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.
- 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.
- 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.