August 10, 2022
The pandemic has underlined that we live in a volatile world, with constantly changing customer expectations that are demanding more of brands than ever before. Organizations face significant challenges and must be ready for the next unexpected situation.
We studied how some of Europe’s top organizations work, and looked at how well they perform in meeting those key challenges.
We found that the organizations that beat everyone else were the ones that were most customer-centered. Organizations with high customer centricity grow 9 times faster than their competitors and they are four times more likely to have highly satisfied employees, with the ability to change course in weeks or months, rather than the years it would take others to change.
What is customer centricity?
Customer centricity is more than having good customer service. It's about the way the entire company runs - from HR, to technology, to the product. In essence, we found that customer-centric organizations are ones where everyone, from the support agent to the CEO, is constantly asking: “how can we better serve our customers?”
Our study is based around our Customer Centricity Model, which measures an organization’s customer centricity across five different dimensions that determine whether they can create great user experiences. These are people, process, governance, facilities, and communication - five keys to customer centricity.
The 5 keys to customer centricity:
1. De-centralize control
High-performing organizations gave their teams more freedom to make their own choices, and balanced top-down and bottom-up decision-making. However, it’s also important to consider how decisions are split in the decision-making process. For example, high-performing organizations were far more interested in what their customers said, while low-performing organizations were more likely to prioritize managerial opinion.
There are two main advantages to decentralizing control. Firstly, decisions get made faster as you don’t need to wait for approval from people at the top. Secondly, decisions are made by people working in close proximity to the customer, and those who spend more time analyzing and understanding user research. This means that the decisions made are of better quality, as they are more likely to take into account the impact on the customer.
2. Question everything, assume nothing
High-performing organizations were more likely to use data to inform decision-making – across all levels of the organization. When setting a strategy, high-performing organizations also took into account market trends, customer insights, and qualitative data - hearing directly from customers in stories. Qualitative data can be really valuable as it can give you a greater understanding of your customer and help you make sense of other types of data you collect.
Being driven by data also means creating a culture that rewards employees for seeking out information, particularly relating to stories about your customers. This is facilitated by the key mentioned above - decentralizing control; by allowing employees across your organization to actively seek out information, you increase your bandwidth to gather and act on information relating to your customer.
3. Prioritize the employee experience
It’s also important to provide employees with the tools, technologies, and support they need to transform the customer experience. Our study also showed that high-performing organizations chose software and technology platforms by prioritizing customer outcomes – meaning issues like cost, politics and personal opinions were secondary considerations.
In addition, adopting a modular, more flexible approach toward technology and user interfaces can help. By investing in agile technology that is easy to update and replace, you can respond to customer-facing challenges faster – and improve the customer experience in the long term.
4. Adopt a customer-centric organization chart
In our study, high-performing companies were more likely to have specialist roles focused on understanding customers. The insights from these roles were then converted into products and services. With more user researchers available, high maturity organizations were able to embed these employees into product delivery teams for example and give people within these roles autonomy in the decision-making process.
High-performing organizations also had employees operating as cross-functional teams across their organization, rather than having each team managed separately. While this requires some matrix management, allowing teams to collaborate across your organization means you can combine expertise to solve customer problems - yielding quicker and more effective results.
5. Communicate relentlessly
Above skills, process, and governance, internal communication was the biggest differentiator between high and low-performing organizations. Teams in high-performing organizations were more likely to be aware of how their projects fitted into the wider business strategy and aligned to other ongoing projects in the organization.
It’s also important to encourage sharing of customer insights between teams. For example, by allowing those working in customer-facing roles to communicate customer needs and behavior with employees responsible for project delivery. Doing this will enable you to respond to customer queries faster and more effectively, improving the quality of decision-making across your organization.
The real benefits of customer centricity
Being truly customer-centered means so much more than just making assumptions about what your customers’ needs are. It means embedding it into every level and way of working within an organization.
By embracing a customer-centric model, there is a huge opportunity to change the way organizations perform. Attention pivots towards creating better services, products, and solutions to address the needs of customers - which in turn, drives financial success. It’s no mean feat, but even moving up just one level in customer-centricity maturity can have a positive impact on the outcomes and growth of your business.
Find out how you can build a more customer-centric model for your organization here.
Giles co-founded cxpartners in 2004 and has spent his career helping organizations to adopt practices that will make them more customer centered. As head of practice, he has developed cxpartners’ strength in research, design, and development and created a team of highly proficient and effective practitioners. Following acquisition and integration with IT services company Sopra Steria, he also leads the UK business consulting practice.
He’s also the author of best-selling design book ‘Simple and Usable’ published by Pearson in the United States and now in its second edition.
Giles developed the customer-centricity model over a period of 10 years, basing it on the delivery methodology he employed in several large-scale user centred design transformation programs including Nationwide, Leeds Building Society, and HCE Healthcare UK.
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