Customer Centricity – Beginning at the Beginning


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A few years ago, with the rise of social media, many organisations thought that social media was the Holy Grail in marketing. Social media would solve all the problems and customers would be at the centre of each organisation. While social media has absolutely enabled customers to interact easier, better, faster and more-often with organisations and it has enabled organisations to know more about their customers, it has not resulted in truly customer-centric organisations. For that, one important aspect was missing: the capability of combining and analysing all data that was created during those interactions and to link it with other data within the organisation. In today’s competitive environment, customer centricity is not aspirational – it’s essential. In such a dynamic marketplace, only customer centric businesses can thrive.

What does customer centricity mean?
Clayton Christensen, professor at Harvard Business School and a five time recipient of the McKinsey Award for Harvard Business Review’s best article shares the story of Dell and Asus in his latest bestseller book “How Will You Measure Your Life?” He says that Asus started at the low end by providing Dell with reliable circuits. Then Asus came to Dell and said “Look we do a great job of providing reliable circuits. Let us supply you with motherboards, we’re good at that. And we will lower your costs by 20%.” Dell folks agreed and the Asus delivered on their promise. Later Asus came to Dell and said “Look, we’ve done a great job on the motherboards. Let us assemble the whole computer for you. We can do that well and do it for 20% less cost.” The Dell folks agreed. The process continued and Asus got Dell to agree to outsource its supply chain. And later even the design of its computers. Eventually, Asus did pretty much everything for Dell. In a way Asus implemented the customer centric approach which is – meeting as many needs of Dell as possible.

Put simply, creating a customer centric culture is all about understanding your brand value and delivering it consistently to customers. This doesn’t mean doing everything customers want. It means focusing on what they value most, in line with your overall business strategy and brand promise. For example, the most important thing for a budget airline customer is price. While passengers might like extra leg room, they don’t want it at the expense of low airfares. In a global survey by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, 56% of companies described themselves as customer centric. Only 12% of their customers agreed.
Today the customer has become more demanding than ever before. Customers expect companies to be socially conscious and good global citizens. They expect to have unlimited access to information regarding your products and services and sometimes they know more than your sales staff. They expect companies to be available for them 24/7 via their preferred channel. These are a lot of expectations which require a different approach by organisations.

Big Data to the rescue!!
Fortunately, the Big Data era that we have entered will help creating a truly singular view of the customer. From now on organisations have no excuse anymore to put the customer at the centre of all decisions, such customer centric organisation should build an operating model around a deep understanding of its customers, what they value, and the contribution, or the customer life-time-value, that each customer makes to the profitability of the organisation. However, this is not easy to achieve as often still, every department has a different view of who the customer is. This should be prevented at all the times. For data-driven, information-centric organisations no department should ‘own’ the customer, or the data, and all should have the same view of who the customer is. This will ensure better customer interactions across all channels and departments.

A data-centric approach, instead of a process centric / product centric / channel centric / service centric approach will eventually result in customer centricity across the entire organisation, but it requires a culture that places the customers at the heart of decision-making processes. Such an alignment and integration of data, technology, processes and people should therefore become the main focus point for companies that want to create truly 360-degrees views of the customer.

Recent research by the CMO Council in collaboration with SAS has shown that 40% of the marketers and 51% of the IT employees surveyed viewed Big Data critical to the ability to develop and execute customer-centric programs. However, 52% of the marketers and 45% of IT professionals said that data that is in silos across an organisation makes it difficult to really achieve customer-centricity. So therefore, as long as there is no truly data-centric approach within your organisation, truly customer-centricity is difficult to achieve.

As per Forrester Research, Global customer experience peer research survey 2012, after every bad experience of doing business with a company, 65% of customers share bad experience with their friends, 34% send feedback to the company, while 25% express it on social media. Customer experience, if not given enough attention at the right time will lead to exponential revenue loss.

Thus combining data from social networks, the blogosphere, online surveys, click behaviour as well sales data, public data and open data can help create detailed personas and micro segments to better know and target your customers and hence improve conversion and increase sales. Data is therefore the lifeblood of any organisation and the future of truly unique 1:1 customer experiences lies in data centricity. Undoubtedly a data centric approach is the need of the hour for better customer centricity.


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