Customer centricity is all the rage for businesses across the world. This focus on the customer has been prompted in large part by “digital transformation” programs. Customers not only can use social media as a soapbox to rail against a poor product or service, they also have easy access to compare, contrast and switch thanks to the marvels of the new technologies.

Missing the target

It makes me smile to think how companies are waking up en masse to customer centricity and delivering on the customer experience (CX). Survey after survey (e.g. North Highland 2020 Beacon) shows that a majority of companies have now made customer experience a strategic imperative. So, nearly everyone is on the case. Many companies will wish to believe that “our customer is king.” The same companies might also be heard spouting that their human resources are their most important asset. Truth is, however, the customer typically got lost in internal issues, a poor company culture and/or as a result of short-term performance pressures. Whatever the cause, most companies are missing the target. To be sure, it’s not an easy task in these charged times with so many confounding if not contradictory forces pulling on our limited resources. But, I believe leadership — and a consequent lack of employee engagement — is largely to blame.

It’s all about YOU?

As companies continue to explore and wrangle with digital transformation, there is one recurring common conclusion that most companies come up with: it’s critical to focus on the customer. When I walk down the high street, it’s not uncommon to see the shop front parading out slogans like: “It’s all about YOU” or “We’re here for YOU.” The travel agency, TUI’s 2017 advertisement, has a rather cute tagline: “At TUI, We cross the T, dot the I, And put U in the middle.”

Focusing on the customer is of course important. In fact, it’s vital for the success of your transformation program. By keeping the customer in the center, the internal walls and dogged silos will start to disintegrate. But unless the leadership is exhibiting the necessary behaviors, leading by example and deeply clued in to employee and customer experiences, the transformation efforts are bound to falter, if not fail.

How to measure customer experience?

For all the cute taglines and expressions of intent written on paper, the real measures of success are in customer satisfaction, to what extent they remain loyal and how much they talk up your offer to others (without being sponsored). Depending on the business and brand positioning, customer expectations will differ. And what counts most will vary. For some, satisfaction may come primarily in the form of product performance. For others, it may be principally from the in-store experience. Others still, it will be in the after-sales service. Inevitably, customers will have and find different needs and pleasures. And they will set different expectations along the multi-variate, omni-channel customer journey. But, one thing’s for sure: just putting U in cUstomer centricity is not enough. It takes a certain mindset, leadership dedication and a willingness to stay in a constant learning mode. As I explore in my book, You Lead: it takes a regular curiosity to keep an eye on what’s happening, the humility to avoid blind spots, empathy to understand the other’s experience, courage to take the tough decisions, and the grace to give before expecting in return (authentic Karma). It’s what I call having the CHECK mindset.

It takes curiosity to keep an eye on what's happening, humility to avoid blind spots, empathy to understand the other's experience, courage to take tough decisions, and grace to give before expecting in return. It's the #CHECKmindset. Share on X

Making it count

For companies that are financially cash constrained, one obviously has to be sensible about solvency. But, to avoid getting to that spot, every transformation program should be based on making the inside-out model come alive. This is because it is the employees who are delivering the experience. The more the employees feel engaged and understand how they are contributing, the more they will tap into their discretionary energies. At its core, the inside-out model means making your employees your #1 fans and having an internal culture that is aligned with the desired customer-facing service. Companies that are focused, first and foremost, on cutting costs and hitting bottom-line targets will suffer an ever common fate of failure (eventually anyway). Employees that don’t believe your jargon will leave. Customers that don’t feel the experience is up to snuff will walk. Don’t be fooled into thinking customer centricity is merely a strategic initiative. It has to be a way of life and deeply embedded into the culture of the organization. And that takes material transformation to be sustained over time.

Writing YOU into the annual report or an advertising tagline is perhaps filled with good intentions, but it’s how the rubber hits the road that counts.

For more resources

If you are keen to dig further into customer experience, I recommend checking out my friends, Adrian Swinscoe, author of How to Wow and Punk CX, host of the Punk CX podcast, or Brussels-based Amélie Beerens, CX coach and consultant, host of the People&Digital podcast.

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