Aim for “Natural” Customer-Centricity–So Ingrained You Don’t Have to Think About It


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In our research, I have found that the great customer-centric organizations are either comparatively new organizations that have started with a blank sheet of paper or ones with a leader who fundamentally believes the customer should be at the heart of everything the business does. Unfortunately, this does not apply to the vast majority of organizations.

To create a customer-centric organization, the first thing you need to do is understand where you are today and then move onto deciding where you want to be, to enable you to define what you need to change.

Figure 1

During our research for my second book, Revolutionize Your Customer Experience (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), we discovered that all organizations are on a journey from “Naïve to Natural®” in the way that they are orientated around the customer. An orientation is effectively measuring how customer-centric an organization really is. For example, if you are family-orientated and your boss asks you to work late one night, you’ll probably say no. If you are career-orientated, in the same circumstances, you’ll probably say yes. What the Naïve to Natural® model looks at is how orientated an organization is around the customer.

There is a big difference between understanding something and actually doing it.

A “Naïve” organization is the classic image we typically have of a used car salesman. You drive off the parking lot and the engine falls out, but the dealer is not interested. The customer is just the root to money, and the business is definitely not customer-centric. Our research across North America and Europe shows that 9 percent of organizations are “Naïve.”

Sixty-seven percent of organizations are “Transactional,” and this statistic clearly shows this is where the majority of companies are today. They have customer service departments and say they are customer-centric, but the reality is they are not.

Twenty-two percent of organizations are “Enlightened”; they recognize the need for a more holistic approach to the customer experience, understanding that customers have emotions, and have designed deliberate customer experiences that are engaging.

Two percent of organizations are “Natural”; they are truly customer-centric and are naturally focused around the customer. They no longer need to think about it.

So where are you, and how do you create a customer-centric organization? Our research shows that there are nine orientations that affect how customer-centric an organization is. This, then, manifests itself in the customer’s experience.

Best experience

During a keynote speech I was delivering at a conference in Florida, I asked for examples of attendees’ best customer experiences. “Gary” recounted his experience during a trip to Disney with his daughter on her 8th birthday. As Florida residents, Gary and his daughter had an annual pass, and upon entering the park, his daughter put the pass into the machine. It made a beeping sound and a cast member (a Disney employee) came up to the little girl and made a really big fuss of her! She gave her a badge and balloon. As Gary’s daughter walked around that day, every cast member who saw her—even the guy sweeping the street—made a big fuss of her.

Figure 2

To build a customer-centric organization you need to look at all of these orientational areas (in bold), you need to recruit the right PEOPLE and give them the correct training. It’s about having SYSTEMS that have been built, not just to improve efficiency but also to enhance the experience. You need to develop a customer-centric STRATEGY. You must understand the customers’ EXPECTATIONS. You should align your employee and customer experience with the BRAND. Your PROCESSES should be designed and be deliberate. You should work on developing a CULTURE that is focused around the customer and develop LEADERS that believe in the customer and role model these behaviors. You will see that your organization may have an “Enlighten” strategy, but the cultures are still “Naïve,” therefore, placing you at a different point. In understanding this, you will be able to target your actions.

My background is working for large blue-chip companies. When I was working for one such organization, I went on a “behind the scenes tour” of Disney as part of my development. At the end of the week, I sat down with a blank sheet of paper to capture what I had learned. To my surprise, despite having had an enjoyable week, I realized I hadn’t learned anything.

We were not doing what I knew we should be doing. There was a gap between my understanding and my actions. The principal thing I learned that week was about execution on what I know to be right. There is a big difference between understanding something and actually doing it. There are always a million and one reasons for not executing. However, unless the senior teams understand what they should be doing, they will not be able to lead the organization. And even if they do understand, unless they execute against this knowledge, nothing will happen.

So the first step in building a customer-centric organization is to discover whether the senior teams understand what a “Natural” organization looks like in the nine areas. We spend a great deal of time educating senior people on what this looks like. The next question is: Do they understand where they are today? But finally and most critically, we ask the question: Why should they change? What is in it for them and the organization?

Our research shows that the commoditization of markets and the massive increase in competition are slowly forcing organizations to become more customer-centric. Our advice would be to get ahead of the curve but realize this is a journey, not a destination. I wish you good luck!

If you want to read more regarding the types of organizations I describe and are interested in finding out where your company is currently positioned in the Naïve to Natural® model; please visit Beyond Philosophy’s
web site, where you will also be able to complete the “Limited Naïve to Natural® Assessment.”

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


  1. Your research confirms that customer experience management is all about common sense. It is actually so simple, all one has to do is to place oneself in the shoes of the customer and think what response he/she required of the organization in the area of customer service.

    The answers will come automatically and there will hardly be any scope for error when you yourself become the customer double up as the service provider for answering the customers queries.

    Just cross the divide and you will truly experience nirvana along with your customers.

  2. Vinod,

    I agree it is about common sense, but as someone wise once said….”Common sense is not that common”. People need toi put themselves in their customers shoes.

    Colin Shaw


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