Good morning! We mention the Customer a lot in our Strategic Plan: “customer loyalty”, “customer-centric project management”, “passionate about our customers”, “customer partners”, “superior customer experience”, etc. We’ve decided – and stated – that we drive a customer-centric business model. But do we? Well . . . pretty much . . . some times . . . sort of. The bottom line is that we are not consistent. We are not yet a customer-centric organization.
First, we need to understand what it means to be customer-centric. Does it mean that the customer is always right? I’m afraid that even this phrase gets misinterpreted. Customers can oftentimes be “wrong”. But a customer-centric model is designed to eliminate this possibility from the equation. The key to customer-centricity is to be 100% clear in what it is the customer wants and needs, and then building a solution around that. Customer-centricity also extends beyond the party that we view as our “customer”. It needs to permeate our organization to affect internal customers, suppliers, and our communities. In contrast, I would say that we have historically been service-centric. This means that we’ve built solutions around a service and driven these solutions to as many customers as possible. There is nothing inherently wrong with this model, but have no doubt delivering excellent service to a customer and being customer-centric are two very different things.
So should we be customer-centric? The answer that I believe to my core is . . . YES! There are few absolute certainties in life and business. However, one of those certainties is that things are going to change over time. Every product or service offered is on a race to commoditization from the day it is first introduced. A service-centric approach can deliver great value to the market, but its life is limited. Others will capture the capability to deliver the same service, and the value shrivels as it becomes a commodity. Customer-centricity requires nimbleness, creativity, understanding, and a true passion for the customer. Systems and processes are built around the customer and are constantly reevaluated to ensure that the customer is still receiving the highest value. In our strategic plan, we also mention sustainability, scalable growth, and succession. I believe that customer-centricity is the cornerstone of all three.
As we spend this year reevaluating our systems, processes, and metrics, keep customer-centricity in mind. It is a paradigm shift that will require commitment and hard work to make. But rest assured that we are working toward building the organization that our current and future customers will value above our competition. Have a great week!