Really!!??! There’s no more Customer Centricity?
All I wanted was a dishwasher. Too much to ask? Given that it was pre-covid, I headed to the appliance store, wandered around by myself for 30 minutes, narrowed my intended purchase to selected models and then asked if there was someone I could speak to.
Red Flag No: 1
I had to ask for someone.
I purchased the machine and was promptly told I will need to wait a few weeks while the floor model made its way to the back of the store, onto a truck and then … well I don’t really know.
Red Flag No: 2
No communication on delivery expectations.
Upon installation and filling up the new member of our kitchen with dirty dishes, it didn’t work. Thinking that a call to my salesperson should render a solution, I was told by the store operator that my concern now needed to go to customer service.
Red Flag No: 3
A company policy that the sales person’s hands are free from responsibility once the machine leaves to property.
Organizations, data scientists and quite frankly consulting firms have taken the word Customer Centricity and made it into a buzz word for the last 10 years.
It has become a focus on how the customer wants to be marketed to, how the customer chooses a product, how the customer wants to buy, and how the customer wants to be followed up with. These are all customer focused concerns, but they all miss the fundamental mindset and opportunity that the term customer centricity was born to create – take personal responsibility to ensure that everything we do as an organization results in an enviable customer experience! Not a buzz word, a feeling, and not just a feeling provided by sales or customer service … a feeling provided by “We” – everyone in the organization. In a customer centric organization, you need both the mindset and the conviction in every employee that not only are the customers and their needs paramount, but also that each individual employee can do something to impact the customer.
With 76% of customers expecting companies to understand their needs, this is the opportunity to get rid of Customer Centricity as a buzz word and replace it with Customer Centricity as a cultural imperative.
Transforming a culture to realize an aspirational goal is one of the toughest organizational priorities any one company can undergo. With changing mindset at the core of implementing a strategy that focuses all decisions at all levels by all employees directly on the customer and how they feel – the key to success is relatively simple. Help employees realize that they, or we, are all customers to someone, and how we feel as a customer is most likely how our customers feel when engaging with us. How are we cared for? How are our needs prioritized by the whole company? How did we feel throughout the buying journey? What, if anything, helps us feel as though we were the focal point throughout the entire buying process? The responses to these questions and many more, frame the actions needed to be taken by each employee at every role no matter if customer facing or in a role that is in service of the customer.
What now? How do you get past Customer Centricity as a buzz word?
The following 4 actions will get you on the path to being customer centric, and past doing customer centric things.
1. Identify your customer
Organizations identify a number of customers that their business serves – regional customers, functional customers, division customer, paying customers, retailer customers, broker customers etc. For the purposes of being customer centric, where every person thinks about how their actions and decision will affect the customer experience, the customer is your paying customer – the ultimate person or people who will use your product or service.
This realization needs to happen throughout the organization no matter if you are in a customer-facing role or a role that is “in service of the customer.”
2. Define Customer Centricity.
Too often organizations introduce a word or concept to the organization and appear to assume that there is universal understanding of that concept – Diversity, Quality, Process Improvement, Inclusion etc. Customer Centricity falls into this camp and needs to be universally understood by all so that there is no mistaking what needs to happen and each turn of the organization. This foundational understanding then needs to be championed by Leadership consistently and over time.
3. Outline empowerment
At some point in an organization, individuals and leaders alike need to know what they can and should not do in their role – they need to understand their “sandbox”. Clearly defining for your employees the lengths they can go to ensure an enviable customer experience will place ownership at the right level. Can a member of finance suggest changes to invoices? should a member of learning and development discuss a customer issue in training in order to elicit different behaviors? Helping your team understand their do’s, their don’ts but…., and their definitely don’ts is key to empowerment.
4. Don’t forget about employee centricity
While customer centricity is key to creating loyalty to your organization, forgetting about the employees whom you are asking to be customer centric will cause unwanted challenges to seeing a culture change. Companies gather significant data on corporate culture and employee engagement, and the overwhelming conclusion is that the employee matters. Ask your employees formally and informally about the current culture of the team, the environment they are working in and the resources they have to do their work. The happier the employee, the more likely they are to consistently consider the customer.