Organizations are in business for the purpose of meeting identified Customer needs and making profit. At the same time, they can only remain in business when they keep meeting those identified needs. These needs belong to a set of people we commercially refer to as ‘Customers.’ The Customer is represented differently in various organizations – as a stakeholder, a partner, a stranger or in some cases, an event. Just close your eyes and imagine your organization without a single customer…. The situation spells multiple disasters.
According to Brian Solis, “Customer Centricity is the culture of putting the customer at the centre of everything you do.” It follows, therefore, that the Customer-Centric Organization understands the role of the customer as a stakeholder, co-creator and partner. It places the Customer at the core of the Organization (see figure 1.1). I liken Customer-Centricity to being in love, except that this time, it is with the Customer. The Customer is the Organization’s boo or bae!
Below are certain attributes that distinguish CCO’s. It is important that we explore some of these attributes.
#1. The Cultural Mindset:
They understand that Customer Experience (CEX) is not a department but a culture. For culture to thrive, there must be a strong supportive tone at the top. The C-suite must be committed to the cause of the customer within the Organization. The culture permeates the Organization, and everyone sees how they impact the customer. For instance, though Finance is a back-office function, the Finance team are clear on their role in the Organizational value chain and how they impact the customer whose action or inaction, in turn, impacts the bottom line. The commitment to this is expressed in the recruitment process – profiling staff who can create and deliver value to the customer and other customer engagement programs where the ALL staff (C-suite inclusive) serve customers on the shop floor and listen to calls in the call centre.
#2. The advantage mindset
CCO’s understand and use CEX/Customer Centricity as a tool /strategy for competitive advantage. Today’s Customer is constantly evolving and responding to the influence of technology, innovation, globalization and new knowledge, with a plethora of options to choose from. The marketplace is a competitive space where brands fight for the attention and share of the wallet of the Customer. CCO’s recognize this and so they create experiences that enable customers to make repeat buying decisions in their favour. The goal is to move from a ‘share of wallet’ to a ‘share of life’ positioning with the customer – a state in which the brand becomes an integral part of the customer’s life. When customers are satisfied with a service provider, they become advocates and bring ‘reference value’ to the brand.
Acquisition + CEX = Retention
Acquisition-CEX = Churn
#3. The Design Mindset
Branch Ricky of the Brooklyn Dodgers said ‘luck is the residue of design.’ CCO’s design Processes, Products and services with the Customer in mind. In some instances, the products are co-created with the Customers. CCO’s are like outfitters, they ensure the product fits the lifestyle of the customer and delivers utility value to the customer. With a design mindset, several product defects are avoided upfront. The experience of the customer is premium and must be properly curated. Customer Experience (CEX) and Journey Mapping are core competencies.
#4. The Relationship & Evaluation Mindset
CCO’s see the customer as a relationship partner, not a transaction item. When you are in a relationship you desire to hear the voice of your partner. The same with the customer. CCO’s place a premium on the Voice of the Customer (VOC) in the Organization. VOC is harvested via surveys (CSI, NPS etc.), research, customer engagement insights and focus groups – to mention a few. The harvested VOC is used as an input for improving the CEX in the organization. Trust is a key factor of successful relationships, CCO’s invest in a high trust quotient with their customers.
The evaluation mindset is about monitoring & measurement of Customer-oriented performance indicators. In CCO’s, the Leadership team (CEO inclusive) use the balanced scorecard with the Customer perspective as a critical KPI for the Leadership team. The effectiveness of this has been validated by research.
#5. The Data & Insight Mindset.
Data is said to be the new oil. How do you serve a customer you don’t know? CCO’s have data on their customers. Insights are distilled from quantitative and qualitative customer data. This data is critical for innovation, product development, sales and experience design. With insights from data, limited resources are allocated efficiently through segmentation. Apart from customer data, CCO’s draw intelligence from the environment through competitive benchmarking and adoption of best practices from Organizations such as Amazon, Starbucks, Nike – to mention a few..
#6 The People Mindset
CCO’s see their employees as critical stakeholders. They invest in Great Employee Value Propositions, Knowledge, Technology and other Resources. The Starbucks example drives home the point where employees are treated as assets and not a cost item. This strengthens the sense of ownership and loyalty in them. They are empowered to make decisions and respond to customers
#7 The Digital Mindset
The context of both the Customer and Organization is characterized by rapid technological disruptions. CCO’s embrace digital technology – it delivers convenience for the customer and efficiencies for the Organization. Digital puts the power in the hands of Customers through Apps, new media and other platforms for self-service and customer engagements. The Corona Virus Pandemic reinforced this, the new order of ‘social distancing’ is the imperative for ‘virtual closeness.’
#8 The sustainability Mindset
CCO’s understand the interrelatedness of the customer experience, bottom line and the environment. A classic case for customer and the bottom line is the Dave Caroll “United Breaks Guitars’ episode where bad customer service resulted in negative PR that cost the airlines an erosion of $180m of shareholder value. CCO’s don’t stop at that. They understand the Customer’s well being is tied to the environment and so they engage in ethical business practices that make the environment safer for the Customer. From the process of extracting natural resources to conversion to the distribution of the end products and disposal of manufacturing/processing waste, Innovations and technologies that enhance the environment are employed e.g use of clean renewable energy to reduce Greenhouse gas emissions, recycling of waste, use of biodegradable packaging etc.
A Gartner study revealed that loyalty leaders (CCO’s) grow 2x faster and have a 15% cost advantage for companies. Recent research has revealed that Organizations that deploy ethical and sustainable practices are more profitable. Customer Experience is the new battlefront for the SOUL (Share of User Loyalty) of the Customer. Are you winning SOULs or losing them?