Customer-centricity at the crossroads

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I know that you want to pursue a more customer-centric organization; what I don’t know is what road you plan to take to get there.

And you are at a crossroad with at least 5 choices:

1. Engineering road – best illustrated by six sigma DMAIC tools and practices, applied across the board. Look for travel guides sporting black belts.

2. Strategic differentiator road– these are mission based and baked into the value proposition of the firm. At best these become the brand-in action and capture how employees identify with their company. Look for mission statements on the wall, some signed by everyone who ever passed that way.

3. Consumer decision-making road – get to the mind of the individual customer and you drive the right behavior. These approaches apply behavioral economics, neuromarketing, and cognitive psychology to model and predict consumer activity. Depending whom you read, there is a thin line between become more customer-centric and just building a better mousetrap for your customers. Look for books with clever sounding titles to show you the way.

4. Best customer roaddata driven marketing analytics with a wide range of techniques such as RFM analysis help us segment customers. This enables better focus on the type of customers who really have earned customer- centric organizational attention. In these approaches all customers are appreciated, but some are more equal! Look for companies that measure each step along the road.

5. Competing values road – often getting a rise out of those on the mission-based road (because it suggests there may be more than only one correct value), this approach acknowledges that other values (operational efficiency and profit), if ignored, will drive employees to work counter to customer-centricity. The key is to find the complementary strengths of each set of values and set up early warning systems to alert when one value is acting to the detriment of the other. Look for a longer road to customer-centricity, but one where you manage the resistance that often undermines lasting change.

Think of customer-centricity like a puzzle and the implication is there is one correct answer; you just need to get there quickly…. You probably are headed down the first or second of the five roads noted above. You may get committed participants, but just as many will respond only out of compliance with pressure to do so. How sustainable is that?

Think of customer-centricity like a technical challenge and the first thing you have to do is frame the challenge around the components; then treat each component like a puzzle, so that all the pieces fit neatly together…. You are probably headed down the third or fourth of the roads noted above. These are great journeys of the mind, but you won’t capture the heart, at least not until you prove to each business unit the benefits for them personally.

Think of customer-centricity as an adaptive challenge, where hearts and minds must be won to achieve sustainable change, and where you can’t simply engineer your way to success given how many moving parts and how much uncertainty is in your environment and the first thing you have to do is assess readiness for change; then you have to manage to a level of tension so employees begin to see the real possibility of change they create for themselves. This is the fifth road noted above; it may include side trips to any and all of the other four roads, but if you go this route, you can bet employees will want to help drive the bus!

I know you are concerned with customer centricity. Now tell me which road you plan to go down to get there!

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