Customer Centricity: A Sunday Morning Religion?

It occurs to me that customer-centricity has become a religion in many ways. And as such is characterised by a particular philosophy-ideology, rituals and practices. We have many books-articles published on customer-centricity, customer experience, CRM, customer service etc.  We have many gurus expounding their particular philosophy of customer-centricity. We have many consultancies pushing their flavour of customer-centricity and associated paths to customer-centric nirvana. We have the IT industry pushing an array of systems under the customer-centricity and customer experience banners.  And, we have many conferences centred on the topic of customer-centricity in one or more of its flavours.

What difference does all this make when it comes to lived experience – the real world of business?  I say that customer-centricity has become the new game to play: a charade. And in this sense, customer-centricity shows up for me as a Sunday morning religion.  This was brought home to me, recently, when listening to the advice given by an engagement manager to a project manager. It went along the following lines:

“Looks like you have a happy customer. Ring up the customer and ask if he would be willing to give us a 10. If he is willing to give us a 9 or a 10 then send him the NPS survey.”

Am I faulting the engagement manager? Not at all. The engagement manager through his instruction has simply made visible the game that has become the norm under the religion of customer-centricity.  How many Christian’s who turn up on Sunday morning are actually Christians?  By that I mean how many embody-live the principles-values-practices embodied by Jesus Christ?  Please note, I am not attacking Christianity. I find that the same has occurred as regards Islam: rare is the person I encounter who calls himself a muslim and shows up for me as being as such.

I ask you consider, be with, reflect on the following sage speaking by a sage:

The intricate maze of philosophy of different schools claims to clarify matters and reveal the Truth, but in fact they create confusion where no confusion need exist. To understand anything there must needs be the understanding being. Why worry about his bodies, his ahankar, his buddhi, creation, God, Mahatmas, world – the not-Self – at all? Why not remain yourself and be in peace? Take Vedanta, for instance: it speaks of the fifteen pranas, the names and functions of which the student is asked to commit to memory. Will it not be sufficient if he is taught that only one prana does the whole work of maintaining life in the body? Again, the antahkarana is said to think, to desire, to will, to reason, etc. Why all these details? Has anyone seen the antahkarana, or all these pranas? Do they really exist? They are all conceptual divisions invented by teachers of philosophy by their excessive analysis. Where do all these concepts end? Why should confusion be created and then explained away? Fortunate is the man [person] who does not lose himself in the labyrinths of philosophy, but goes straight to the Source from which they all rise.

– Ramana Marashi

I say put aside customer lifetime value. I say put aside share of customer wallet. I say put aside big data. I say put aside data mining and predictive analytics. I say put aside CRM and CRM systems. I say put aside Voice of the Customer and Customer Experience. I say put aside customer loyalty programs….

Now ask yourself some really hard questions and answer truthfully:

  1. am I/we willing to put the needs-concerns-wellbeing of the customer at least on par with our needs-concerns-wellbeing?

  2. am I/we willing to sacrifice revenues and profits (‘bad profits’) that I/we are making from taking advantage of our customers?

  3. am I/we hungry (passionate) about coming up with products-services-solutions-experiences that simplify and enrich the lives of our customers?

Who are the UK’s 2012 Customer Experience Leaders and What Can We Learn From Them?

Why have I been making such a big fuss of leadership, management and employee engagement? 

Some of you – especially those of you that focus on strategy, process or technology – might have noticed that I have increasingly made a big thing of leadership, management, employee engagement and organisational effectiveness.  Why?

This is the third year of the Nunwood Customer Experience Excellence Index in the UK and here is what the 2012 report says:

“For many of the Top 10 it is their focus on employee engagement, training, development and motivation even for seemingly mundane jobs that differentiates the service experience.”

“There is generally a movement to empower front line staff to step outside procedure and make sensible decisions in favour of the customer.”

“The role of the retail in-store employee is moving from transactional to information, education and building a relationship.”

What else does the  Nunwood CX 2012 report tell us?

Aside from the critical importance of employees and employee engagement engendered through the right leadership and management practices, the following four points caught my attention:

1. In a price dominated shopping context, many companies are looking to non price based factors to compete;

2. Companies have focussed on making it easier for customers to do business with them by “removing time and effort from business processes as firms seek to get the basics right”;

3. Increasingly attention is shifting to the human/emotional factors that “make a deeper connection with consumers”; and

4. “The leaders achieve consistently excellent delivery of the basics but also deal with the unusual – unusually well.”

Who are Nunwood’s UK Customer Experience Excellence leaders?

Amazon stays in top place followed by John Lewis (multichannel retailer) and First Direct (non branch bank).  Green Flag (car breakdown service) and The Co-operative Bank are the two brands making the biggest improvement since 2011. Here are the Top 10:

nunwood_CX202_Top10

What can we learn from these CX leaders?

I have gone through the Nunwood report to figure out what made each of these companies/brands stand out.  And to list the key characteristics that contribute to them being CX leaders. Here is the table – please click on it to see it more clearly:

Nunwoods CX2012 Top 10 MastersAnd finally

In the top 10 there is only one company/brand where marketing as in ‘promotion’ (which sadly is what marketing has become in too many organisations) has contributed significantly to the customer’s experience. And as such is mentioned by the Nunwood report.  If you read the table above you will find that it is the the £10 dine for two promotion from M&S Food that spoke to / found favour with customers.

Have you noticed something deeply significant?  These companies are actually operating from a powerful context (‘do right by the customer’) and thus putting in place the people, the cultural norms, the processes, the metrics and the technology that enables them to do ‘right by the customer’.  I am clear that requires leadership from the top (walking the talk).  And the right management practices: recruiting the right people; encouraging them to delight customers by rewarding them for building relationships/delighting customers; listening to customers as people of integrity; allowing employees the space to bypass policies, processes and procedures when it is necessary to do so; encouraging employees to own the resolution of customer problems; and putting in place the process and technology that enables customer facing people to quickly/easily deal with and resolve stuff that matters to customers.

If you still don’t get it then I will spell it out.  I say a genuine commitment to service in the broadest sense of service is what drives customer experience excellence and generates customer advocacy/loyalty. And marketing can contribute provided marketing shifts its focus from ‘spin’ to genuine service to customers through information, education and seduction – seduction that is based on the ability of the organisation to deliver the promise that is used to seduce the customer.   If this speaks to you then I recommend that you read a post I wrote a little time ago:  Transforming Service through the radical reconceptualisation of Service