On Becoming a Truly Customer-centric Company

MAY-JUNE 2017|BY CHRISTO KORITO, PHD, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF MARKETING & ACADEMIC DIRECTOR MSC. MARKETING, ALBA GRADUATE BUSINESS SCHOOL AT THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF GREECE
The mantra of marketing has changed: Market Orientation (focusing on the market rather than on the internal business processes) is not enough.

Customer Centricity (aligning the whole company around customer experience) is everything!

A recent global Millward Brown Vermeer study demonstrates that the correlation of top performing firms in terms of revenues and customer centricity is approaching unity, making customer centricity a strong predictor of high performance.

But what does it take to become a customer centric company? To find out Janet LeBlanc & Associates has been conducting a series of studies since 2012 across companies in the U.S. with the aim of gauging the steps that customer centricity leading companies follow to build a customer centric culture and infrastructure and the degree of maturity of customer centricity across companies today. According to this study, companies wishing to become customer centric will need to go through the following five steps.

First, strategically align customer experience metrics such as satisfaction and loyalty with the overall business performance. Here the company needs to identify and communicate across the organization what is important to the customer experience and how this affects overall company performance. Leaders in customer-centricity assign this task to customer-focused executives.

Second, commit senior leadership in the development of a customer centric company. Top executives need to actively demonstrate their commitment to customer centricity by spending time interacting directly with customers and by showcasing examples of customer-centric behaviors by employees.

Third, use customer insights to improve customer-facing processes. This step entails quickly identifying and solving troubling spots in the customer experience with the company, through establishing real-time feedback systems at each customer-company touchpoint, and using such feedback to improve communication with customers.

Fourth, gain employee engagement of both customer facing and non-facing employees. Employees need to be fully aware of what it takes to improve customer experience, but they also need the right information about customer needs and expectations as well as to be fully empowered to solve customer problems on the spot.

Fifth, use of measures and rewards to ascertain the effectiveness of customer experience action plans and initiatives. In this regard, the use of both monetary and non-monetary rewards is critical for instigating customer-centric behaviors, but these should be the result of evidently effective customer centricity plans and initiatives.

However, most companies will not become customer centric at the blink of an eye. The most recent (2016) Janet LeBlanc & Associates customer centricity audit demonstrates that only 18% of the most prestigious U.S.-based firms are truly customer-centric, in the sense that they have mastered the ability to design and implement a consistent and intentional customer experience program that delivers on their brand promise in every interaction with their customers.

Most companies (46%) are at a transforming stage, where top management is seeking to commit company resources toward a long-term rather than an annual customer centricity program. A smaller group of companies (26%) is at the developing stage, meaning that top management has realized the importance of customer centricity and have started putting efforts toward gaining advocacy from employees. Finally, an even smaller group of companies (10%) is at an infancy stage. These companies have just started realizing that they lose market share because of their emphasis on single products or services rather than the total experience of customers with the company.

Hence, the challenge for companies today is not whether they will implement customer centricity but how fast and reliably they can transform their organizations into truly customer centric champions.

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