How to be a successful customer centric organisation

Recent events, from Brexit, the pandemic, the rising cost of living and ongoing supply chain issues,   have demonstrated that we now live in a world where things change quickly, including the expectations and demands of consumers

Organisations now find themselves coming up against significant challenges, such as continuing to grow post-pandemic, attracting and retaining talent in a competitive market and adapting to a new, far more digitalised world. And alongside this, they now must prepare for the unexpected, and expected, challenges that could be thrown their way.  

We studied how some of Europe’s top organisations work, and looked at how well they perform in meeting those key challenges. 

In our study, The State of Customer Centricity, we found that the top-ranking organisations in terms of growth and success were the ones that were the most customer centred. 

Those organisations who are putting their customers at the heart of their business are achieving nine times the growth when compared with their competitors, and they are four times more likely to have employees who feel highly satisfied. They’re also part of a small group of businesses who are able to pivot quickly when it comes to challenges taking only weeks or months to make changes, compared with others who would take years to implement.  

For the majority of organisations, caring about their customers is a given, but it’s the high-performing ones, who have a customer-centric operational model, that are truly achieving this. When businesses set themselves up to be based around what their customers need, and how they can adapt to offer that – they’re destined for success.   

The road to success has manifested itself in five key behaviours – the five keys to customer centricity. 

Distribute control 

High-performing organisations gave their teams more freedom to make their own choices, and balanced top-down and bottom-up decision-making. However, it’s also important to consider how decisions are split in the decision-making process. For example, high-performing organisations were far more interested in what their customers said, while low-performing organisations were more likely to prioritise managerial opinion. 

Decentralising control has two main advantages. Firstly, decisions get made faster as you don’t need to wait for approval from the very top. Secondly, decisions are made by people working in close proximity to the customer, and those who spend more time analysing and understanding user research. This means that the decisions made are of better quality, as they are more likely to take into account the overall impact on the customer. 

Avoid assumptions, prioritise questioning  

High-performing organisations were more likely to use data to inform decision-making – across all levels of the organisation. When setting a strategy, high-performing organisations also took into account market trends, customer insights and qualitative data – namely customer stories. Qualitative data can be extremely valuable as it can give you a greater understanding of your customer, helping you make sense of other types of data you collect. 

Being driven by data also means creating a culture that rewards employees for seeking out information, particularly relating to stories about your customers. This is facilitated by decentralising control; by allowing employees across your organisation to actively seek out information, you increase your bandwidth to gather and act on information relating to your customer. 

 Making the employee experience the priority  

It’s also important to provide employees with the tools, technologies, and support they need to transform the customer experience. Our study also showed that high-performing organisations chose software and technology platforms based on customer outcomes – meaning issues like cost, politics and personal opinions were secondary considerations when selecting technology. 

In addition, adopting a modular, more flexible approach towards technology and user interfaces can help. By investing in agile technology that is easy to update and replace, you can respond to customer-facing challenges faster – and improve the customer experience in the long-term. 

Put people in the right positions to understand customers  

In our study, high-performing companies were more likely to have specialist roles focused on understanding customers, and converted these insights into products and services. With more user researchers available, high maturity organisations were able to embed these employees into product delivery teams, and give people within these roles autonomy in the decision-making process. 

High-performing organisations also had employees operating as cross-functional teams across their organisation, rather than having each team managed separately. While this requires a degree of matrix management, allowing teams to collaborate across your organisation means you can combine expertise to solve customer problems – yielding quicker and more effective results.  

Communicate constantly  

Above skills, process and governance, internal communication was the biggest differentiator between high and low-performing organisations. Teams in high performing organisations were far more likely to be aware of how their projects fitted into the wider business strategy and aligned to other ongoing projects in the organisation. 

Within this open dialogue, it’s also important to encourage sharing customer insights between teams. For example, by allowing those working in customer-facing roles to communicate customer needs and behaviour with employees responsible for project delivery. Doing so will enable you to respond to customer queries faster and more effectively, improving the quality of decision making across your organisation. 

Finding out the true benefits of becoming customer-first  

Understanding customer needs is essential to becoming a customer centric organisation, but this cannot be assumed, it must become an embedded part of the business strategy that is properly researched and developed over time. All teams and individuals within the organisation must think about the end customer and how the actions they are taking will impact them.  

When organisations embrace the customer centricity model, they are likely to see their performance improve. This is especially true for the product, solutions and services that they create or updates that are made which come as a direct result of customer feedback. The rewards for doing so include increased customer loyalty, financial success and a prime position to compete with others.  

Find out how to create a more customer centric model for your organisation here 

About the Author

Giles Colborne is CEO at cxpartners. cxpartners is a user experience design consultancy based in London and Bristol, UK. We help some of the world’s biggest companies focus on their customers, design better services, build their teams, and transform their businesses. We’re part of Sopra Steria which provides consulting, IT, and outsourcing services at scale.

 Featured image: ©RawPixel