Every organization says it’s customer-centric. Yet building a culture of customer-centrism is a massive undertaking because everything a company does, from product design to packaging to after-sales service to website design and beyond, shapes the customer’s overall experience. You can have the best marketing campaign in the world, but nothing ruins a customer’s experience faster than a badly-designed product or a late delivery.
Marketers talk a lot about alignment between sales and marketing, which is absolutely essential. But if every part of the organization contributes to the customer experience (it does), then marketers should be aligning across the entire organization to drive customer-centrism. Of course, customers see absolutely no difference between your front-office and back-office functions or your various departments, and don’t care, expecting your organization to serve them as a single entity. That’s what customer-centrism means, organizing everything you do for the customer’s benefit.
Easy to say, hard to do.
Challenges of customer-centric alignment
Sharing customer data across silo’s contributes to creating a culture of customer-centrism, but the challenges go way beyond data. As a recent Harvard Business Review article explains, “the volume, velocity, and variety of customer data that now exists overwhelms many organizations. Some companies don’t have the systems and technology to segment and profile customers. Others lack the processes and operational capabilities to target them with personalized communications and experiences.” These tough “Big Data” challenges can be effectively addressed through deploying better tech, via a CDP. You should start building customer-centrism by unifying and sharing your customer data, getting everyone on the same page (or dashboard).
Beyond enabling your shared customer data to drive customer-centrism, B2B organizations must also align their operational functions around a culture of customer-centrism. Doing so demands a shift in mindset. The internal silo’s that can be toughest to break down are often individual and functional mindsets that assume, for example, that the people in marketing and sales “own” the customer relationship/CX, but employees in product design or supply chain management do not. That is exactly wrong. Unless everyone inside your organization takes ownership of the customer experience, you can’t create a customer-centric culture.
The B2B marketing and sales teams may indeed be “closest” to customers, but (again) everyone impacts the customer/CX and therefore must embrace a customer-centric mindset. Marketers who assume they “know best” about what’s good for customers, and who expect operational areas to simply defer to their “superior” knowledge, are alignment killers. Everyone inside the organization, from marketers to warehouse employees, should be equal in how they defer to customer demands and should embrace cross-functional collaboration to serve customers. At its core, customer-centrism means not caring who delivers value to customers, but simply and humbly working collaboratively to deliver that value.
Driving cultural change
Marketers, with their easy access and familiarity with customer data, should see themselves as customer advocates and shapers of customer-centric mindsets across the organization. Driving this cultural change around customer-centrism is a massively important project that goes way beyond technological transformation.
Cultural change starts from the top, with an inclusive dialogue across and among every department that enables people to understand how they impact the customer (and how data and collaboration support customer-centrism). Change also requires defining expectations and incentive structures that make customer-centrism the North Star guiding everyone.
For example, Adobe aligned its compensation strategy around customer outcomes. Incentive plans were re-structured to reflect the company’s revenue performance and measures of customer success, including customer retention and spending per customer. Adobe rewards the contributions every employee makes to the customer experience, and also drives organization-wide alignment around customer-centrism.
The cultural shift required will be enabled by technology (like a CDP), but it goes far beyond just sharing data. It includes clear communication, new mindsets, and the re-thinking of incentives to align everyone around the customer.
Chuck Leddy is a Zylotech contributing writer.
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