We are enjoying a time in business where customer centricity is something that most believe is an important consideration. So much so that entire businesses are now being focussed on customer needs. Less about the product and pushing that to market, more about what human context we are providing for, and how are we improving that experience for the customer.
In making a call to becoming a customer centric organisation, we are also making a call on many other aspects of business that are more intrinsic than an improved customer satisfaction or NPS score. Surfacing these implicit choices helps us understand how we need to prepare our businesses for the transition.
We are choosing to make our decision making processes more complex and emotional. When we decide we are going to authentically deliver exceptional customer experiences we invite into our organisations increased levels of complexity when making decisions and prioritising initiatives. Why the added complexity?
Before we made the call to be customer centric in our decisions making, we were organisationally centred. The organisation’s drivers (like cost, revenue, profit, growth, efficiency, effectiveness) are well understood and mostly measurable. When we make a commitment to customer, we are augmenting these dimensions with customer dimensions that matter to customers (empathy, morality, ethics, prudent wisdom (doing the right thing), ease of use, contextual relevance and so on).
Our new operating environment requires decision makers to consider a new set of less defined and understood variables. This introduces complexity and requires us to utilise new ways of making decisions, that might not be logical or fact based, rather intuition and wisdom based.
We are choosing to be held accountable for making the stand in the first place. It is not easy to back away from commitments like becoming customer centric. People are people, inside and outside the organisation. We are all somebody else’s customers. When we work for an organisation that stands for human centricity, it stirs inside us the possibility the time we are investing away from our families and into our jobs is contributing positively to other people’s lives. This makes us feel like we are doing valuable and meaningful work. When an organisation then changes their mind, it has a long and lasting impact on the ‘trust equity’ the employees (not to mention customers) have with that organisation.
When we work for an organisation that stands for human centricity, it stirs inside us the possibility the time we are investing away from our families and into our jobs is contributing positively to other people’s lives.Melis Senova
People who work for organisations that stand for something, work there because they believe in it too. Showing the leadership team is serious through action not words, is crucial to fostering this belief. It also means leadership will be held accountable to their word by passionate employees when they drift from that commitment. This takes incredible courage as it goes against our command and control structures in place within large organisations. And yet is such a crucial and valuable feedback loop that should be listened to, adhered to and encouraged.
We are choosing to care deeply about the customer first and not our current product and brand distribution. The natural view we have of our business is either described through a brand lens or a product lens. We are used to asking questions like, “how might we effectively sell this product, to whom, with what value proposition, through what channels, in what way?” Rather than the question, “what customer context do we have the means to service, and what might that look like?” When we care deeply about our customers and their needs, we start with this in mind and not let our product constructs, our brand personality and our functional organisation get in the way of us being able to meet that need. What I just described is the mindset of many start-ups (who admittedly have the luxury to start from scratch) that are building their entire business model around customer needs and experiences.
We are choosing to become more flexible and nimble in our organisational mindsets. Customer centricity means continuing to care about the customer, all the time. This means continuing to care when customer expectations shift as new experiences and standards of service enter their awareness. This requires the organisation to be a more nimble and, ideally, predictive. Being more nimble enables an organisation to immediately and meaningfully respond to the changing experience expectations of their customer base. Being predictive means, organisations have such a keen insight into human behaviour they are now able to create solutions for latent needs. This creates a proactive stance in the market rather than a reactive one.
Why all this is good:
Those of us in business have accepted that we are operating in an increasing complex environment. This is mostly due to our evolving understanding that business is not a 1:1 transaction but a multi-layered, multi-dimensional ecosystem. Making decisions within this environment requires practice and experience in making complex decisions well, over and over again. By focussing on customer, you are creating the conditions for your organisation to get ‘fit’ at making complex decisions well, over and over again. With this brings new mindsets, new ways of working and new ways of measuring things. All of these things are required of organisation to do well in the 21st century market conditions.
Having independent thinking employees who are passionate about the purpose of an organisaiton, willing to hold their leaders accountable for their choices is never a bad thing. What ends up happening is the emergence of a passionate cohort of people, with autonomy, a sense of purpose and a collegiate relationship amongst leaders. What it requires though, is for leaders to let go of the feeling of control that command-and-control structures give them. It requires letting go of the feeling that the leaders must have all the answers and allowing for more distributed decision making.
Having agility, and awareness of incoming changing market environments, is no doubt a great capability to have as a business. When these insights are meaningful and relate directly to human experiences it is even more powerful.
It drives an innovative culture that is hungry for finding new and improved ways of continuing to serve customers in more and more purposeful ways.
What’s inside the organisation manifests outside the organisation.Melis Senova
Making a stand about becoming customer centric introduces many attributes into business as usual that create a great learning environment. It provides the opportunity to build capability to address many other challenges organsations face in a rapidly changing, ambiguous and increasingly purpose-driven market. The true value of customer centricity lies in the capabilities that it encourages within the organisation, rather than the shape and functionality that comprise the services offered to market.