Customer-Centric Strategy & Deployment

Lynn Hunsaker
Customer Experience Transformation Strategist
ClearAction & Marketing Operations Partners
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How do you know whether your corporate strategy is customer-centric? The word "centric" means having a specific thing as the focus of attention and efforts. Customer-centric means that concerns other than the customer’s well-being are in the background while the customer stays in the foreground. SunTrust and Maersk Line are two companies that have re-assessed their mission, values, and strategy relative to customer-centricity:

Clients First:  In 2008 when the economic downturn occurred, SunTrust (financial services) executives re-wrote their enterprise guiding principles, realizing the need to put more focus on being client 1st as a guiding principle. This meant they needed to change the way they included client voice in decision-making processes. One of the biggest challenges was the old perception that client experience management is something that front-line people do. So they set out to help people understand Client 1st is really everybody’s job, whether you’re doing item processing or deciding where to put your ATMs, or anything else. It means you’re using client input to inform all your decisions, not just when the client is in front of you.

"What Is the Client's Input?"  SunTrust engaged non-client-facing teammates by having them ask “Is this what the client would want as I design this process, or make this effort?” People started asking in meetings: Do we believe X because we’ve been bankers for Y years, or because clients told us?” When the chief marketing officer and the head of cross-channel strategy began doing that all the time, it became common practice throughout the company. Employees began to seek it and call people on it when they didn’t. Those were some of the key steps in transforming the business from product-focused to client-focused: putting the customer in the center of decisions.

Customer Trust:  With 50-some country organizations around the world, everyone on the front line at Maersk Line (freight services) was working to please customers according to their own interpretation, but not really with a common goal of how to do it. A session was held with top management to determine the kind of emotions they want to invoke, tying into company values and history. They wanted customers to feel trust, cared for and pleased in every interaction. That became the mantra which provided a common aspiration for customer experience success.

Customer Experience Playbook:  Showing people what a customer experience means makes them reflect on how they as consumers act on their own experiences. In 3-day sessions held by Maersk Line, managers received a playbook of 24 solutions that each country organization could pick and choose from. The playbook included simple suggestions such as how to talk to customers without using jargon, and posting customers' pictures on the Maersk office walls to emphasize people connecting personably. Despite the traditional tops-down culture, the playbook was rolled out with a train-the-trainer approach on a voluntary basis. Most country organizations did sign up for it, but some had other pressing priorities and didn't feel it was right for them. A clear divergence in customer satisfaction scores emerged, and the non-participating countries saw that and began closing the gap. Now the company is seeing upward trends globally.

To set up a customer-centric strategy, begin with the customer in mind, not as an afterthought. And bring your strategy to life through significant, company-wide employee engagement in customer experience management.

For more stories about business-to-business customer experience management, see the 3rd Annual ClearAction B2B CEM Best Practices Study at


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