What does it take to drive a top-down plan for customer-centricity?
Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from COLLOQUY, provider of loyalty-marketing publishing, education and research since 1990.
To effectively establish an enterprise-wide customer-centric mindset, change management is the key, and change management initiatives work best when driven from the C-suite, according to Clay Walton-House, who leads the customer retention and loyalty practice at Lenati.
“The C-suite needs to make the case for change,” said Mr. Walton-House. “Customer-centricity can tie directly to profitability — and employees need to be aware of that connection. It’s crucial to engage all departments, especially those with limited or no customer contact.”
The top-down approach, according to Mr. Walton-House, offers specific benefits:
- Streamlined approvals. At the management level, approvals must typically be obtained both vertically from supervisors and horizontally from peers in other departments. The C-suite can bypass potential obstacles in navigating the organizational chart.
- Clarity of message, since the directive comes from a single authoritative source.
- A sense of priority and urgency, because when organizational leadership points the way, employees are motivated to follow.
- Faster acceptance by employees, as they follow the strategic direction from the C-suite.
He said three key action steps help ensure successful change: defining, measuring and implementing.
“An explicit, clear-cut definition of customer-centricity ensures enterprise-wide consistency and enhances employee buy-in,” said Mr. Walton-House. “From senior leadership, this requires an explanation of what customer-centricity means in practice and how the principles apply specifically to the organization.”
Measurement criteria should move from product-driven metrics — such as units produced, units shipped or sales volume — toward metrics like customer lifetime value and share of wallet. Said Mr. Walton-House, “Setting up this type of measurement reveals where opportunities exist at the customer level — not the product level — which is the essence of customer-centricity.”
Finally, implementation involves linking employees to specific tactics that pertain their areas of responsibility.
“Throughout the process, employees need reinforcement — not just slogans, but reminders of why it’s important and their role in its success: ‘Here’s how you influence customer value, and here’s how you can increase it,’” said Mr. Walton-House. “Tying customer-centricity to the bottom line, regardless of department, makes the message both meaningful and impactful.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the main hurdles or overlooked steps toward creating a customer-centric organization? How do leaders most frequently lose focus?