This is the second part of a multi-part series on the trends we are observing among the 1to1 Customer Champions with respect to their efforts to build a customer-focused culture.
In my last blog, I discussed the importance that executive engagement (or, as my colleague Leslie Pagel would call it, executive ownership) plays in creating a customer-focused organization. One question we often hear from clients is how we can secure executive engagement; I have observed two characteristics of leaders that typically exist in firms that have the ability to become truly customer-focused:
1) A natural affinity for customers – These are enlightened executives that intuitively understand the linkage between customer-centricity and business success. When a company has leaders (starting with the CEO) that exhibit this characteristic, we often hear that customer focus is “in the company’s DNA,” though, as Pat Gibbons points out, it goes much deeper than that.
2) Show me the money – This is the more common situation – CEO’s are, after all, capitalists who are charged with creating a positive return to shareholders. This is not to say that these leaders do not value customers; rather, they want to make certain any investment will yield an acceptable payoff.
I would suggest that naturally “Enlightened Executives” are a rare breed, which is why we often get the question on how to engage executives. The easiest answer is to show them that it works – in other words, show them the money!
This leads me to the second trend we see among the 1to1 Customer Champions:
Trend #2: Links to Business Outcomes are Required
The days of investing heavily on customer-centric strategies because it intuitively “feels right” are long gone. The best programs are those that move beyond scorekeeping and get to tangible business outcomes. From a financial perspective, this can range from tying customer scores to revenue retention/growth metrics (a “prove it to me” exercise) to creating new revenue opportunities (by mining the data through a lead generation/cross-selling lens).
These outcomes, incidentally, do not always have to be financial in nature – tying customer perception to operational efficiencies that come as a result of increased customer centricity are not only often easier to accomplish (from a data availability perspective), but they can also be restated in financial terms.
Ultimately, we can have a debate about which comes first – executive buy-in or demonstrated business impact – regardless of which comes first, it is clear from our experience (and the data from the 1to1 Customer Champions) that the key to having a sustainable customer-centric model is directly linked to the ability to demonstrate tangible business impact.
In my next post, I will talk about a characteristic of customer listening programs that is woefully underutilized yet is critically important for long-term success.
Mark A. Ratekin
Sr. Vice President, Consulting Services