How to build a customer-centric organization

Consistent client-focus is a strategic decision that starts small, scales quickly and adapts well. And its impact has positive effects on the bottom-line.

Client focus is a key principle in many firms and it is becoming increasingly clear that its value runs deeper than communications and quality of service at different touch points. Many have realized, customer experience sells well. 

There is however an urgent need to understand success factors of client-centricity. As companies face pressure from start-ups and new business models, traditional companies need to seek ways to quickly adapt to these new conditions. Some cannot take the pressure and face bankruptcy while others remain agile in the face of change. Google, Apple, Amazon, and PayPal are for example using their customer base and client knowledge to develop new business models and customer relations. 

Obstacles to realize a customer centered organization are diverse: complexity, silos, IT legacy systems to name a few – but remaining relevant to customers is a critical success factor for all companies. 

«Customer centricity is quickly promised and only slowly implemented – its a journey where all organizational units have to rethink their habits.»

Establishing customer centricity will require a new approach and new skills. Important questions include: Where can we start? How can we scale client-focus? How can we adapt to the conditions outlined above? How can we firmly embed client-focus within the organization?

The journey is part of the change

Typical journeys to customer centricity respect the fact that we can not change everything at the same time and that the learnings on the journey are as important as the result itself. A process could look like this:

Inspire, learn and convince

Interest in the topic is awakened with experience-driven trainings. With the implementation of smaller projects, customer-centricity quickly gains visibility, and the new method of collaboration can be practiced and improved. With the creation of a physical home for customer-centricity, the long-term commitment istangible internally. 

Prove, empower and scale

Internal specialists guide project teams to adopt a customer-centric approach and develop a „learning by doing“ practice. Additional specialists ensure, as part of the project organization, that the customer‘s perspective is taken into consideration during the decision-making process. The consistent application and success of these methods in all strategically relevant projects proves the added value of customer-centricity and generates internal demand for its tools and skills. The additional development and expansion of the pool of facilitators accelerates the adaption of customer-centricity internally.

Anchor, expand and enhance

In addition to the existing core unit, smaller customer-centricity teams are established throughout all organizational units (including support units such as IT, infrastructure and HR). These teams enable managers in these units to develop and improve appropriate working methods and conditions in addition to supporting project teams.

Fundamental changes in corporate culture

From our experience companies who successfully established a corporate culture that puts its customers first, tolerates mistakes and facilitates new perspectives, implemented the following changes:

Shifting perspective

Always start by understanding every facet of the customers and their needs instead of placing products and features first

Coping with uncertainty

Deal with fluidity and uncertainties instead of protecting oneself with processes and structuresChanging the way you leadCreate conditions that foster customer-centric thinking and ways of working rather than focusing on management

Emphasizing balanced decisions

Make balanced decisions based on valid customer insights, instead of only profitability and technical feasibility

Reframing habits

Break previous patterns and move habits towardscustomer-centricity rather than focusing ontraditional processes and ways of collaboration

Provoking random collisions

Create spaces for unplanned interactions bothinternally and with customers to enable innovationand move employees away from their desks

How will your journey look like?

Establishing client focus will be a long journey and will bring challenges – some big, some small. It is a huge opportunity for many companies and worth the trip. We believe the following questions are essential to consider: