10 barriers to customer centricity

As customers are becoming more important to companies – the gap between them is increasingly obvious.

When Google and Shopper Science surveyed 3000 customers in 2012 they found 3000 individual paths to purchase. This does not reflect how most companies think of or work with their customers: Organizations tend to favor the structuring of complex individuals into a handful of homogenous groups. And in this process meaning and motivation in the customers favor are removed in order to achieve simplicity and efficiency in the companies favor.

Brand, design and advertising are all tools to safely keep customers on the outside. And, if companies are to reap the benefit of delighting their customers – they need to rethink how these assets are managed.

Today both the thinking, technology and tools are available to treat and collaborate with your customers as individuals. But it comes at a cost – ingrained long-standing barriers need to be removed. These are ten barriers standing in the way of companies wanting to accommodate a more customer centric approach:

  1. The customer centered technology isn’t flexible enough to make quick alterations, launch pilot services or pivot the existing customer experience in order to test assumptions and learn quickly.
  2. The strategy is to old, and old in this setting might be before 2011. Technology is taking leaps every year. Strategies developed before mobile, before omni-channel marketing, analytics or individualization are redundant. Continuing to make decisions based on old strategies leads companies in the opposite direction of their customers.
  3. Measure everything – everywhere. With customers moving inconsistently between physical, digital and social channels being stuck with single channel/silo measurements (like website analytics) hinders the opportunity to act on a broad, deeper insight into peoples situations across all meeting places and interactions.
  4. Design the input – to get the output. Data does not create itself. It is the output, the recording of an action. If companies want good data they need to figure out how to get customers to do something that will generate this data. In other words: design services and activities that lets you collect valuable information.
  5. Visualization. The same information can achieve radically different things based on its presentation. Make sure that the data is designed so that it efficiently achieves the desired action. Visualizing data, as opposed to presenting it as pure numeric values improves the ability to read and understand it quickly.
  6. Market research and customer research are not the same. There is a big difference between having market data – where customers are treated as homogenus groups, and customer research – where customers are understood as individuals.
  7. “If you treat your customers like children they will behave like children, if you treat them like co-managers they will behave like co-managers”. – Matthias Kröner, BoD Fidor Bank. Customer engagement is not a marketing activity, it is a business initiative. Figure out how customers can work with which levers of your business and how to involve them.
  8. Customer insight happens daily. Every time the customer touches the brand it is an opportunity to learn. Design interactions and actions in a way that generates listening and learning from every contact with the customer. And then organize around sharing, discussing, learning and acting on this input.
  9. Customers are individuals – treat them like individuals. Most properties, channels and interactions are not individualized. This removes motivation from the customer experience and funnels customers through generic processes. Customer experience demands individual platforms, communication and services.
  10. Where do I start? Start with the customers, get under their skin and understand them as individuals.

Customer experience can be the battle for marginal improvement or new economies. It is essential that customer centricity becomes more than just lip service inside the organization. Customer experience demands that the company moves beyond mass – to individual – and that the customer wields impactful strategic importance when the company makes decisions.

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