What is good Customer Centricity?

Author - Thomas Vestergaard. CEO

The cabin is stuffy with impatience, wrinkled shirts and cell phones in flight mode. The wheels touch ground and the doors open for the many businesspeople who take the afternoon flight every day or every week from Copenhagen to Tirstrup Airport in Aarhus. Cell phones are switched on as we walk the 100 meters or so to the exit. And then... as you lift your eyes from the screen in your palm, you see a stand with four buttons and the text: "How satisfied are you with the arrival experience?"

Hmm... The plane landed on all its wheels, the doors opened and I didn't run into an all-girls marching band or a serial killer on my way toward the stand. The little boy walking ahead of me makes a beeline for the buttons. In a matter of seconds, he has pressed one button who knows how many times, like it was a matter of life and death in a computer game.

And this is where things get off track. I hate to be the one to say it - but that is not Customer Centricity.

Every time I buy something, I get bombarded with surveys in all shapes and sizes.
Stands identical to the one in the airport can be found in many major retail chains throughout Scandinavia. Every single online purchase is followed up by a customer survey. And every time I contact a call center or a public administration office, I'm asked for my opinion as a user.

I'm not alone in predicting that we'll be seeing much more of this. It is a fact. Technological advances have made it much easier and cheaper to conduct surveys. And the possibilities will increase significantly in coming years.

Which begs two questions: Is the quality of all of these surveys good enough? And why should I even bother to participate?

Every single company exists to give their customers the best possible service. Furthermore, it generally costs more to attract new customers than it does to retain the customers you already have.

And then there's the competition. Markets are growing more and more competitive, and being just "good enough" is no longer good enough. As a customer, I expect the taxi driver, waiter, sales clerk, consultant etc. to be competent, service-minded and pleasant. Or I'll just go to a competitor.

"There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

- Sam Walton

For this reason, systematic and regular customer input is vital and necessary to enable companies to continue designing services, products and processes that meet the customers' needs and wishes.

And as customers, we will participate in surveys as long as we can see that our involvement is meaningful. Involvement must be relevant for us personally and adapted to our daily lives.

It must be designed in such a way to ensure a correlation between customer strategy, customer feedback, employee behavior and manager behavior. A system where I, as a customer, respond to relevant questions at the right time - and not too often!

Because, as a customer, I want to be part of a conscious customer strategy, where I'm asked relevant questions and invited to get involved and where, in return, I experience high quality in every process and point of contact. I want to feel that companies are genuinely interested in me, as a customer, and that they have (carefully) considered my experience. As Gordon Ramsay so eloquently puts it:

"It doesn't matter how amazing the steak is, if it's served on a cold plate it's crap.
If it's served with a dull knife it's crap.
If the gravy isn't piping hot, it's crap.
If you're eating it on an uncomfortable chair, it's crap.
If it's served by an ugly waiter who just came in from a cigarette break, it's crap.
Because I care about the steak, I have to care about everything around it."

With these words, Gordon Ramsay touches on another element, the importance of the customer's meeting with the company's staff. They are the ones who create positive customer relationships. The most successful customer-centric companies are successful precisely because they manage to translate the customer's expectations into real behavior in their employees.

One more decisive factor for these successful companies is that they deliver good customer experiences, regardless of where the customer meets the company or which employees they encounter. This is result of Management's sharp focus on the customer experience.

When we talk about Customer Centricity, Management is key!
The customers rarely meet them, but when the managers are insistent, focused and follow up - not an easy task! - the high level of consistency and uniformity in the customer experience can be felt. And that is what characterizes good Customer Centricity. 

Thomas Vestergaard. CEO
Author

Thomas Vestergaard. CEO

Thomas’ blog posts are based on his 20 years’ experience as a consultant for some of the largest companies in Scandinavia. He often consults at top-management level at the crossroads between organizational strategy, surveys and behavior among customers, managers and employees. On a daily basis, Thomas is CEO of Ennova.