Overcoming the Top 3 Barriers to Customer-Centricity

Overcoming the Top 3 Barriers to Customer-Centricity

GUEST POST from Alain Thys

I just finished a presentation for the leadership team of a European travel company that wanted to better understand the barriers they would face on their journey to true customer-centricity. And what they could do about it. 

It was a good excuse to give a 2022 update to some of my older thinking on the topic. And while I can’t really share the presentation, I’m including as summary of the Top 3 barriers below. In case you find them of interest. 

BARRIER #1: Lack of Clarity

Everyone wants to be customer centric, but no one explains what that means in practice. Not just to agree on what a great customer experience looks like. But also to think through its implications for the business. 

What changes does Aïsha need to plan in her logistics department? What return can shareholders expect for investing in ‘happy faces’? What new developments do distributors and ecosystem partners need to plan for? And are any of these implications realistic within available timelines and budgets?

Without this clarity, everyone will interpret ‘being customer-centric’ in its own way, so initiatives will go in a thousand directions. Or simply grind to a halt because of an operational or financial disconnect.

Either way, with the best of intentions, the only certainty is that customers will have a variable experience depending on the touchpoint, person or time of day. 

Overcoming the Barrier: Clearly describe your customer experience. What are you promising? How will you make it happen? And what does it mean for each of your internal and external stakeholders? And before you hit the ‘start’ button, check whether all of your ideas are realistic.

BARRIER #2: Lack of Empathy

Whenever a leadership team embraces customer-centricity, the buzzwords and targets start flying around. Metrics like Net Promoter, customer ease or new kid on the block TLM appear in PowerPoint decks and we focus everything on driving the numbers.

But as management teams get excited, those around them care a lot less. Employees prefer meaningful work and decent salaries over KPIs. Shareholders may not see why they should sacrifice short-term profit for customer smiles. Distribution and ecosystem partners have got their hands full in running their own business.

The result is that strategies are implemented because you say so as a leader. This compliance often works in the short-term. But it disintegrates when processes, negotiations, and culture get in the way. Or when the next budget cut or senior executive comes around.

Overcoming the Barrier: Anchor your customer-centricity drive in the culture by reframing it into what matters to your different stakeholders. Connect the customer experience to the values and culture of those who work for you. Show your shareholders how smiles and money go hand in hand. Engage your ecosystem to create a common vision, instead of imposing yours. Make the strategy theirs, instead of yours.

BARRIER #3: Lack of Vision

Customer teams focus most, if not all, of their attention on improving the customer’s experience based on feedback and competitive benchmarks. Rightly so. Dropping the ball on a touchpoint or moment may cost dearly in both loyalty and revenue. 

But too much focus on ‘continuous improvement’ can blind us to the experience that ‘should exist’ tomorrow. In today’s economy, the last best experience the customers had anywhere, become their expectation everywhere. It’s just that they can’t tell what it is before they’ve had it. At which point, we’re too late.

Unfair? Totally. But also reality.

Overcoming the Barrier: Keep improving today, but allocate at least 20% of your time to imagining the customer’s future that ‘should exist’. Look at life through the eyes of your customer and prototype experiences they cannot imagine today. Be the one who raises the expectation bar, so it forces others to follow.

I’m not saying these are the only barriers. But if you tackle them, you’ve probably avoided some of the biggest pitfalls to customer-centricity out there.

May the customer force be with you!

Image credit: Pixabay

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