In my experience, there is no term less understood than “customer-centric.” Real customer-centricity is challenging to achieve, demands consideration of priorities, goals, and policies, and requires leaders to model behaviors. Fake customer centricity takes many forms.
Being customer-centric doesn’t mean getting to know your customers so you can do a better job of targeting promotions, acquiring leads, improving acquisition, lowering service costs, or lifting sales. Yes, better customer insight can deliver all those things, but those are not customer-centric goals.
The actual definition isn’t that hard to decipher–it’s hiding in plain view. The Cambridge Dictionary tells us “-centric” means:
“Having a particular type of person, place, or thing as your most important interest; seen from the point of view of a particular type of person, place, or thing.”
Organizations and leaders who wave the customer-centricity flag consistently make customer-hostile decisions because they fail to put the customer as their most important interest, nor do they measure success from the customer’s point of view.
Are you and your organization customer-centric? Do you:
- Prioritize lasting customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy equally with short-term sales and profit?
- Approve projects that deliver long-term improvements to customer relationships as quickly and frequently as you do with short-term ROI?
- Evaluate and measure investments against how it improves your customers’ lives or business as much as your margin, costs, or marketing ROI?
- Reward, praise, and promote employees who improve customer outcomes as often as those who deliver company-centric results?
- Analyze your customer data to find the verifiable connection between your existing customers’ satisfaction or perception and their lifetime value to your organization?
- Measure loyalty as much through leading attitudinal measures of customer intent as through lagging indicators of customer purchase behavior?
- Seek to constantly improve your customers’ Voice of the Customer feedback and not merely beat your competitors’ scores?
- Make decisions and build strategies based on needs- or values-based personas and not just demographic- or value-based segments?
- Listen for and resolve the barriers your employees face that prevent them from offering customer-centric products, services, and experiences?
Most companies make profit their goal, and they focus obsessively on anything to maximize it as quickly as possible. Others recognize that profit is the outcome of consistent and pervasive customer-centric decisions that improve customer experience, build lasting loyalty, and yield bilateral high-value relationships.
Being customer-centric isn’t a strategy, a project, a mindset, or someone’s job. Being customer-centric–really customer-centric–must be reflected in your corporate culture, values, decisions, priorities, goals, rewards, measures, and the daily activities of your employee.
The next time someone tells you their organization is customer-centric, give some thought to whether they mean “we study customers to extract as much revenue and profit as possible” or “we understand customers so we can deliver what they want and need, improve their lives, and encourage strong and lasting bonds.”