The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis led to abrupt declines in employment, earnings and incomes across the globe. In fact, real household spending in the Philippines contracted by -7.9 percent in 2020, according to Fitch Solutions. But consumer spending is underway due to business and government adjustments, and progression in vaccination, with a projected growth of 5.7 percent this year.
But customers, may it be consumers or businesses, will be more discerning, as more companies struggle to take a slice of the tight customer wallet. This is why a culture of customer centricity has never become more urgent than ever. While organizations modify their business models and take on digitization projects through digital transformation, these in themselves are not enough.
As an example, one large grocery chain set up an online ordering system at the start of the pandemic, which my wife started to use. She would visit the grocery portal, nicely choose her orders, and check out to pay online. Then, surprisingly a person calls her after some time to say that some items she ordered are not available and asks her what alternatives she wants to order instead. Right now, one year after the pandemic, this setup still exists, the same customer experience that is not seamless – not customer-centric way of dealing with a customer.
“Customer-centricity is a strategic approach to doing business that focuses on providing a positive customer experience both at the point of sale and after the sale, by maximizing the value that the customer derives from the product or service and converting them into loyal advocates, thereby driving sustainable profit for the company,” as I have defined in my previous article.
“The key operative word in this definition is ‘strategic approach,’ which means that all customer centricity initiatives, programs and projects of the organization must be cohesive and integrated to make sure that the positive customer experience is experienced in all touch points in the organization — may it be customer-facing salespeople and website, to backroom operations and support activities.”
Furthermore, I said that “it doesn’t start and end at building a unified portal for customers to buy online, but encompasses not only direct touchpoints, but all support one as well such as technology systems as well.”
One key aspect of customer centricity during this time of more discerning customers is being data-driven for precision. Instead of engaging in trial-and-error in redesigning customer experiences, which wastes precious limited resources of the company, collecting and understanding customer feedback first-hand has never become as important as it is now.
Customer feedback surveys and customer interviews are important tools to collect invaluable quantitative and qualitative data to accurately interpret and understand customer aspirations and afflictions. These are then used in mapping the customer journeys to ultimately redesign the customer experience for each touchpoint of the customer with the organization.
But it does not end with digitizing and automating customer touchpoints. Customers still interact with employees of an organization to address complex problems. That’s why “employees should undergo reskilling and coaching to change behavior, attitudes and mindset” as I have prescribed in my earlier article.
“In our consulting work, we have identified three skills that are at the root of customer centricity that need to be developed and practiced — empathy, collaboration and complex problem-solving/agile decision-making.” Through virtual classroom training, role-playing and on-the-job coaching, employees will develop empathy toward colleagues and customers, and learn how to collaborate with other groups to jointly solve problems and make decisions.
All these from part of a bigger culture transformation initiative alongside digital transformation; and change starts from the top. The chief executive officer, together with the board of directors, should embrace a customer-centric mindset.
The author is co-founder and chief executive officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is a fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. The author may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org