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| Donna Mahony Digital transformation: The road to a customer-centric business

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In this blog post:

  • What is a customer-centric business?
  • Why customer-centricity and digital transformation go hand-in-hand
  • How to create a customer-centric culture

For all smart and forward-thinking businesses, customer experience has become a top priority. The focus has shifted from simply making a sale to building a successful long-term relationship that benefits both the business and the customer.

The next step, though, is true customer-centricity. It’s not just about giving your customers superior service. It’s about putting the customer first in everything your business does.

Building an operating model around the needs of your customers highlights the value they bring to the organization. According to research by Deloitte, customer-centric businesses are 60 percent more profitable than those that focus on processes or products first.

Customer-centricity is now tightly tied to digital transformation as businesses use digital initiatives as an opportunity to deliver a superior experience to their customers.

The customer-first approach to digital transformation

 Shifting business practices towards a customer-focused model can be as simple as adjusting your processes based on their feedback. But real customer-centric success comes from using your customers’ needs as a guide to digital transformation – finding the areas where your tech and processes can be changed to create better experiences.

In eConsultancy’s “Effective Leadership in the Digital Age” study, 58 percent of respondents identified customer-centricity as one of the most important characteristics of a “digital culture,” closely followed by being “data-driven” (40 percent).

This is also echoed in a recent Forrester report, where 72 percent of businesses named improving customer experience as a top priority. However, only 63 percent of these respondents are prioritizing investment in technology aimed at helping them do this.

eConsultancy’s study also identified the biggest barriers to customer-centricity. More than half (52 percent) of respondents said data silos are a key challenge, with differences in tech across the business preventing customer data being shared efficiently between departments.

To create a customer-focused approach, businesses need to ensure that every department and line of business can communicate effectively, giving customers seamless experiences across all touch points, from pre-sales to support.

By breaking down silos, you give every employee access to the information they need to deliver the best service – whether that’s giving a product pitch, at a help desk, in the field, or even when they’re building new products and services.

It’s all about analytics

 It’s not enough to just have access to data in a customer-centric business – you need to be smarter about how you use it, too. By investing more heavily in analytics as part of digital transformation you can more accurately plot customer behavior, segment your audiences and predict their needs.

You can use analytics to offer extra value-added services at the point of sale, or even prioritize customers with the highest customer lifetime value. That can go a long way to maintaining customer loyalty (and bumping up their value to your business).

Above all, your business needs to stay flexible, adapting your processes in response to customers’ changing needs. Anticipating what they’ll want from your business a week, a month, or even a year in advance can give you the edge over your competitors.

 Putting the customer first at every stage

It’s not just your tech that supports customer-centricity. Like most new models of business, it requires a culture change. Every decision needs to be made with the customer in mind.

This could be as simple as establishing core customer-focused values that are regularly reinforced, business-wide. Take The Ritz-Carlton’s ”Credo Cards” for example: printed reminders of its motto and values, that are designed to be carried by every staff member at all times.

But it can’t just be your service desk and other workers on the ground that are bending over backwards to support your customers – it needs to be everyone.

Look for the most successful customer-centric businesses, and you’ll find the usual suspects: companies such as Amazon and Apple, which prioritize the customer at every level.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos famously leaves an empty seat at meetings to represent the customer – “the most important person in the room” – while Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is known to read (and sometimes even respond to) emails sent by customers.

Making the commitment

For your business to successfully become customer-centric, it needs to be a company-wide initiative that includes every process, and all levels of employee, in every line of business.

Crucially, it’s about commitment – both to digital transformation and embracing the ethos of customer-first.

 

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