service to the next level, as well.
Stay in the loop
Subscribe to our email newsletter. No spam, just occasional insight from our experts.