I recently had the pleasure of discussing this topic with Philip Watts, an expert in transformational change strategy, who spent a large part of his career in the pharmaceutical industry, advocating the position of the customer. This conversation largely comprises the first of my three-part series on becoming customer-centric.
Gain clarity and make commitment
Watts and I were quick to agree that it is impossible to change a culture in an organisation without being completely clear on where leaders want the company to head and why. Watts noticed the majority of people in his workshops have an obvious lack of clarity. Many participants expect to dive straight into sophisticated concepts such as customer insights, customer frameworks and customer value propositions, however these have to be accompanied by a clear vision.
For this reason, any business leader looking to become truly customer-centric must start by asking themselves simple questions such as: who is your customer? Why are they so important to you? What does a customer expect from you?
Watts believes that at the very beginning of the process, the organisation must define what type of company it is, as it is vital that there is alignment at every level. Are you a product focussed business or a people focussed business? A good example of a customer-centric organisation is American supermarket Walmart. It believes customer is king and so it can fire everyone from the CEO down if it chooses to spend their money somewhere else – it’s all about the customer.
Why are you doing this?
The other important thing to establish before initiating change is to have a solid reason to ensure complete drive and determination. The company needs to clearly establish why they are looking to initiate change and although reasons do vary, it almost always comes down to increasing profits and long-term success. Watts and I believe wanting to change to simply keep up with others around you may backfire and go against your company’s philosophy and vision leading to a lack of success.
Can you make the commitment?
A key theme throughout my conversation with Watts was the need to for business leaders to make sustained commitment. He highlighted that people are very good at developing a new strategy and introducing it, however once it has been launched, they walk away. He believes that the lack of commitment derives from the large number of balls that leaders are juggling at any one time and so it is very easy for situations to fall off the radar quickly without a clear focus.
Now that the foundations have been set, the next article will discuss what it really means to be customer-centric and how a true insight can drive strategy.
Stephen Fortune is principal consultant at The Oxford Group
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