Academy Xi Blog

Why most customer-centric problems aren’t about the customer

By Academy Xi

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As more organisations acknowledge customer-centricity as a business imperative, the barriers that stand in its way are set to be dismantled. These barriers are rarely presented by the customer and are more often the result of internal organisational friction. Read on to get our take on:

  • The internal dynamics that often hamper well-meaning organisational customer-centric efforts
  • Why the silo effect still exists and the practical methods you can use to break down silos to benefit your customer
  • Why EX (employee experience) is a crucial part of any customer-centricity strategy
  • How to lay the right foundations for broad-scale, consistent organisational customer-centricity

Moving from strategy to operationalisation.

A lot of energy can be spent developing a customer-centric strategy. The thing about strategy is that it is just that. Shifting from strategising to operationalisation is a key part of any business’ realisation of customer-centricity. Like anything operational, the key is to get everyone on the same page. It is at this point that executives need to establish and reaffirm a shared vision of customer-centricity to the whole business. This is also the time to get very clear on what this looks like for your business. Questions like ‘What is happening when someone is being customer-centric?’ and ‘How do we reward this?’ should be understood by everyone. At Academy Xi, we believe in establishing a ‘Customer-Centricity Playbook’, a tangible product that everyone has a copy of. Lay it out clearly, no ambiguity. 

Working in silos: still the major barrier

Despite being coined 35 years ago, the ‘silo effect’ still hinders the way we work in various ways. At its worst, the silo effect results in a customer perceiving an organisation to be disjointed, dysfunctional and incompetent. This is often the result of different parts of the business having their own, incomplete view of a customer. This ‘broken’ perspective frequently leads to the customer being serviced poorly or misunderstood. 

The fix is in the flow of information across your organisation. The Harvard Business Review calls this “Democratising Customer Insights”. For example, if your customer service team hears a certain complaint from customers, what levers do you have in place for that information to reach the problem-area? How critical is it to that specific team to solve the issue? Or are they disincentivised to step in as they are ‘better off’ working towards the KPIs they have in place to measure their performance?

Where is the best place to start in addressing silo mentality? Blueprint your organisation. In the Human-Centred Design world, this is the specialty of Service Designers. Develop a “current state” and “future state” blueprint to assess your gaps. From there you can start to align organizational priorities, communications, workstreams and reward systems to reinforce the importance of long-term customer-centricity.

Not just departmental silos: The hierarchical gap

Poor communication between your executive suite and customer-facing teams can lead to a disconnect between strategy and execution. While C-level is responsible for the overarching strategy, your customer-service teams have the real-world insights. How does Xi go about bridging the gap? We use training to teach both sides how to employ customer-centric tools, and then bring them together to air, share and communicate their respective findings.

For instance, frontline teams can use their customer knowledge to create artefacts like empathy maps and personas, while execs focus their attention on service blueprints. The magic? Bringing them together so each can share their work with the other.

Minimise the distance between what could be done and what is being done. 

Organisations have typically been built on layers of process, procedure and systems. This can be a thorny, complicated web for your staff to navigate when they’re trying to put their customer first. With only 38% of American consumers saying that the employees they interact with understand their needs (PwC), there is an enormous opportunity for businesses here if they can peel back existing processes, procedures, metrics and systems and assess whether they still serve their customer mission. 

Ultimately, you want to empower your people to make impactful, customer-centred decisions – and remove the impediments that stand in their way. For example, if your frontline staff have KPIs designed to limit their time on a customer call, you may actually be stopping them from delivering a good experience.

When data is a problem

Despite the growing availability of rich customer data, many organisations don’t have the capacity to analyse it and drive lasting customer-centric change. The key here is having enough structure in place to manage it meaningfully. Getting this right will enable businesses to use what they’ve learned about customers to their advantage. 

When CX is prioritised over EX (Employee Experience)

When employees are empowered and enjoy their work, the customer wins. It’s a concept we all inherently understand but one that is often overlooked at a strategic level. Businesses that excel in CX have employees that are 1.5 times more engaged than businesses with poorer CX ratings (Forbes). This is never more pronounced than with customer-facing teams. Interacting with satisfied customers not only makes for a better day for your customer service rep, but it also reaffirms that the business is doing good work overall. Happy staff > satisfied customers > increased ROI.

