The mindset shift from product-first to customer-first, which has been sprung into motion by the introduction of the customer-centric model, is now widely prevalent – it’s been proven as essential to organizational growth.
However, we have progressed since the concept was first introduced; it’s no longer just a theory but a well-structured method of delivery.
Most, if not all companies do realize how crucial the symbiotic dynamics between an enterprise and its customers are, or at the very least acknowledge its importance. Unfortunately, not many organizations are able to put customer centricity into practice.
Now, the common sentiment is “customer experience (CX) belongs to everyone”, which is virtuous but also perilous – why?
Because people tend to think that if “something belongs to everyone” then “it doesn’t belong to anyone”, which in a corporate environment roughly translates to “if I’m not directly responsible, then it’s not my responsibility”. And whilst being a misconception, it leads to inaction and poor decision making.
There’s also the other side, one in which everyone in your organization becomes a bit overzealous with the aforementioned sentiment and takes or attempts to take ownership of customer centricity and tries to be the driving force behind it. Too many cooks spoil the broth, eh?
Customer centricity is a boon, however, it can also become a bane. It’s a force which will exploit high-value customers whilst simultaneously disfranchising low to mid-value ones unless harnessed properly through internal disciple and strong leadership unless harnessed properly through internal disciple and strong leadership, one which will advocate for all customers.
You need someone to champion this noble cause!
Many organizations are just beginning to recognize the need for appointing a Chief Customer Officer (CCO). The role itself is constantly growing in importance and many organization are beginning to see the value it adds to their business practices – a coherent and aligned customer-first mandate goes a long way.
Keep in mind that the role of a CCO is rather fluid and not fully defined when comparing one organization to another, however, these three priorities remain consistent:
Change & culture shift
Aligning your company with the customer-centric vision requires a fundamental change, a transformation, in how you operate and measure success. This cannot be achieved by just being an advocate for the customer’s perspective.
The role of a Chief Customer Officer requires him to be a personification of “change” an agent of the forthcoming cultural shift; an intuitive awareness of existing relationships amongst previously disparate teams.
Your champion (COO) will lay the groundwork by nurturing conversations between cross-functional teams as well as forming a communication pipeline. And by mapping out a “journey” for ideas, concepts and employee engagement, the COO will empower frontline employees by allowing them to act on customer-knowledge, thus embracing the customer-centric vision of leadership.
Essentially, your goal as a Chief Customer Officer is to create an environment in which employee morale is at an all-time high, thus allowing you utilize internal pathways to capitalize on the customer-centric vision.
Internal & external balance
The lack of customer understanding is not the detrimental factor when it comes to adopting a customer-centric approach as more often than not your efforts stall due to organizational barriers.
Embrace your leadership role and identify gaps in employee experience by carefully measuring employee engagement, thus ensuring internal alignment with the customer-centric path you chose. You’ll quickly realize that these do trickle down and have a negative impact on customers; minimize this effect by investing in internal systems, which will allow you to externally succeed with customers.
Organizations (or their leaders) are prone overvalue short-term goals and whilst this phenomenon is not exclusive to customer experience it does makes proper gain assessment quite problematic. A dedicated leader is not only responsible for articulating a long-term strategy, he also needs to implement a set of short-term metrics; highlighting gains and improvements made along the way.
Growth in a customer-centric landscape (or any, really) can only be achieved by planning your strategy for the long-term. This requires certain traits from customer-centricity agents; discipline and fortitude amidst scepticism and pushes from stakeholders.
Quantifying customers’ experiences
We can’t merely view customer-centricity through the lens of profitability, as such an approach leads to overlooking low-value as well mid-value customers, which is a risk an organization can’t afford to take.
Positive customer experience leads to repeat purchases; poor customer experience can be connected to a drop in sales and repeat visits. Furthermore, systematically resolving the source(s) of poor customer experience reduces the cost to serve customers.
Essentially, this means that customer experience not only has a significant impact on future revenue but also on cost reduction. Which is why customer-centricity needs to have a leader – it needs to be owned by someone and not by everyone. Otherwise, you’re setting your organization up for failure.
Who’s worthy to champion the cause?
We’ve already established that the perfect leader will be able to keep the long-term goal in sight, guide the organization through perils of the cultural shift as well as respect all customer regardless of their potential value, but is there more to it?
The customer-centric transformation will require a leader to build an ecosystem, in which customer-focused values will be nurtured. By having a proper structure in place, an organization will avoid the perils of customer hierarchy; a strong champion ensures that all customer relationships are cultivated and viewed as valued, and not exploited for short-term profitability.
Lack of leadership leads to lack of ownership and responsibility, thus impeding growth and preventing individuals and teams from embracing the common vision.
A worthy leader will be able to transform responsibility into purpose by instilling his customer-centric vision onto every employee; it will then radiate as a shining beacon to every customer.