The customer at the core

“The pandemic exposed the lie that was digital transformation,” says Alan Webber, program vice-president, customer experience at IDC (1).

As the mid- and/or post-pandemic pressure ramps up on organizations it might become clear which organizations have been using their customer focus as a “slogan exercise” (Philip Gerskovich, Zebra Technologies (2)), where they have been “forced to care as other means of differentiation has been eroded” and which have a customer culture at their core (Ed Thompson, Gartner (3))

Corporate Rebels (4) published this short video on Haier the Chinese multinational home appliances and consumer electronics company, presenting one version of what it means to have the customer at the core (and not just as slogan).

From the video:

Under two main principles Haier, set out to reinvent itself in order to bring back motivation, entrepreneurship and speediness:

1. Zero distance to the customer – The aim to connect people directly to the customer

2. Everyone is an entrepreneur – Creating and acting a culture where every employee feels and acts as if they were entrepreneurs

This lead to a change in their organizational structure from one big bureaucratic hierarchical organization to a network of 4000 micro-enterprises centered around different types of customer demands. 

The micro enterprises fall into two categories:

A. The customer facing enterprises with direct contact with the customers (e.g. repair teams and web-shops)

B. The supporting teams selling their services to the customer facing teams indirectly supporting the customer (e.g. purchasing, manufacturing and marketing)

These enterprises form micro-communities or networks that share profit adapt or dissolve. 

This structure allows the organization to be constantly changing in response to customer requirements (= zero distance to the customer).




(3) [link no longer works]


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