The real meaning of "customer-centricity"

By William Seidman Happy New Year!  Over the last few years, we’ve worked on many “customer-centricity” programs. Almost always the underlying goal is laudable: To provide an organization’s customers with a better experience in order to build loyalty. But defining what this means exactly, and identifying the methods by which an organization can achieve it, vary tremendously. The methods can be put on a continuum from highly symbolic to very substantive. On the symbolic end, the implementation is mainly some speeches and videoconferences by executives about the importance of being “customer-centric,” whatever that means. The executives often congratulate themselves on a great initiative, until the next one comes along and they give another speech. In many cases, there is minimal follow-up and the organization treats the speech as the fad of the week. Nothing changes, but the execs feel good about it. In the middle of the continuum we find process and business changes. Some policies and procedures are modified to make them more customer-friendly. This is really a lean approach to customer-centricity: If we just do enough analysis and make enough checklists, we will be customer-centric. While this can have some impact, most of these policy and procedure changes quickly revert to the previous state. At the far end of the continuum, a substantive approach makes customer-centricity a core value of the culture. Every employee is taught to be aware of their attitudes, business processes and behaviors in regard to the customer. By making the customer a core value, improvements in business processes and innovations are a lasting reality because the change is value-driven. This approach to change outlasts changes to management and markets, and it pays off indefinitely—but it is very difficult to implement. Organizations have to choose where their methods are on the continuum: symbolic, which can feel great but has no impact; or substantive, which requires a lot of work but has a lasting impact.  ]]>

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