Time and again we have been constantly talking about customer-centric business models over the years, how embodying customer-centricity as the core corporate culture and organizational goals helps business remain relevant and resonate in a commercial relationship, most will agree firmly weighted in favor of the customer.
We have consistently seen the customer-centric champions in the market. E-commerce giants like Amazon and Flipkart keep their customer at the forefront of everything they do, no matter if it is at the expense of growth goals. These are businesses that go an extra mile and take the gamble in order to deliver fantastic customer experience and best customer satisfaction – thus reaping value for money and pave way to loyalty.
So, there does exist true blue customer-focused businesses – star organizations.
But what about other businesses that are not mentioned often as an example?
How are ‘normal’ businesses employing customer-centricity in their routine interactions?
The answer disappointingly seems to be not quite positive – if at all.
Enhancing customer experience through alternate methods
Partly the issue or the conflict lies in defining what ‘customer-centricity’ typically means. It is an umbrella term. Surely, you can understand it to be ‘putting the customer first.’ But, in the real business world how does that physically manifest itself actually in use case?
Perhaps the bottleneck is in setting a boundary to what a customer-centric business might look like in practice and that is the most difficult area. The definition of the term open to interpretation which, as a result, would purely depend on whom you are asking? In which case it’s no surprise that amongst the sea of organizations only a handful have hit the nail the right way and achieved success in implementing the correct definition of customer-centricity.
Without a clarity and universal acceptance of definition, how can any business practically employ it?
In order to hit the target, all of us first have to agree what the actual target looks like.
Those who are hard and fast fans of customer-centric business model for implementing a more customer-centric organization are generally seen and found within departments that are, by definition, more customer-facing. The C-Suite, marketing, sales, and support will often be the biggest flag-bearers, which is a good start.
But the major issue is how non-customer-facing personnel embrace it. If not treaded carefully, they could develop a feeling of abandonment of their role and understand that those on top consider their department as being ‘less important’.
Then there will be a split, and the challenge will arise of how to unite all the department to resonate a bigger cause of aligning business goals to realize customer centricity.
Again, there is a bigger challenge of how to implement customer-centricity in department that, often by their nature, are critically more important to the business than prioritizing the customer satisfaction, such as the accounts department. If customer-centricity is meant to be an organization-wide initiative, how are they supposed to deal with customers who have not paid their dues?
What Gets Measured Gets Done
There are various methods to measure customer satisfaction, but it is practically difficult to measure the level of customer-centricity within a business.
Customer satisfaction can be gathered through a feedback knowing someone’s perception on what they received, or how well they were treated. But if customer-centricity is a measure of how effectively a business puts the customer at the focal point of what they do, how do you quantify that?
Improving customer experience is a result – a goal. If it is quantifiable, it becomes easy to slap a target on its back. You could say that your goal is to improve customer satisfaction ratings from 60% to 80% within next two quarters, per se.
However, customer-centricity is an ongoing process. It is not the final destination rather a journey you undertake in getting there.
Moreover, do all your initiatives seemingly defined as being customer-centric result in an improved customer experience? The answer is possibly not. Which takes us back to our challenge, sheer lack of a true definition and measurement metric.
For e.g. targeted and/or programmatic advertising? How many of us as consumers would appreciate the idea of being targeted by an ad that tails us online? The constant propagation and advances of browser ad blockers would suggest that we as a customer will certainly not approve of such stalking tactics as ‘adding to the customer experience.’ It’s the other way instead.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Of late businesses are implementing shady interruptive tactics like spam email and SMS texting, beacons, programmatic, and the rest customer-centricity in guise of customer-centricity.
How customer-centric is a corporate inspiring tweet, Facebook post, or email pushing an organization’s fantastic offer?
Perhaps, as often as we encounter, the reason why customer-centricity is not prevalent often in the real world is due to lethargic, futile (and out-and-out insulting) abuse of the term to allow ulterior goals of the organizations to get away with their tactics.
Looking at Customer-Centricity from a flawed perspective
Perhaps the overall approach and the way we look at it is too simplistic.
The best of our efforts is steered towards how to align internal and external practices and deliverables around the customer, while the entire time we missed out on a powerful driver in all of this. Rather than being customer-centric, maybe the businesses can think on being employee-centric.
There are numerous examples to support the theory, showing a strong relationship between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. You definitely cannot sell it to people outside if you fail to do so to your own people inside.
Now, let us take a step further backwards.
Is it wrong to question that every stakeholder within an organization should be valued and considered from a strategic position? Directors, creditors, suppliers, partners, unions, distributors – aren’t they all capable to shape the customer experience to varying levels? Sure, you can never go very far without having customers. But how far are you going to get with below standard materials from your suppliers, or below average performing employees due to feeling of disenfranchised and under-valued?
Is true customer centricity an impossible dream?
Meaning of customer-centric business resonates differently with every business.
Supposing we can agree that, in its current form, the concept of customer-centricity is quite unformulated, inconsistent and non-measurable. Where should organizations with futuristic approach be focusing their attention instead?
The answer lies somewhere in between the eventual pursuit of customer-centricity, as well as other benign intends such as a more open and social business model. That the outcome should be the creation of tangible value for customers in such a way that it necessarily establishes tangible value and measurable output for the organization too.
Clearly almost every business is aware of the parameters and factors that can lead to customer centricity but only a few make a conscious effort in implementing those for some needle movement.