Could you use some help creating a “Customer Centricity Playbook” or blueprinting the service processes for your organisation? Get in touch.

Academy Xi Blog

What exactly is Customer Centricity?

By Academy Xi

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Who owns Customer-Centricity (and why it’s a challenge for organisations to get right).

There are a number of debates happening inside organisations around Customer-Centricity. Read on to learn more about:

  • Is customer centricity a business strategy or a mindset? Our opinion: when it is done well, it is both.
  • Is it the exclusive domain of Human-Centered Designers? We don’t think so, although it riffs heavily off these practices.
  • Where does Customer Centricity start and marketing end? The two are drawing ever closer together.
  • Does it flourish when executive teams buy into it? Yes, but it performs best when it moves beyond being a ‘top-down’ directive and individuals can take ownership.

As a concept, customer centricity isn’t hard to get your head around. Most of us will bring to mind the idea of keeping the customer at the centre of everything. It is often discussed in the contexts of digital transformation, customer lifetime value and corporate ‘customer culture’. Bringing customer centricity to life, however, seems to be a sticking point for many businesses. 

With 70% of customers basing their purchasing decision on how they feel they are being treated by a brand (McKinsey), customer centricity is clearly important for businesses. If there is a question to ask to determine your organisation’s status quo, it is: How “close” do your employees feel to your customers? 

Business strategy or a mindset? 

When it is done well, customer centricity is both. To set an organisation up for success, customer centricity needs to be planned for, talked about and resourced. Like anything strategic, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Many would argue however that the horse (mindset) needs to come before the cart (tools and processes). A truly customer centric organisational culture is one where each person aligns themselves with providing a great customer experience. This flows from strategic goals down to the day-to-day ‘business as usual’.

Is it a design discipline?

If you talk to human-centred designers, they will gravitate toward the idea of what we call structural customer centricity. This relates to how a company’s systems and processes are designed. If they were built with the customer’s needs in mind, then that is a structural customer centricity. This is often called customer experience (CX). From a customer’s perspective, CX pervades their every interaction with that brand. Watch our webinar “Customer Experience Unpacked” to learn more.

Is it a new lens through which to view Digital Marketing?

If you speak to a marketer, however, they will likely focus on understanding their customers, gauging their lifetime value to the company, and making the buying process as frictionless as possible. Customers want to be understood as more than an email address or part of an audience segment. The ability to know where a customer is at in their journey with your brand allows you to deliver the goods: the right message at the right time in the right way. This is another example of structural customer-centricity. Check out our recent blog ‘3 practical steps for driving CX success as a Digital Marketer’.

Is it the domain of frontline staff?

To put forward another interpretation, if you are a frontline staff member who speaks to customers, you will focus on the idea of being personally customer centric. This relates to what you personally can do to put your customer’s needs first. Customer-facing teams also have an important role to play when it comes to the way information flows through a business. They hear it all first hand: what are customers thinking, which competitors are they assessing you against and what are their pain points.

Should it be an executive-led culture change?

Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable compared to those that are not focused on the customer (Deloitte and Touche). With such potential gain to the bottom line, it’s no surprise that executive teams are leaning in to customer centricity. When redefining any element of corporate culture, it pays to ensure that the leadership is behind it and lead by example.

How We See It

When customer centricity really starts to pay dividends for a business is when it is adopted organisation-wide. Executive leadership, strategy, design, marketing, customer service and client-facing teams all combine to leave your customer with an impression of your business. Everyone owns it. Customer centricity is as much a top-down initiative as much as it is a bottom-up way of working. And unsurprisingly, things work more smoothly when they are connected by a broader mission.

As always, it comes down to people. Do your teams have the mindset, toolkit and corporate culture needed to live and breathe customer centricity? Do they carve out time to talk about what customer-centricity actually looks like to them? Do they have access to concrete tools for being customer-centric themselves? Giving your people the resources and space they need to practice will help you set a solid foundation from which it’s possible to grow a truly customer-centered business. 

Want to talk about building a more customer-centric way of working? Check out our customer centricity training options and drop us a line.