5 Key Steps to Achieving Cross-Company Customer Centricity

Mike Ashton
Posted: 07/11/2016

Customer experience expert Mike Ashton outlines 5 key steps for organisations and CX leaders to help them optimise customer centricity across all levels of the company.

Corporate speak and clichés – don’t you just love ‘em? Among the most commonly used and abused is “customer centricity”. Now don’t get me wrong, the idea of customer centricity is spot on. It’s just that the more I hear about it the less I see it in action in the way businesses treat customers.

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During my CX Master Classes, I usually get everyone to write a definition of what it means to be customer centric. There are often as many definitions as people in the room but the consensus usually looks something like this:

“A business is customer centric when decision making, investment and behaviour at all levels are concentrated on satisfying the needs of customers in a way that positively influences purchase behaviour and drives competitive advantage.“

But that’s when things really kick off, because defining customer centricity is child’s play compared to actually delivering it. The reasons for non-delivery are familiar: silo mentality, unclear goals, inconsistent direction, etc. So then we set about assembling a recipe for a customer centric operation and below I’ve distilled the 5 steps that most often emerge.

1. DEFINE – MAKE IT REAL: Explain what it means to behave in a customer centric way in the day-to-day operation of our business and why it’s so important. Practical examples of what this looks like in the way decisions are made, plans are prepared, budgets are allocated, problems are resolved and customers are treated really helps bring this to life. John Lewis Partnership do this well with a sustained focus on internal communication.

2. PLAN - FOCUS ON WHAT’S NECESSARY & SUFFICIENT: We can’t do everything, so prioritise customer-facing actions that will produce the greatest impact, and concentrate resources on delivering each one superbly well – no exceptions, no excuses. Delivering a seamless external customer experience requires seamless internal planning and collaboration. For example, Tesco have continually enhanced the experience of Club Card members by making sure that customer-facing initiatives deliver against the Club Card strategy, and limiting the number of programmes undertaken each year to ensure strong quality delivery.

3. ALLOCATE - SET CRYSTAL CLEAR ACCOUNTABILITES: This is a biggie! From top to bottom, everyone must be clear on their piece of the jig-saw and be held accountable for delivery. Make sure everyone understand the ripple effect of their behaviour on the experience that customers receive, the purchase decisions that make and the performance of the business. Just look at Eddie Jones and the England rugby team to see the immediate impact of making sure everyone is crystal clear on their role in the team and what success looks like.

4. MEASURE – PROVE THE CAUSE AND EFFECT RELATIONSHIP: For customer centricity to evolve from corporate cliché to core business driver, every business must find a way to prove the positive link between customer experience, customer buying behaviour and commercial performance. American Express have done some excellent work in this area resulting in a rise of 164 places to No 8 in the 2015 UK CEE ranking. CEO Kenneth Chenault has stressed the importance of investing in customer service infrastructure, people and training and of demonstrating the strong causality between loyalty, spending and performance.

5. REWARD – NURTURE THE RIGHT BEHAVIOUR: On a personal level, as CMO of Hilton I saw the transformative effect of revising our balanced scorecard to align rewards and recognition with the customer experience we wanted to deliver. Re-balancing the impact of financial and customer-facing performance on personal earnings to reflect the new customer experience strategy produced an immediate impact on key customer metrics.

It’s interesting to note that what also emerges from these workshops is a change in attitude - the realisation that these lessons can be applied by anyone leading a team in any part of a business at any level.

So let’s finish with Step 6 - OWNERSHIP: Take responsibility for delivering a more customer centric approach within the universe we control or influence.

Imagine the transformation if everyone in your organisation improved just one part of your customer experience by 1 per cent starting tomorrow!

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Mike Ashton
Posted: 07/11/2016