Obstacles to Achieving Customer Centricity - Breaking Down Barriers and Silos

Part 2

In Customer-Centricity is The New Basis of Competition. Are You Prepared? we asserted that the competitive landscape is changing for companies and that the primary way advantage will be achieved is through reaching new levels of customer centricity. The reasons that this is happening are:

·       Customer related information is ubiquitous and the ways that companies use it to improve the customer experience are not just feasible, but necessary.

·       Competition is increasing and increasingly sophisticated.

·       Social and technological touch-points between companies and customers are increasingly complex, varied, and every interaction has consequences for poor performance. Companies need to assure the myriad ways to connecting with customers are tightly integrated and seamless.

Over time most competitive advantages erode and we are seeing it happen more quickly today than ever before. The stakes for not achieving customer centricity are high, but few companies understand the obstacles in the way and the extent of the changes they must make.

Today, the goal of customer centricity is manifest in a variety of ways, mostly piecemeal (i.e. “We created a new role called VP of customer success…”). Many companies have yet to develop more mature and integrated internal orientation around customer, which will require fundamental changes to the ways companies organize, the processes they develop and how they use technology.

In order for a company to succeed in transitioning to a customer centric model, it must first adopt a new mindset and question traditional organizational and measurement norms. While companies like Amazon have oriented themselves around designing optimal customer experiences across any potential touch point, others are slow to understand that customers are empowered and are not shy to exert their influence. What’s at stake? Simply put, everything. In a recent study of retail customers, only 15% of the subjects believed that it is beneficial to be loyal to a brand[1]. With increased customer expectations, companies must take a holistic approach to addressing customer expectations. That means that customer knowledge must travel past the marketing function and ultimately pervade the organization.

Don’t get us wrong, the creation of a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) is definitely a meaningful first step and in some cases has been the opening step to successfully breaking down the existing barriers between functions. For example, the creation of the CCO at Boeing helped refocus the Boeing Training and Flight Services Division to ensure that the customer’s perspective was applied to each team’s focus[1]. As the therapist says, just realizing that you have a problem is a good first step. In the near future, new organizational and cultural models that optimize customer centricity will emerge that will recognize those early innovators.

TD Bank offers another example of adjusting corporate infrastructure and culture to address customer needs. In an effort to improve customer satisfaction and to spur growth, TD Bank focused on the tools that employees had at their disposal to work with clients. The bank then challenged its employees to find new ways to exceed customer expectations with the only restrictions being adhering to company policy. Its retail employees coordinated closely with supervisors to find innovative ways to say “yes” to customer requests. Bank employees’ performance reviews were more broadly defined to incorporate customer satisfaction as a key measure of company success. As a result of this initiative, TD Bank has sustained consistent deposit growth over the past five years and has achieved a customer satisfaction score of 77%, which is second in the industry2.

Some industries have made little progress in improving the customer experience and are hampered by structural barriers and resistance to change. This is precisely where the opportunities are greatest and most inspiring. For example, Zoom+care, a small health provider and plan based in Portland, Oregon has done an impressive job re-thinking the emergency room experience. Attributes like mobile-enabled on-demand appointments, no waiting times, aesthetically engineered facilities, technology that alerts them to the patient’s arrival, and flat-fee transparent pricing make it clear that everything they do is oriented around improving the patient experience and reduces their stress at an otherwise very stressful time. Even the doctor’s environment is considered to minimize stress and ultimately maximize the patient experience. To achieve this requires a radical re-orientation of Zoom+care’s organization and infrastructure, and illustrates a powerful competitive advantage[2].

These examples present different approaches to building more customer-centric muscle, but all represent companies taking meaningful steps towards changing existing organizational structure, processes, technology, and infrastructure.

1 http://www.mycustomer.com/experience/loyalty/why-the-customer-loyalty-landscape-has-changed

2 https://stevensonfinancialmarketing.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/best-practices-how-td-bank-and-amex-earn-customer-loyalty-without-giving-away-the-store/