What flavour of customer centricity are you practicising?

I have been thinking that the term ‘customer centricity’ is totally meaningless.  Like strategy there is no shared agreement nor definition nor theoretical foundation for ‘strategy’.  So the coin of strategy has become debased – people in business use it whenever they want something to sound important.  I believe the same applies to customer centricity.

Thinking further I can distinguish various flavours of ‘customer centricity’:

Website personalisation (usually through a platform like ATG)

  • In this instance, customer centric means that we push content to you that either you have declared that you are interested in (preferences) and/or we believe that you are likely to find interesting.  The Amazon website is a great example of this.

Direct marketing on steriods

  • Within this school, the emphasis is on collecting as much data as possible on customers (demographic, psychographic, behavioural, transactional…) turning this data into targeting list – those customers most likely to buy the product that I am interested in selling – using data mining techniques to build predictive models.

Customer lifecycle marketing

  • Here customer centric means pushing out the right flavour of communication to the right customers at the right time.  And it involves taking a time perspective: where is the customer in his journey and what communication makes most sense. This flavour also relies on collecting lots of data on customers.  And it more likely to be practiced where an organisation has a broad range of products that can be sold to the customer.  It is also more likely to be practiced where the customer has to be kept ‘warm’ because of a relatively long interval between purchases.

Prroduct development / user experience design

  • Here the emphasis is actually on spending time with customers (or the people who we want as customers) to really get these people.  How they think, how they behave, what outcomes they are after, what gets in the way etc to design better products and better interactions between the customer/user and the product – in some cases the product is the website / virtual store.

Customer service

  • As customer service is viewed as a cost by many organisations, here customer centricity can mean “How do we recoup some of these costs by using inbound interactions to sell stuff to customers?” Or it can mean how can we get the most value from our contact centre agents by having them make outbound sales centred calls when they are not busy
    dealing with inbound contacts.  Often it means how can we reduce costs by getting the customers to do the work of agents: drive them to the website or the IVR.
  • The organisations that push the envelope here – very few –  view customer centricity as learning what drives calls to the contact centre and using this insight to effect change in the business operations that are failing the customer and thus driving demand into the contact centre.  They get this is win-win proposition: the company has a great opportunity to cut costs and improve the customer experience if business operations are redesigned.

Customer experience

  • This flavour has not yet crystallised.  Nonetheless, customer centricity here tends to mean a focus on interaction design in the form of ‘moments of truth’ and ‘experience as theatre / entertainment / engagement’.

I am sure that there are more flavours.  What I find interesting and which I wish to point out is that it can be argued that none of these flavours constitute ‘customer centric’.

It can be argued an organisation that is customer-centric is an organisation that is hell-bent on creating superior value (economic, interactional, emotional, social) for its customers.  It is an organisation that is willing to sacrifice short term gain if it is at the expense of customers (‘bad profit’) to create long term sustainable gain (‘good profits’).

Do you know of an organisation that is practicing this last  form of customer centricity?  If you do then please share with me.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

2 thoughts on “What flavour of customer centricity are you practicising?”

  1. A great post. Well written and an insightful categorisation of the flavous of customer centricity. I think I’d add (at least) one more – multi-channel integration, where the focus is on joining everything up from a data/process/technology perspective to try and give the customer a reasonably seemless experience across touchpoints.


    1. Hello Richard, I thank you reading and participating.

      As for your observation, I am in complete agreement with you. There certainly is this flavour: the multi-channel integration flavour. The only question that I have is this: is this really a flavour on the ground or one that is found in talks made by marketing gurus, consultancies like McKinsey and CapGemini, and software vendors? I do not know the answer to my question. I do know that I do not see much of it on the ground: I see more and more silos, each with its own agenda, own priorities, own databases etc. Yet this cannot go on. Personally, I have received a renewal quote from the RAC and then gone to their website and signed up for the same package, as a new customer, and received a 30% discount to the renewal price.

      Looking further ahead, can you imagine the situation when smartphones are everywhere. When we can all scan in the product, read reviews by other customers like us, find what it is being sold at on the retailers website and who else is offering it and at what price. Or where the alternative offline store with the best price and best rating is located. And the phone (GPS) shows us the way.

      I look forward to reading your viewpoint. Welcome to the conversation! If you have friends that are interested in the conversation then please invite them too.

      Once again, I thank you for your participation.


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