Why Many Barriers To Customer Centricity Have Nothing To Do With Customers


By Camille Nicita, President & CEO, Gongos, Inc.

Companies have long been proficient at soliciting customer feedback. And, today they have more behavioral data at their disposal than they know what do with. But how many organizations truly act upon the insights they glean from all of these inputs? According to 2017 Temkin data, despite the fact that 60% say they are doing a good job at soliciting customer feedback, only 38% of firms are doing well at developing actionable insights based on the data and 24% are doing well at making changes to their business accordingly.

So, if they recognize this inaction can stall out growth and innovation, what’s holding them back? The answer frequently lies with internal dynamics. In fact, as the president and CEO of a decision intelligence company focused on customer experience and insights, I’ve found that the barriers to achieving customer centricity often don’t involve the customer at all. Rather, to develop customer centricity into a meaningful strategy, you’ll need focus, discipline and your own system of measurement and rewards.

The Paradox Of Growth

While there is no perfect customer-centric organization, those that excel have done an incredible job of resisting the trap of the paradox of growth. That is, organizations frequently fall victim to their own success. As a company grows, it needs to scale, and infrastructure is necessary to support that growth. But the many functional areas that serve as a buttress don’t directly serve the customer. Hence, their compasses aren’t oriented toward the customer as central to decision making, and an imbalance of priorities can take place.

As this occurs, the once outside-in perspective shifts to inside-out. By the time this hits the frontline, it can manifest into unsatisfactory customer experiences and failure to live up to the organization’s founding principles.

Diagnosing Customer Centricity

Organizations should identify gaps in their beliefs and behaviors and determine how effective they are at operationalizing customer centricity as a unifying strategy for growth. Executives should shed light on areas where their organization may be falling short, such as in their vision, strategy, execution and communication. Often times, engaging in this exercise points out a fundamental flaw: Many executives profess their belief in a customer-centric philosophy, but their actions don’t reflect their intentions.

In completing this process with clients, I’ve noticed that, while organizations are trying to build environments and invigorate employees through customer-centric behaviors, they share common hurdles, including:

Reshaping A Customer-Centric Culture

Reorienting an entire company to position the customer as its North Star is no easy task. Management guru Peter Drucker sagely said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” which means firms that overlook culture have little chance of enduring success, even if they have a great strategy in place. Being customer-centric is similar — a customer-centered vision is not enough. Leaders should walk the talk of customer centricity by creating an environment in which all employees are empowered to create value for the customer.

When and how employees act on behalf of their customers is shaped by the invisible hand of culture. To facilitate this culture, start with aligning organizational priorities, communications, workstreams and reward systems to reinforce the importance of long-term customer relationships. Cultural transformation begins taking shape when decisions to create reciprocal wins between the company and the customer are both intuitive and celebrated.

Moving The Needle

So, now that we understand the challenge at hand, the question becomes how to operationalize customer centricity. Leaders can address the hurdles of poor communication, confusion, functional silos and employee empowerment in a number of ways:

The Takeaway

Closing the gap between wanting to be customer-centric and acting in a more customer-centric way won’t simply come from gathering more consumer input or analyzing customer experience and transactional data. To truly differentiate, high-performing organizations can transform customer centricity from a buzz word into a strategy and hold the entire organization accountable for impacting more positive, reciprocal relationships with customers. It’s vital for leaders to remember that behaviors are visible, unlike hidden beliefs. Leading organizations will overcome the obstacles in their way and keep both beliefs and behaviors working harmoniously together.

As published in Forbes.