When CMO’s were surveyed, 73% said that customer centricity was critical to their business strategy. Of this group only 14% indicated that customer centricity was a hallmark of their brand. Most telling, only 11% believe their customers would agree that their brand is customer centric.
Being customer centric feels like a no-brainer goal. Who wouldn’t want to be customer centric? Why is there such a disparity between aspirations and reality?
It’s easy to hang framed inspirational slogans on the wall; delivering on these values is more challenging.
Employee engagement metrics are equally dismal. According to Gallup 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged at work. Globally the numbers dip to 13%.
Once again 90% of leaders believe an employee engagement strategy can have an impact on business success but barely 25% have a strategy. Source: Gartner.
What Contributes to the disparity?
There are many contributing factors, more than I am able to address in this post. I’ll address some broad categories to illustrate.
In most organizations one group, typically market research, is responsible for creating the customer insights. A recent post by Julie Wittes Schlack suggested that moving from a consumer-sample to a consumer-infused model requires a new approach motivated by a different mindset.
Language gets in the way. Often one of the first questions organizations want answered when addressing any initiative is, “Who owns this?”. While functional organizations may be necessary for coordinating and delivering products and services, they often create silos that inhibit connections with real customers. Typically ownership is necessary to secure the necessary resources, however, all too often it leads to turf wars that are anything but customer centric.
Traditionally marketing has focused on moving target audience segments through the buying process by broadcasting a series of messages designed to educate and sell product or service features and benefits. With information asymmetry, this worked rather effectively. There were limited communications channels and brands were basically in control of the information available to their customers.
The lack of a customer centric model leads to a gap in the customer experience. This gap contributes to lost opportunity in the form of customer attrition and employee turnover.
What Needs to Change?
Perspective is the cornerstone of this business model. Without a different mindset, marketers will create campaigns and promotions in an effort to satisfy customer needs, but that isn’t customer centricity. Customer centric companies think differently about the way they serve their customers.
They don’t make assumptions about the needs of their customers and employees. They observe and listen to discover the real questions being asked by both groups. They compile a list of all the questions and look for patterns and trends.
Empowered customers are insisting on a different experience. When the perspective changes, leaders recognize the key to delivering a customer centric experience is having the right staff with the right tools. People want to do business with those they trust and trust is fostered through transparency and consistency.
Empowered employees are engaged employees. The benefits of engaged employees are compelling.
Highly engaged employees are 38% more likely to have above average productivity. (Source: Workplace Foundation)
Sir Richard Branson says the way a company treats their employees is the way those employees will treat the customers. Said another way, if a company doesn’t know how to treat their employees chances are they won’t know how the treat their customers. Without engaged employees, you’ll never be able to deliver a customer centric experience!
Previously, companies could get away with faux customer centricity. These days there are simply too many ways for programmatic customer centricity to be exposed.
So how do you translate this mindset into a customer centric business model? Assuming there is a desire to create an environment for change, what’s necessary to facilitate the change?
Using the 3C Customer Centric Stool to Facilitate Change
A customer centric model rests on three legs:
Think of these pillars as principles. When aligned, these are broad categories of practices that must be tailored to each business. Implementing these practices will help create a differentiating experience for your customers.
Think of collecting as gathering. Many organizations think they know about their customers; however, studies indicate many never really ask their customers. Those that do ask often relegate that task to a single department, market research.
Collecting involves gathering data and information from all stakeholders. The objective of gathering is to create insights that will paint a complete picture of the customer’s experience.
Earlier I suggested asking different questions. Think about all the different collection points in your organization as you are generating your questions. There are the obvious touch points like the call center, online and offline assets, but there are others that might add some interesting perspective. Asking questions will create other questions.
Employees and customers are asking lots of questions. Identify these questions and start to answer them. This process may reveal processes or procedures that need to be implemented or changed. You may discover demotivating employee practices that are leading to disengagement.
Collecting data is still essential, but what matters most are the insights that create a more personal and relevant relationship. Insights become the fuel for content that attracts and educates customers. Rachel Miller explains how content and social CRM work well together.
Most companies are organized by functions. While this is necessary for efficiency, it can also create artificial boundaries often referred to as silos. All too often silos create friction between functional areas, even competition.
Collaboration enriches the experience for most everyone. By focusing on the customer there is the possibility for a different goal, one where meaning is derived from serving the customer.
Empowered consumers are informed and agile; they expect organizations to respond in like manner. By understanding questions, content can be used to educate and attract.
Collecting and collaborating are only as effective as the sharing between all stakeholders. Invite stakeholders into the questioning process. Use this opportunity to start healthy conversations and debates. Consider forming cross-functional teams to help facilitate change and create a more holistic picture of the customer experience.
Invite customers into the process, their voice is critical. You may already know many of their questions but don’t assume that is the case. Use these questions to create stories that can be shared and celebrated appropriately.
For those who already feel they are customer centric, conduct an audit of the customer experience. For those just getting started create a journey map of the customer experience.
For either group, find ways to share relevant stories and descriptions with peers, especially those who may not have direct contact with customers. While insights should still come from those with training, what I am suggesting is expanding the responsibility. This raises awareness of the organization’s mandate to serve customers.
Can you think of any customer centric brands?