At Duxton we talk a lot about putting the customer at the heart of a Company. Few Companies that we talk to disagree with that philosophy. Unfortunately few Companies are also prepared to make the changes and commitments that true customer centricity requires.
Becoming Customer Centric is a commitment above and beyond the current practice of simply running consumer research, optimizing customer experience, getting user satisfaction scores, etc. It is putting Customer Value before Shareholder Value. This requires including the voice of the customer in the highest decision making committees, right up to Board level.
Delivering real Customer Value often impacts short term profitability which is why most companies only pay lip service to customer centricity. Strong leaders have a real focus on customer centricity as the highest corporate goal. It takes a visionary leader to explain to the shareholders that customer value will build shareholder value over the long run.
Some of the characteristics and strategic actions of successful Companies which are truly customer centric.
- High performing Companies are distinguished by their ability to integrate data on what consumers are doing with why they are doing it….which yields new insights into consumer needs and how best to meet them.
- Companies are increasingly enhancing the value of their products by creating customer experiences. Some deepen the customer relationship by leveraging what they know about a given customer to personalised offerings. Others focus on the breadth of the relationship by adding touchpoints. High performing brands do both: delivering a ‘total experience’. The most important marketing metric may soon change from ‘share of wallet’ or ‘share of voice’, to ‘share of experience’.
- The internet and social media are changing and complicating the relationship between a company and its customers. Today, communication is a two-way process between a brand and its customers, and between users themselves in their online communities. Companies and their Brands are now being viewed and discussed from a much more holistic perspective. Companies are not only being judged on what they produce, but also how they do it, who they work with, & what social impact they have.
Customers are now sharing their experiences online. Waves of opinions, perceptions & attitudes wash around a host of communities. on the internet. Any negative customer experience, product failure, or inappropriate behaviour is immediately exposed and can have a hugely damaging impact on a business.
Conversely, positive experiences which exceed expectations lead to customer advocacy and positive word of mouth.
Most companies are not handling this well. Senior management is largely unaware of what is being discussed about their company online until an issue begins to be reported in traditional media or affects sales. There is usually no internal Corporate mechanism by which senior management can stay abreast of online discussions and listen and respond to customers.
In fact most companies don’t seem to have a social media or digital strategy. They only have a facebook page because marketing says they should have one….
- An organisation needs to adapt to meet these new strategic imperatives, which means that traditional organisation structures need to be changed. This is why, in the 21st century, marketing is everyone’s job in a Company.
It means that the role of the Marketing Department will need to change, and the internal structure of Companies will need to adapt to this new consumer.
Marketing is too important to be left just to the marketers in a company. Marketing has become very holistic as consumers expect their brand experience to be consistent and to exceed their expectations at every touchpoint.
To deliver a seamless experience, one informed by data and imbued with brand purpose, all employees of the company must share a common vision. So the Marketing Department must be relocated to the centre of a Company’s operations thus ensuring every part of the Company is customer focused, and delivering a positive consumer experience:
- connecting, collaborating and strategising with all other departments in a company
- inspiring all employees with a clear vision and mission
- coordinating the execution of agreed plans, and focusing on the job to be done, and its specific metrics
- training and mentoring
- adapting and responding quickly to issues and opportunities
So Companies will need to give the Marketing Department an internal coordination role as well as an external communications role.
It’s what we call inside out marketing. And it will be key to the future of most businesses.