How Customer-Centric Are You Really?

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Having spent a few decades running digital channels for several large organizations, I’ve learned a thing or two about what it really takes to be customer-centric. It’s a lot more than offering a chat-bot, tracking NPS, or piloting whatever the latest cool capability is. It’s been my experience that in most companies there are internal forces that prevent real change:

  • Channel owners want credit for the sale and seek to just make their channel better
  • Product owners really just care about “qualified” customer interest in their product
  • The technology, and critically the data, reflects this channel-centric and product-centric bias as IT teams take their marching orders from the channel and product owners

The result is that a holistic view of customer never materializes. There is a stronger desire to pay lip-service to being customer-centric, while the truth is most managers would rather preserve the status quo, protect their own self-interest (and bonus), and just focus on their channel/product.

Given this, my question today is: How customer-centric are you really? I’ve built the list of questions below based on my observations of what it takes to be great. It is intended as a thought starter and I welcome ideas for better or additional questions. Answer them how you choose: maybe a 5-point scale or whatever floats your boat. But importantly please be honest about what your real, live current capabilities. All too often I hear “Oh yeah, we talked about that once and even piloted it in one division.” That would be scored a one in my books, not a four or five. Anyway, without further ado here you go:

    We have one operational Customer Information File (CIF) used by all our channels and all products (e.g. – change address in one place, preferences). We have stamped out other legacy CIFs to ensure product and channel teams aren’t tempted to keep their own information.
    We have monitoring in place enterprise-wide to track journeys and drop-off, including tracking prospect data consistently wherever possible.
    We have explicit programs in place to monitor and mystery shop competitors, capturing insights and measuring relative performance.
    Authentication and authorization are consistent across channels. We only ask customers once (or ideally zero times) their identity.
    Customers can stop and continue their sales (or service) journey seamlessly across channels.
    Our channel owners and product owners have all agreed to a revenue and cost-sharing model uniting them to focus on the customer, versus competing with each other.
    We have algorithms predicting the next best product promote or likelihood the customer has “one foot out the door;” and we proactively act on these.
    We measure attrition and reward/penalize senior management on performance. We algorithmically predict attrition risk and proactively intervene to save?
    We know relationships across customers (spouse, kids, parents, even businesses). Ideally, tapping into the social graph. When the scruffy teenager of your best customer shows up, do you know it?
    We know the total value and treat our best customers like VIPs (and have programs to increase the value of low-profit ones).
    We predict algorithmically the future potential value of customers and treat them accordingly.
    We know how many sales we did NOT make last month. We track this as far up the purchase path as possible (e.g. Google search results).

Here’s one of my favorite things to ask senior execs to make the point. First, ask, do you know your sales last month? Of course, they (almost) always do. Then ask, how many sales did you NOT make last month? Many won’t have any idea and those who do answer will likely reference their CRM and what the sales department is actively pursuing. But dig further, who visited your web site but didn’t ask to be contacted? Who downloaded a white paper but didn’t want to talk to a salesperson? Who saw you in a web search but clicked on your competitor instead? Who quietly stopped using your product and will not be renewing next month? In general, who came in contact with your company one way or another but dropped off and probably bought from someone else? Any company that can answer these questions gets a gold star but very few can.

Those companies coming out on top will be those who maniacally track every bit of data they can capture about prospective and converted customers. They will enrich it with third-party data telling them more about who their customers are, and they will strive to be the best in their industry at every stage of the purchase path through continuous improvements. This will include improving the service given to existing customers, as the ability for those customers to switch is only a click away. Those who don’t think this is a priority or can’t execute on improvements will see margins squeezed at increasing rates as smarter competitors armed with better insights cherry pick the most profitable customers.

In closing, I hope this list of questions helps target gap areas in your company and raises awareness of the need to address them.

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