Article by Nii A. Quaye, MBA
Customer Centricity. Customer Centric. Customer Focused.
Lovely phrases conjuring thoughts and visions of customers snuggly tucked in bed at night, knowing their bank or telco or cable provider, thinks about them and only them, runs to the door to greet them with lovely goodies and bear hugs as they walk in, hand them cups of favorite java, and repeat this anytime and anywhere they engage. Companies go on and on about it, bandying it about like a light saber warding off dastardly parries from attrition and complaints, and loss of credibility. My favorite is when I see them on websites or as part of quotes by execs, platitudinally making references to it, and ascribing sales performance to it.
However, when you peel back the layers of the onion, these same organizations may have fairly middling to average CSAT or NPS scores, customers leave in droves, their social media are full of complaints, and general perception is really not in line with what they say. Remember that research a few years back where 85% of execs said they were customer centric and yet only 8% of their clients agreed? Even closer, how many times have their clients had a good experience, followed up with a crappy one, topped off with an indifferent one?
All of these can be traced back to either the lack of consistency in understanding the construct of customer centricity and the purpose of CX, or the inability to properly operationalize them. This article focuses on the latter.
In the ACE Service Delivery Workshop, I define customer centricity as “an intentional focus and commitment at all levels by an organization, to put client needs – known and unknown/to be created – at the center of its strategy, infrastructure, operations, solutions and delivery.” This means that functionally and operationally, people, processes, client engagement and culture change must be structurally addressed, to ensure success in engendering a customer-centric culture shift. In other words, there accidents, luck, half-hearted efforts, will never optimally build a customer centric enough culture to yield improvements in your organization’s CX.
Activating the culture shift – either nascent or restructuring – of, whether Implementing a strategy as an internal leader or engaging a company as a management consultant, is not an accidental endeavor. It requires emphasis on four pillars broken into two key functional focuses: the “soft” client advocacy component(CX), and the “hard” operational component(OE). Basically, you need an eco-system approach where you build out both pure CX capabilities framework, and the process/procedural/systems/policies/SLAs framework.
Doing one without the other leaves gaps in competence and execution, which are manifest in inconsistent or non-existent positive experiences by your clients across all engagements and touch points. If you build up your soft CX competencies, without building organizational infrastructure to back it up, sentiments initially may lift based on a short burst of excited activity amongst your staff. People may be nicer, may act a little quicker, may respond more thoroughly, may listen a little better, may actually go above and beyond, think outside the box and provide the first level service clients want. Ultimately however you will fail because it is not uniformly and consistently sustainable: you won’t have the appropriate infrastructure around processing, training, executing and measurable KPIs to execute against your promises. The value of a lovely “let me look into that right away, sorry for your inconvenience, hang on a minute,” dies when there are no support processes, SLAs, or escalation matrices, to actually successfully drive looking into it and providing a prompt and through resolution!
Conversely, if you build or re-engineer processes and procedures, launch products/services, or initiatives and projects not based on what clients feel really impact CX, then you have a lot of non-value-added work. A great project to shorten the cycle time of an approval for an exception waiver of fees on a product, is pointless if you haven’t based it on VOC feedback which tells you clients are more interested in being able to access the product when first requested, and would gladly pay the fees to get access!
It is critical to build solid capabilities around both functional focuses, operating in concert and dynamically interacting continuously, to ensure you have the discipline of knowing what clients need, and providing employees the environment to deliver on same. Great CX must align client needs with operational capabilities if it is to be sustained.
When you create these two functional capabilities, with attendant training, staffing, KPIs, SLA focus, communications, rewards/recognition, empowerment matrices, process focus etc etc, you eliminate accidental happenings, instill habits and discipline that are measurable, enforceable, repeatable and continuously improved, and thus ultimately more profitably align client needs to your operational capabilities.
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