Shifting Priorities, or How to Become a Customer-Driven Organization

So, how tired are you of hearing me — what’s the right word here… oh yeah — “emphasize” the need for customer centricity?  I wrote about it before in this blog, and I wrote and preached about it for over seven years at Gartner.  It was almost like a battle-call, each time I talked to a customer we always started with a discussion on customer-centricity.  So, with that in mind — how sad would you be if I were to tell you that customer centricity is a thing of the past?  How about if I told you that customer-focused organizations are not likely to make it either?  Shocking, I know… but let me explain.

We are entering a state of business that is way different that we have seen so far.  Until now, and for the most part still continuing for the vast majority of organizations, our approach to business has been us versus them.  Company versus customers.  Come on, be honest – even when you talked about customer-centricity you were still trying to figure out how to create the best possible solution for your organization – not your customers.  Still there are plenty of verticals where this is the norm rather than the exception.  We are, by nature, trained to seek our own benefit above others.  That was fine –  until now.

See, among the changes brought by social media (you know, that whole feedback-driven, blog-centric, twitter-infused model of businesses) came the recognition that customers are strong. not one by one, but as a group.  There are plenty of examples of businesses that either took advantage (Comcast) and reaped the rewards, or failed to notice it (Motrin) and paid the price.  The social media “revolution” has actually managed to change the world of business for those astute companies that noticed it.  The new world is no longer customer-centric — it is now customer-driven.

Converting your business to customer-driven means that what you do is what your customers want you to do, and tell you to do.  You make the decision, of course, to engage in that business model.  However, if you do – their feedback drives your organization.  There is no more ignoring what they tell you or what they need – instead those demands become your driving force.  The reward for that? Loyalty and repeat business.

Are you still with me? Still interested?  Good, here is what you need to do.  You don’t have to change that much what you do, just how you react.  See, the core principle of customer-driven businesses is feedback.  No, you are not getting away from that so easy.  You have to create your feedback strategy (and I am not just talking about surveys here), deploy it, collect feedback and constantly analyze it and implement changes based on it.  If you cannot make your organization move dynamically, this is not for you.  If you cannot quickly react to changes in what your customers need and want, then don’t bother.  This is for dynamic organizations that want to hear what their customers have to say – and react to it.

Here is an example of a customer-driven business model.  Egg Bank in the UK heard their customers’ complaints about the lack of a specific type of account.  They thought it would be a good idea to create it, but they also wanted to make sure they delivered it exactly the way their customers’ wanted.  They implemented a series of short surveys to collect input on how to deliver that service.  They put out the survey for just three days and collected all sorts of feedback.  They later analyzed the information collected and within a week they had created a new product, conforming to their customers needs and desires, and it was an instant success (guess where the initial marketing list came from… yep, the people who provided feedback).

Are you ready to let your customers drive your organization?