Can only “Born Again” Convert Companies Reach Customer-Centricity?

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Lucky companies were born customer-centric. Amazon.com, Fed-X, Nordstrom’s, Southwest Airlines, and Trader Joe’s practiced customer-driven business from the get-go. But converts including Best Buy, Gilead Sciences, Marriott and Tesco all had to undergo difficult transitions to get there?and in my experience, these and others like them only escaped their traditional company-centricity by adopting customer-centricity with hyper-focused, missionary zeal.

This begs the question of whether organizations can achieve Outside-In in a cool, collected, rational manner?without needing a zealous commitment to putting customers first to push them past the tipping point. I have seen fear help companies along. UPS is a prime example. Either they bellied up to match Fed-X’s service standard after the latter bought RPS, a ground transportation UPS competitor, or UPS would have become an also ran. I’ve also seen opportunism push companies along. McDonald’s saw an opportunity to better meet adult customer tastes by creating a healthier side of the menu and jumped in with both feet.

However, UPS is an anomaly for their extreme operational discipline, which would support them through a major values transition. And the spread of customer-centricity at McDonald’s beyond menu items is not yet evident. And despite neither company really getting “customer religion,” I don’t believe many companies can escape their pasts without an adult dose of conviction that adding new value to customers is the only sustainable way to add new value to the company.

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