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I originally wrote today’s post for CX Network. It appeared on their site on October 17, 2023.

I have seen many articles that refer to a company’s “customer-centric people,” “customer-centric behavior,” “customer-centric tips,” “customer-centric marketing,” etc. I’m sure you’ve read many of them. But in the words of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

As the articles carry on, it becomes especially clear that the term that should be used is customer-focused behavior. Customer-centric behavior is ingrained in the culture; customer-focused behavior is only for some people (sales, service, customer-facing employees) or happens at some touchpoints in the organization.

And that’s what these articles are referring to: tactical things that are being done in that moment to ensure that the customer stays, buys, or returns. (Yes, combining those tactical moments across the enterprise can add up to a customer-centric organization, but there’s so much more to it than that.)

What is Customer-Centricity?

If you’re truly building a customer-centric culture, that means that everyone puts the customer at the center of all they do – whether it’s with regard to interactions with the customer in front of you or it’s another customer that needs help somewhere else. Or you’re behind the scenes and don’t even interact directly with customers.

As a matter of fact, I like to define a customer-centric culture as one where:

No discussions, no decisions, no designs without bringing in the customer and her voice, without asking how it will impact the customer, how it will make her feel, what problems it will help her to solve, what value it will create and deliver for her.

Customer-centricity is an approach to doing business in which the business:

  • Focuses on creating a positive experience and delivering value for the customer by understanding the customer, her needs, pain points, problems to solve, and jobs to be done – and by understanding that not all customers are created equal.
  • Places the customer at the center of its philosophy, operations, and ideas. (Investopedia)
  • Understands that customers are the only reason they exist.

Sadly, there’s a perception gap between businesses who think they put the customer at the heart of all they do and what customers think or believe. In their The Disconnected Customer report, Capgemini noted that businesses and customers are “miles apart on the customer experience.” They found that 75 percent of businesses believe they are customer-centric, while only 30 percent of customers agree. It has to be made clear what it means to be customer-centric.

Why Customer-Centricity?

Why is this important? What are the benefits of designing and living a culture that puts the customer at the heart of the business? First and foremost, without customers, you have no business. So, doesn’t it make sense to listen to them, to serve them (well), and to create and add value for them? The returns are undeniable.

According to Deloitte, customer-centric businesses are 60 percent more profitable than their product-focused counterparts. And Aon Hewitt found that a strong culture leads companies to perform higher in revenue growth, operating margin, and total shareholder return.

That sounds pretty compelling to me!

Is Your Company Customer-Centric?

As you think about whether your organization is customer-centric or not, consider these questions.

  • What are your company’s core values?

Culture = core values + behaviors. To support the fact that a customer-centric culture is deliberately designed, the company’s core values must align with and support customer-centricity. You don’t have to have values that mention the customer, just values that align with the customer-centric culture that you want to create.

  • What are your company’s mission, vision, brand promise, and purpose?

These statements are critical to forming the foundation of your organization. What they say can truly make the difference between a customer-centric culture or not.

  • Have these corporate statements been socialized and operationalized?

They cannot remain posters on a wall or, worse yet, hidden on your intranet or website, never to be found – by anyone. You must socialize and operationalize them.

  • Are your executives committed to and aligned on creating a customer-centric organization?

Executives set the tone for the type of organization you’ll have, but first they must be both committed to and aligned (across the organization) on the work that lies ahead to ensure that the entire business is bringing the customer into all it does.

  • Are employees and the employee experience a primary focus for your executives?

Without employees, you have no customer experience. Take care of employees, and they will take care of your customers. The employee experience drives the customer experience; it’s been proven.

  • Is the customer ingrained in the organization’s DNA?

A customer-centric culture is one in which the customer’s needs and perspectives are woven into the fabric of the organization and are, literally, at the center of every decision, conversation, action, process, strategy, etc.

  • Where do people fall relative to products, profits, and metrics?

Executives must commit to putting people (employees, customers, vendors, partners, etc.) first – before all else. When they put people first, the numbers will come. The numbers are an outcome. Focus on the means to those outcomes first.

  • Do your executives think they know what’s best for the customer, or do they take the time to bring customer voices into key decisions?

Making decisions based on what you think you know about customers is detrimental to the health of the business.

  • How are employees and customers treated?

Are they treated the way you want to be treated? Or are they treated the way they want to be treated? Just remember, people want to be treated the way they want to be treated; that may differ from how you want to be treated.

  • Have you established a governance model?

Governance sounds scary, but it’s important for oversight and execution. And it’s important to break down and/or connect silos that keep collaboration and information sharing from happening, both of which are critical to a customer-centric organization.

In Closing…

How did you answer those questions? (BTW, for a more-detailed view, check out my assessment on annettefranz.com.)

Is your brand customer-centric?

No?

It’s time to double down and get serious about designing a customer-centric organization. I like to say: fix the culture, fix the outcomes.

Culture is not fluff. Putting people first in your organization is not fluff. It’s real. The impact is real. There is a direct correlation between designing a customer-centric organization that addresses those ten questions and the outcomes a business achieves.

So goes the leader, so goes the culture. So goes the culture, so goes the company. ~ Simon Sinek

Don’t delay. Make it a priority.

ABOUT ANNETTE

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business [Advantage|ForbesBooks], which is available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your EX and CX game.

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