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August 22, 2016
Getting real about customer-centricity
By: Toan Huynh

Customer Centricity

Everyone agrees that 2016 is the year of the customer, or dare I say, the decade of the customer. No matter how you slice it, today’s focus on customer-centricity is a “do or fail” mantra.

How did we get here? Customers as a collective wield more power now than ever because they have unprecedented access to information to make informed decision and have louder voices to influence the actions of companies. As a result, they stand in a position of power, and they’re using that power to demand quicker, better and more human interactions in the digital world. So what does customer-centricity really mean? How can you pivot technology, people and culture to transform your business into a customer-focused company in pragmatic and doable terms?

It’s time to go beyond the buzzwords and understand how these concepts can create actual business value.

Today, a lot of organizations struggle to map these terms to a deployable program that can add value, but those who can’t overcome this challenge will get left behind. With that in mind, I’d like to share what a customer-centric, cloud CRM program should look like and how to make it a reality in your business.

What is a Customer-Centric Cloud CRM Program?

In the facing of rising expectations from end customers and the surge of less traditional competitors, organizations need to accomplish three objectives to succeed:

  • Differentiate: Customer experience is now a primary factor in the decision of which companies to do business with in all industries globally.

  • Accelerate: Having “start up-like” agility is now becoming table stakes in the competitive digital world as the need to meet changing demands at pace becomes imperative.

  • Scale: Businesses can no longer wait around for processes or systems that cannot handle vast increases in volume or complexity.

These three objectives come together to create an environment that puts the end customer at the center of everything businesses do. Think of it as a “hub and spoke,” where the customer is the hub and everything else is done in pursuit of satisfying that customer’s needs, even ones they don’t necessarily know they have yet.

Diving a little deeper, this program is the product of 12 critical transformations:

  1. Focus: Focus on customers rather than products or service offers.

  2. Customer-orientation: Create a single brand experience for customers across all products, services, business units, etc. instead of an inconsistent experience that’s fragmented by each line of business. Omnichannel, customer experience and mobile are all key enablers of this focus.

  3. Objectives: Prioritize value-add solutions that drive revenue over cost-cutting measures.

  4. Marketing: Introduce coordinated campaigns that pull in customers rather than pushing outbound messages and hoping something sticks.

  5. Control and visibility: Ensure a company-controlled brand experience is in place across all interactions rather than outsourcing customer engagement, which leads to opaque processes and separates the brand from customers.

  6. Operations: Implement straight-through processes that satisfy the on-demand culture to replace “swivel chair” inefficiencies that hurt the customer experience.

  7. Data: Make data accurate and available in real-time by eliminating batch-driven, manual processes.

  8. Solution-orientation: Create reusable building blocks that fulfill both short and long term needs rather than one-off, ad hoc point solutions.

  9. Program-orientation: Encourage complementary projects for global programs that satisfy a common goal rather than individual projects for each market.

  10. Finance: Prioritize investments in assets that provide long term value rather than one-off point solutions that are funded as expenses.

  11. Governance: Introduce programmatic governance that’s coordinated based on common goals across the entire organization rather than ad hoc governance based on group or market.

  12. Quality: Emphasize error prevention and detection throughout customer-facing processes instead of making quality control an after-thought.

How to Implement a Customer-Centric Cloud CRM Program

Once you’ve identified what your program will look like, it’s time to start putting that program in place. However, before you undergo any deployment activities, you need to first make sure you meet the following preconditions, which lay the groundwork for long term success:

  • Executive sponsorship: Are your executives on board with the new program and aligned on its vision and goals? Do you have advocates?

  • End user involvement: Are your users aware of the changes and are there representatives who will be involved in the requirements and design processes?

  • Budget: Do you have an agreed-upon funding model, both in terms of amount of funding and sources for funding?

  • Immediacy: Is the need to introduce a more customer-centric model clear in your business? Do executives and users recognize the urgency?

If you’ve met those preconditions, you’re ready to move forward. As you do, I recommend keeping in mind the following four best practices:

  1. Make it personal: Focus on your service reps as the primary stakeholders since they are the ones who will interact directly with customers most often, giving them a significant role in shaping the customer experience. As you do so, you should identify the customer data you need to provide for these reps so that they can personalize the experience, integrate this data with your core systems and address requirements for omnichannel service. Avoid following a “wait and see” mentality, as this can lead to paralysis.

  2. Consider the context: As you make data available to your users, consider how their needs might differ based on role. Be aware that there’s no “one size fits all,” as sales managers will need different information than service reps and so on. Equipping your users with the right information can help them deliver a better customer experience by personalizing interactions as described above and by empowering them to create relevant offers based on each customer’s unique needs. This last point opens up numerous cross-selling opportunities.

  3. Be proactive: Integrate your marketing, sales and service users into a common system of engagement to allow for more proactive insight. For example, having customer data and engagement history in a single place can help users make proactive suggestions for customers based on upcoming events, displayed preferences or trend data that highlights offers that customers with similar profiles have purchased.

  4. Be predictive: Use hard data to create a better customer experience based on each customer’s current and likely future needs. Looking at the insurance industry as an example, usage-based insurance is a prime example of predictive measures, as these programs can offer tailored packages to customers based on their own individual behavior.

Move Beyond the Buzzwords

Yes, customer-centricity is one of the biggest buzzwords in today’s enterprise environment, but it’s also a lot more than that. As you peel back the layers, you’ll find that adopting a customer-centric approach can add significant business value, it’s simply a matter of identifying what this approach will look like for your business and how you’ll make that vision a reality.

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