Customer-Centricity! Past it’s ‘Sell By’ date?


Firstly – some context!

For the last 10 years I’ve focussed almost exclusively on working with large businesses to assist in designing and operationalizing customer-centric business models, using our integrated methodology to assess, benchmark and quantify enterprise wide customer-centric capability and then design the transformation programme and business case.

I also published a book earlier this year which titled ‘The Customer Centric Blueprint: Building & Leading the 21st Century Organisation.’

So………..why would I ask this question with so much invested in the principles of customer-centricity?

Well frankly, most organisations have done a really poor job in developing and operationalizing their customer-centric intentions. One of the key reasons for this is an inability to innovate the business model through the ‘customer lens.’ Instead, businesses attempt to force-fit the customer strategy and programme plan into their current business model which, in most cases, requires major surgery if there is to be any chance of successful customer-centric execution. Because many organisations fail to understand the systemic nature of customer-centric capability, many organisations believe that all the focus has to be ‘on the customer’ if they are to become customer-centric. Many times I’ve been subject to unacceptable supplier/vendor relationship standards and practices yet I’ve seen/experienced a positive change as a customer (rather than supplier) of the organisation. In this reality, there may have been some alignment around development and delivery of products and services and possibly some level of incremental innovation, based upon a customer focus, but these principles, in all likelihood, haven’t been extended to other stakeholders.

So if we think about a natural evolution of customer-centricity it could be argued that ‘stakeholder-centricity’ should be the new focus. All stakeholders, customers, employees, suppliers, business partners, society, shareholders should be considered in the transformation programme. The stakeholder community will have varied, and often opposing, wants, needs and expectations. Shareholders may want above average returns, short term. Customers may want both a rationale and emotional engagement and consistent delivery of a superior customer experience or lowest price. Employees may want to work for an organisation with values that align with their own, an organisation with a ‘mission that matters’ and an organisation that provides the opportunity to grow and develop in a meaningful way. The community may want to see a commitment to environmental sustainability and government may want adherence to regulation/compliance that may, in fact, add a ‘hassle factor’ to the customer experience. Stakeholder-centricity involves all stakeholders developing an emotional connection with the company and the company maximising value to society, rather than just for customers or shareholders.

I’m seeing a step that goes beyond stakeholder-centricity! The reality is that enlightened leadership has, whether consciously or not, moved on. The real leaders have moved on to ‘human–centricity.’ No matter how sophisticated our use of technology and how streamlined and optimised our processes are, we are ultimately at the mercy of the way that we, as human beings, interact with one another. It’s all about ‘human-beings being human’

The question we need to consider is whether there is really a difference between customer-centricity, stakeholder-centricity and human-centricity. For me it’s about the definition of the various terms, it’s about clarity as to what this means for the business, it’s about the underlying framework being used to ensure the organisation is joined up to deliver consistently, it’s about ensuring relevance and distinctiveness. What are your thoughts?

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