The Four Steps to Customer-Centricity


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Every day I talk with executives that want their companies to become more “customer-centric.” The idea that an organization should be responsive to the needs of its customers if it wants to survive is not a difficult one to accept. The real problem is figuring out how to implement specific actions that will transform good intentions into concrete results.

If your company aspires to greater customer-centricity, you need a plan. There are four steps.

1- Evaluate. The first phase is to define and understand the scope of the desired change; establish the context that creates the need to change; establish the “as is” baseline condition; and outline a change plan. It is very important at this stage to define and understand the external pressures that are causing the need for change – the burning platform – and secure agreement of key stakeholders that the need to become more customer-centric is critical to achieving the business goals set for the company. Answer the questions: “What needs to change to create deeper engagement with our customers?” “What business benefits will we achieve?” “What are the consequences of we don’t change?”

2- Design. The second phase comprises the steps necessary to develop a vision of what the enterprise will be like after the change is successfully completed. Then, determine the gaps in businesses capabilities that need to be closed between your “as is” and “to be.” Finally, define your strategy for change. Will you start with pilot projects, or work quickly through-out the entire organization? Will you work with existing structures, or create new ones?

3- Activate. During the third phase, you need to focus on gaining some quick successes, support and reinforce commitment, and align organizational systems. Implement training that will build the new job skills necessary to support new ways of working. Align reward and recognition systems to support the employee behaviors necessary to deliver a differentiated customer experience.

4- Measure. Finally, you will need a measurement strategy to tell if the transition to greater customer-centricity is on track. Establish operational measures to track the effectiveness and efficiency of customer-facing business processes. More important, establish customer “listening posts” to gauge perceptions of and attitudes towards your brand and business. For example, conduct customer surveys, do content analysis of consumer postings on social networking sites, and have senior executives sit in on customer service calls.

If your metrics for customer preference, satisfaction, and loyalty are not improving, declarations of being “customer-driven” are mere empty rhetoric.

William Band
Bill Band is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. He is a leading expert on CRM topics, having helped organizations define customer-driven strategies to achieve distinction in the marketplace for his entire career. Click here to download free related research from Forrester (free site registration required).


  1. Bill, If one were, before looking to take steps to build a customer centric policy or program, there is a “pre-step” that I believe most businesses do not take. That is, that they begin by looking at themselves as customers, themselves being everyone if the firm. It is not look at if they were their business’s customers as this comes later, but as customers of other businesses. What is it that is so aggravating that other businesses’ do is the key. Then, each person has to ask themself, if they were in charge of these other businesses, what would they do to lessen the aggravation?

    With this long list of UGH’s, as the company goes through the four step process you suggest, they, hopefully, will not do to their customers what they didn’t like being done to them. That would be, truly, being customer centric.

    Alan J. Zell, Ambassador of Selling, Attitudes for Selling
    [email protected]
    Winner of the Murray Award for Marketing Excellence
    Member, PNW Sales & Marketing Group
    Member, Institute of Management Consultants

  2. Although failing to plan is planning to fail, it is more important that every person in the firm understands why s/he needs to be customer-centric. However, knowing is only the first step, doing is what matters most. If there is no alignment from top to bottom, any customer-centric initiative is doomed to fail.

    Daryl Choy
    Make Little Things Count


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