28 May Customer-Centricity
Customer-centric behaviour is viral. If I see the people around me consistently basing their decisions and actions on customer priorities, then I’ll either learn to do the same or I’ll quickly find my way out of the group.
The challenge is that real focus on the customer doesn’t always reach the centre of an organisation.
Often the ‘central team’ – leadership and those who most shape the processes of the organisation – are actually the people who have the least contact with customers. In fact they may be focused on another stakeholder altogether, like the board and shareholders.
In some businesses (fig. a), this core team may interact little with customers, but they also represent a relatively small part of the overall employee population. So the voice of the customer is carried to them by their more customer-focused colleagues, and their behaviour can be positively shaped by all the customer-centric behaviour around them.
In other organisations though (fig. b), it can be the opposite: customer contact limited to a small group of staff, with the vast weight of the organisation focused on other activities, like product manufacturing and maintenance, process, administration and reporting, etc.
One of our clients in this second category shared with me that only 20% of their email traffic was going in or out, while most of their communication was internal. When I expressed surprise that as much as 20% of emails were external, she pointed out that this figure included all communication with suppliers, as well as staff’s personal email. Only a tiny fraction of it would be interaction with customers.
The voice of the customer needs to be brought directly and constantly into the organisation’s isolated core, with customer panels, brown-bag lunches and roadshows, intranet campaigns and forums, video and animations, immersive displays in the workplace, or whatever it takes.
For one client, we’re physically relocating teams that are customer-centric in their function or attitude, and placing them where they’ll be more visible to the rest of the organisation.
Like any meme, it’s a question of critical mass: once enough people adopt the behaviour, it becomes the way things are done around here.