The age of Netflix, Uber, and Twitter (News - Alert) has brought with it a new type of customer – an empowered, well-informed, and demanding individual who knows what excellent customer service looks like – and how to gain attention if they don’t receive it. The emergence of this new customer means that organizations are no longer in charge.
Indeed, according to our new research, Two Years’ Warning: The Customer Centricity Crisis, 76 percent of business leaders believe that their company won’t survive beyond two years unless they put more focus on their customers. But herein lies the problem: When asked, 43 percent of leaders confessed they have more important issues to attend to than their customers. It’s becoming ever more important to place emphasis on customers, but leaders are worryingly distracted.
This crisis is a looming meteor hurtling toward a corporate community of dinosaurs, who, unless they put significantly more focus on their customers, will soon be extinct. Businesses must have the capacity to evolve into agile, customer-focused institutions that can flex and move to the needs of their customers, or run the risk of being left behind.
Back to the beginning
Focus on the customer must be woven into the very fabric of the business itself. Yet as many as two in five leaders (39 percent) believe they have a cultural issue that prevents them from doing the right thing for customers. This is reflected throughout the organization. As it stands, 44 percent of employees feel powerless to solve recurring customer issues because their managers are reluctant to make changes.
As figureheads of the business, leaders must embed a well-defined culture throughout their organizations – meaning that leaders of the businesses themselves must be champions of the customers. Change must happen freely, and the reformation of employee attitudes should begin at the top. Business leaders need to act as role models to mold company culture around the customer.
How, then, can cultural change be implemented on the scale necessary to drive customer centricity? The answer lies in storytelling. Leaders need to address the values of the business and build a clear and emotionally compelling narrative with the customer at its heart. This story has to become the lifeblood of the business, being told at every level of the organization and reaching every employee. Through this clear and engaging narrative, every person in the company can understand their role and act on it with the customer at the forefront of their minds.
Crafting a successful narrative also requires leaders to listen to the stories of employees. Leaders should encourage a culture of discussion and conversation among staff. Their insights will help leaders to nurture a story that is meaningful to everyone and create a narrative with true potential for change.
Ultimately, customer centricity lies in the hands of the company employees, so inspiring and empowering them to act will ensure that they feel able to do the right thing. Identifying and sharing what a great customer experience looks like – and making sure that they have the correct tools, training, systems, and processes to implement it – will help employees recognize best practices and execute them in their work. Creating role models and positioning them as heroes of the business will provide every employee with clear and achievable targets at which to aim.
The change in culture has to happen today. But while the urgency of the issue is clear, 65 percent of business leaders believe that it will be up to the next C-suite to bring in genuine customer centricity. This is a dangerous attitude, and while leaders keep looking to the next C-suite, the needs of the customer will continue to change and develop. The result is a business that is severely out of touch. For a company to survive the customer centricity crisis, it needs to avoid waiting for the next leader to reform the attitude toward customers and take immediate action themselves.
The customer centricity meteor will strike, and it is up to business leaders as to whether their companies will be part of the fallout. Businesses can either choose to evolve and adapt or be left in the prehistoric graveyard of companies that failed to make customers their top priority.
Alison Esse is co-founder and director at culture change consultancy The Storytellers.
Edited by Alicia Young