“We need to be more customer-centric.”
You’re not the first one to go on a Google hunt for information and advice on customer-centricity. In fact, search queries for “customer-centric” have been pretty steady at least since the time Google started tracking search queries, and seem to be on the rise again.
But what exactly is customer-centricity, and why is it important right now?
We at Relay42 define customer-centricity thusly:
Customer-centricity is about making your customer and their journey the starting point in everything that you do. It means not leading with your products, marketing, sales channels or campaigns, but instead leading with your customer’s needs and wishes.
The customer experience is at the core of customer-centricity, and relates to questions businesses should be asking themselves like:
Granted, the effectiveness of the customer experience isn’t always easy to measure. But you can look inward toward your organization to ensure you’re doing everything possible to set up your teams — and therefore your customers — for success, and that’s where our customer-centricity model comes in.
The core principle of the customer-centricity model states that an organizational operation with a (strong) technology component requires a strong foundation in (1) leadership and (2) strategy and balanced use of (3) people, (4) processes and (5) platforms.
In other words, a customer-centric company should consist of high-quality people, processes, and platforms, steered by a clearly defined strategy and governed by committed leadership.
If all of these parts are working together properly, your organization is likely operating in a customer-centric way. In this article, we're unpacking each of these 5 pillars and offering tips, questions and advice to help you both evaluate your level of customer-centricity and take it to the next level.
Our customer-centricity model is built on a foundation of leadership, because without strong leadership to inspire, encourage, and pave the path, the rest will topple over.
The onus is on senior management to make customer-centricity a priority. If they’re driving a strategy that’s all about the bottom line, it's not likely that the individual parts of the organization will manage to become customer-centric.
In a customer-centric organization, senior leaders lead by example. They perform their own research on customers and their behavior, and they use it to drive the overall business strategy. More than that, they allow for an agile approach so that everyone in the organization can properly manage shifts in customer expectations.
How customer-centric is your organization’s current business strategy? Are you taking an inside-out approach or outside-in? Here are some key indicators that your organization is on the right path:
If your leadership team and strategy are customer-centric, you’ve got a solid foundation. But it won’t bring results if the people who make up your organization aren’t empowered with the right tools and knowledge to execute the strategy.
Ensure that everyone in your organization has the necessary skills to understand your customers and personalize content and messaging to suit your customers’ needs. This will, of course, look different for IT vs sales vs marketing, but the spirit is the same. Everyone’s work contributes to the customer journey, and it’s vital that employees understand how their contribution makes an impact.
The most important thing to remember here is that when comparing customer-facing and non-customer facing roles, understanding the customer is key.
Whether an employee converses directly with customers or is tucked away creating technology, understanding the people they're doing it all for allows them to prioritize correctly and prevents them from making decisions that could make their lives easier but the customer's harder.
One way to empower employees in their customer-centric training could be to establish a Center of Excellence. Allocate resources in the necessary teams so they can execute customer-centric campaigns. This could take the form of unified customer profiles, persona research, customer feedback from NPS surveys, customer interviews, and more. Do whatever it takes to make sure the voice of your customer is heard loud and clear by everyone in your organization.
Knowledge sharing sessions are a great way to ensure there is sufficient interdepartmental collaboration around customer-centricity. What does IT know about your customers that marketing doesn’t, and vice versa? Encourage everyone to work together, especially with colleagues in customer-facing departments and teams.
And then make sure people are being evaluated on their efforts to put the customer first. Establishing truly customer-centric KPIs is one of the best ways to keep customer-centricity top of mind.
Create a central dashboard for these special KPIs and hold everyone accountable for them. Help employees understand how their work influences each KPI. Celebrate your wins and analyze your losses, being sure to always approach "failure" as a learning opportunity.
One person wants the freedom to fly by the seat of their pants — it’s all about agility, flexibility, room for creativity. The other needs their processes like they need water to drink and air to breathe — it’s about organization, structure, control.
We’re not here to tell you what your process should look like — only that they must encourage interdepartmental collaboration and they must be regularly evaluated and optimized to limit any potential negative impact on your customers.
If you answered yes to both questions, then you are on the right path. While processes are there to create structure and provide clarity and direction, it’s essential to use them as a tool for change and growth, rather than let them bog your organization down with formalities and empty tasks.
Our main piece of advice here is to ensure your organization’s customer-facing teams and departments are working together on a structural basis to manage the end-to-end journey.
We’ve seen too many instances of siloed teams and departments — each one managing a small piece of the customer journey, and none with a complete overview. Without the complete picture of your customer’s journey, how can you know if their experience is a good one, and how can you put processes in place to improve it?
Finally, we’re rounding off our ideal customer-centric organization with technology. Tech connects you with your customers. It helps you complete transactions. It measures your KPIs. In many cases, it makes up the stuff of your customer’s entire journey.
Today’s customer-centric organization should absolutely be working with an interconnected technology stack. Technology silos are holding back too many organizations. Your customer-centric business should be working with tech that allows you to recognize individual customer across all systems and touchpoints, and to measure their interactions.
Customer-centric technology will allow you to collect and use customer data, to truly understand them and their journeys, and learn how to improve their experience. It will also give you direct access to your customers through touchpoint connectivity, so you can activate your customer data across channels and allow for actual orchestration of the journey.
Depending on your organization’s current level of customer-centricity, the technology you use can either act as an enabler, an accelerator, or become a powerful part of the very core of your business strategy and operations — we suggest taking the customer-centricity test to find out which applies to you.
If you want to make headway, you have to know where you stand. And that’s why we created a customer-centricity test. It’s 15 questions based on the 5 pillars of customer-centricity in this article: leadership, strategy, people, processes and platforms.
Besides providing an additional layer of insight, the test is the perfect conversation starter. Ask your colleagues and leadership team to take it, too — did you all get the same results? Sit down together and look at the best next steps to laddering up your customer experience. Did you get different results? Collaborate and break it down — where do you think differently, and why?
This test is an opportunity to take a step back and look at the big picture. It’s the perfect way to ask yourself the hard questions so you can make your customer’s experience easier — because in the end, that’s what customer-centricity really is.