July 31, 2017 Raz Chorev

Breaking the customer-centricity myth

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the shift of businesses to become more customer centric, as if customer-centricity is just another project. It isn’t. Customer Centricity is a complete paradigm shift, and needs to be treated as such. As I’m sharing my experience below, I hope this will become clearer.

Since the beginning of 2017, I’ve been working with a $30M client, currently in a manufacturing business, on business sustainability and future-proofing the business, who’s currently feeding about 100 families. Due to our confidentiality agreement, I can’t disclose more details about this business, but all I can say that the industry as a whole, is in decline. Luckily for me, the client is a great operator, and was able to leverage of the demise of his competitors, so whilst the industry is in decline, the business is pretty steady in both revenue and profitability. Both the owner and I know that this is only a temporary situation, and there are tough times ahead.

So in preparation for those tough times, the owner, myself and my associates have been working on transforming the business from manufacturing and product-focused business (“this is what we make, please buy it” approach) to a customer-focused approach (“this is my customer, what services does s/he need and I’m confident I can provide” approach).

The journey we’ve gone through (and still going!) is a deep understanding of the customer, articulating my client’s value proposition, and finding ways (paid services) that we can tie the two together.

The process of moving from product-focus to customer-centricity is challenging on many fronts. It requires complete rewiring of the business, operation processes and employees, which ultimately affects the existing customer experience. It’s easy to understand why large corporates and brands are struggling with this shift. It’s a lot easier to be really good at making widgets, as an organisation, than tailoring products and services around the customer’s needs, wants and desires. Furthermore, given tenure of c-suite executives, which currently stands around 18-24 months on average, and mostly under 3 years; and understanding the long-term approach, where return on the investment of time and resources could be years, way beyond the CxO’s time in office, it’s quite obvious why companies push back on such initiatives. In a recent CMO industry report[1], those challenges were very eloquently put:

CHALLENGES ALONG THE JOURNEY TO CUSTOMER CENTRICITY

1.   Aligning resources and cross-functional support across the organisation

2.   Making changes and improvements to corporate culture to maintain a consistent view and commitment to the customer

3.   Managing and fully leveraging the data collected through all engagement channels

4.   Upgrading and transforming technology to deliver the best customer engagements

5.   Empowering agility and innovation across teams

6.   Team skill sets

7.   Effectively measuring the business impact of our CX (Customer eXperience) investments and efforts

8.   Identifying the right technologies to best listen, analyse and react to customer demands and expectations

Of course, recognising customer as the key competitive differentiator is different to making it a reality across the business.

In all of these cases, no C-suite executive can work in isolation. Each case requires cross-functional collaboration, influence and support.

My team and I have been feeling the full impact of those challenges. I must admit it’s a little easier to overcome those challenges in a mid-size company than within a large corporate, as there’s less red tape and bureaucracy. But there’s also a smaller budget and fewer resources made available for implementation.

Customer centricity is an all-company game, and every function has a role to play on the field. Marketers either need to control the levers, or exert a level of influence outside their function, if they hope to improve customer engagement for their brands. When working as external experts, marketers need to win the minds and hearts around the organisation, in order to get a real approval and buy-in, and not just a promise for action… To learn more about customer centricity transformation, let’s talk!

[1] Source: State of the CMO 2017 – CMO.com.au

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