It is almost taken for granted that the CEO of any company will espouse the notion of being customer centric. We all love our customers’, don’t we? But are most companies really making policies and decisions driven by a desire to meet customer needs? Or is it a case of perfunctory adaption of the language rather than really changing the organisation?
Marketing and strategy scholars originated the concept of being market oriented about thirty years ago and have demonstrated its relationship to superior performance consistently. A firm is market oriented when it learns from its external environment, synthesises the trends, brings them back into the firm to lead a process of corporate adaption to what has been learnt. In modern times, we have embellished this core notion with the language of customer centricity – that is continually adapting the organisation to the ever-changing needs and wants of our targeted customers. We believe a customer orientation creates a far more resilient and sustainable business than does any rival orientation. These tend to be rather short-term perspectives. We all know of companies that fail to adapt to change because they are too focused on short term income, immediate sales revenue or cost reduction. In a competitive market, sustainable performance requires continually adapting to meet changing customer needs.
But how does one become customer centric?
At Cranfield we have a perspective that it is essentially an orientation, a cultural attribute of focusing on customers changing needs and wants. Adaption has four main elements:
- Customer market sensing has been tubo-charged with data in the digital age, but strip away the incredible advances in technology and there remains the core of understanding markets, customers and competitors. Big data merely allows us to understand all this so much better and respond so much faster.
- The customer learning feeds into the design of your offer, a solution to a customer problem or a highly desired customer experience. At times, this offer is the result of innovation, either in the product – solution, or at the level of your business model. Many of the offers you create go beyond merely finding new packaging or advertising for old solutions.
- Innovation today normally requires substantial changes to service delivery processes, channel integration and novel partnership arrangements. We call this aligning the organisation to customers; you know what they need, and you organise your assets and processes to deliver it better than competitors.
- Finally, this realigned organisation needs to implement its offer, and this becomes the firm’s visible response to its customers.
This continuous cycle of adaption through sensing, designing, aligning and responding creates that customer centric culture and organisation that we all strive to achieve.
Cranfield’s marketing executive programmes take experienced executives through the strategic management of marketing within your organisation. How you can ensure that as you transform digitally, being customer centric guides your policies and decisions. We explore the cycle of learning, responding, configuring solutions and implementation in a modern digitalised environment and the implications of creating a customer centric organisation.
Blog produced by: Professor Stan Maklan, Professor of Marketing and Technology and Programme Director of the Marketing Directors’ Programme, Marketing Strategy and Planning, and Customer Experience Strategy programmes at Cranfield School of Management.