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A lot of lip-service gets paid to the notion of customer-centricity.

I call it “lip-service” because the reality is that most companies are not customer-centric. That is, while every company wants loyal customers, the basic mindset driving the business is not about the customer. It’s about efficiency, minimizing costs, and maximizing profits.

Of course, there are parts of every company that are focused on the customer. Marketing departments (at their best), “own” the voice of the customer in the business. They spend every waking hour doing research, studying customers, studying their behaviors, asking them what they want, and trying to figure out how to meet their needs and retain their business.

Customer service and support (at it’s best) is the same way. People in these departments want to help. They seek out ways to anticipate the needs of customers and to be responsive when customers actively (and sometimes even passively) make their needs (which are often problems) known.

User experience and service designers, finally, fall into this category. They are the champions of the customer when designing websites, apps, and entire experiences – from a visit to a hotel to a visit to the hospital.

Not everyone puts the customer first

But for all those focused on the customer, there are plenty still focused on something else.

The folks I’m thinking about are product designers who insist on features customers don’t care about and interfaces that are difficult to use. Manufacturers who cut corners on materials because they are cheaper, rather than better. Salespeople who sell what they got, not what the customer needs. Sales leaders who push products despite a lack of customer demand or interest. And business heads who insist on messaging because it’s what they want to say, regardless if anyone wants to hear it.

It’s no wonder then that people like Victor Milligan, CMO at Forrester, recently wrote, “CX [customer experience] continues to be a work in progress… Although CX is maturing, it’s not yet mature.”

Some companies have made great strides

The fact that we still have a ways to go in terms of creating customer-centric (or, as Milligan puts it, “customer-led”) organizations is nowhere more evident than in the following chart taken from Omer Minkara’s, Customer-Centricity: Knowledge is Power in the Age of the Customer (free registration required):

customer-centricity and productivity

Here we see how Best-in-Class organizations differ from All Others when it comes to providing the organization with the data it needs to truly serve the customer.

For the purposes of Omer’s research, the Best-in-Class here are defined as the top 20% of survey respondents based on, among other things, average customer retention rates (85%), average annual change in customer satisfaction rates (+37.4%), average year-over-year increase in company revenue (+34.5%), and average year-over-year change in customer profit margin (+18.2%).

As the chart shows, not only do the Best-in-Class enjoy enviable business results, but they have also implemented technology and practices that enable the entire organization to deliver on its customer-centric promise.

They are more likely than All Others to provide employees with a unified view of the customer journey, to make information easily – via mobile – accessible, and to tear down the walls between IT and the Line of Business (LoB), so that the technology choices the organization makes are more closely aligned with customer needs.

That being said, however, there is still a large gap – even among the Best-in-Class – between what they can and should be doing in the name of customer-centricity, and what they are actually doing.

Most are not there yet

To be fair, when it comes to the unified view of the customer journey, 53% of companies are there –a majority, however slim.

But it just goes down hill from there. We only find mobile accessibility of customer data at 47% amongst survey respondents in total. Only 36% of respondents said that employees were informed of customer preferences and needs. And customer data flows are only streamlined for 22% of respondents based on regular meetings between IT and the LoB.

Turn those percentages around and you’ll see why I say that your organization is not customer-centric. Barely half of you are providing the people who need it most with a unified view of the customer journey. More than half of you haven’t caught up with the mobile world we live in today. 64% – nearly two-thirds! – don’t supply employs with critical information about the customer.

What’s more, a whopping 78% of you are not encouraging collaboration between IT and the Line of Business, which means that, despite all the technology now available to facilitate customer-centricity, you are operating as if it didn’t exist (or worse, as if the Line 0f Business were working for IT instead of the other way around).

What shall be done?

If you saw my headline and thought, “Forget you, Matt, we’re as customer-centric as all get-out,” I will honestly say that I really hope that’s true. It’s just that the numbers say, “Probably, nah.”

To find out more about how to get your company closer to the customer-centric goal-line, you should check out Omer Minkara’s A Best-in-Class Voice of the Customer Strategy or his report, CEM Executive’s Agenda 2016: Aligning the Business around the Customer.

Image Source (Creative Commons): Erin.

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