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What is missing from your efforts to become customer-centric?

11th Dec 2009
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Lior Arussy pens an open letter to CEOs everywhere - feel free to hand a copy to your CEO and/or your senior executives ASAP!

Dear CEO,
For the past decade, the case for customer-centricity was made in several ways. Let us examine the evidence:
  • You wanted to hear the voice of customers – You were provided with many research reports containing in depth insight into trends shaping customer needs and wishes.
  • You wanted to understand the financial case – A multitude of studies were dedicated to making the financial case for customer experience. How is it that 40% of customers are willing to pay a premium price for exceptional experience? (Strativity Group’s Consumer Study, 2009)
  • You wanted to know how would it work – Many books are available which detail the steps which must be taken to become customer centric and design and deliver exceptional experiences.
  • You wanted examples and case studies – Those are also available through a wide variety of publications. Just as a reminder, here is a short of the classics: Singapore Airlines, Starbucks, Ritz Carlton, Zappos and Virgin Atlantic.
  • You wanted to know the impact on your organization and employees – Last year I published a book dedicated to that – Excellence Every Day.
  • You wanted to have a personal experience – It was delivered in the form of an embarrassing YouTube video or damaging blog posting.
So the question on the table is: What are you still missing in order to make the ultimate commitment to transform your organisation and become customer-centric? 
"Well I have appointed a person to be manager of customer experience," you rush to answer. If you refer to the low level person who had no budget or power and was supposed to become the magic wand which would break down all the corporate silos while competing with multiple corporate agendas, let’s be honest. That is not commitment. That is faking it. An in-depth look at the results delivered by that individual will probably tell you the truth about your commitment. So we are back to the original question. What are you still missing?
If you fully recognise that customer experience is not a nice to have but rather a must have, and if you understand that the time has to be now because your competitors are already working on their strategy, then there is really only one answer left. That answer is the root cause of the entire issue: lack of courage.
During our many engagements with clients, we identified one distinguishing factor among successful leaders. They were courageous.
Those leaders who successfully transformed their organizations to become customer centric were courageous in many ways:
  • They had the courage to admit that their current value proposition was not good enough to differentiate them from their competition.
  • They were courageous enough to recognise that the days of product centricity were over and that they needed to start collaborating with their customers.
  • They were courageous enough and humble enough to listen to their customers.
  • They had the courage to break down silos and fight against private internal agendas.
  • They had the courage to align measurements with customer action outcomes.
  • They had the courage to stand up to the naysayers and say "This is the new direction! You can join us or you can leave us."
  • They had the courage to face change and overcome their fear of the unknown.
  • They had the courage not to hide behind complacency.
  • They had the courage to allocate sufficient funding to make customer centricity a real success.
  • And most of all they had the courage the lead the charge! They were there front and center and lead by example.
The question of how to design and deliver exceptional customer experiences is not a marginal one. It goes to the core of your value proposition and ability to differentiate. Your customer experience is the reason you exist! Becoming customer-centric is not something you delegate – it is the strategy you lead!
As you plan for 2010, the first and only item on your agenda should be "what are we doing for customers in the coming year." Customers must be at the core of everything that happens in your organisation. From innovation to leadership up to and including employee engagement, it is time to take this question seriously. The time is now to be courageous and lead the charge.

Lior Arussy is the president of Strativity Group and the author of several books. His new book is Excellence Every Day: Make the Daily Choice-Inspire Your Employees and Amaze Your Customers.

Recent articles by Lior Arussy

Planning your customer experience strategy? Listen to your CEO!
To whom are customers loyal?
How to transform into a customer-centric organisation

To Tweet or not to Tweet: That's NOT the question
Customer experience in challenging economic times: Part two
Customer experience in challenging economic times: Part one



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