A lot of businesses claim to be customer-centric. Most, when pressed, will talk customer-centric at you. But do they really have the framework and the desire to understand their customers? Are they able to put that knowledge to good use?

Perhaps, instead, we should all ask ourselves the simple question: how can we become more customer-centric?

For example, in the insurance market, providers often have a wide range of products for their customers. All too often, each product area has a different management structure, reporting line, and technology provision. Even within a single product line, there might be little interaction between the different methods of distribution. Telephone, in-branch, direct on-line activity, via a broker… the number of ways to interract with a customer continue to grow. How can an operation be truly customer-centric when it is organised by product area or distribution method? It is certainly not universally organised by focussing on the holistic needs of the customer.

Talking about a customer-centric strategy sounds great from a marketing perspective… until it doesn’t happen. Actually delivering a customer-centric strategy is a whole different ball game.

So, how do you make it happen? Well, you need to tackle the potential challenges in three key areas:

  • Organisational Structure

    You need to organise the business from a customer perspective rather than a product or distribution channel perspective.

    This doesn’t mean that every manager has to be a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none with responsibilities across all product and distribution areas. Specialisation in these areas is always important.

    Instead, it means that everyone in the organisation must be targeted on customer satisfaction and customer product engagement as a whole, irrespective of channel or product.

  • Adaptability

    We are all unpredictable shoppers. Our requirements change constantly and our expectations continue to rise. A business needs an infrastructure that enables it to keep pace. Trends must be monitored, new opportunities recognised, and decisions need to be made quickly.

    Consumers have always been concerned with both the quality and the price of products, but blind loyalty is a thing of the past. There are so many examples of business failure or dramatic loss in market share because change was too slow. Good people will leave if they are frustrated by the inability to react quickly or by an internal acceptance of the mediocre.

    Adaptability is key for attracting and keeping both customers and the staff who are centred on them.

  • Technology

    Essentially, your technology should enable you to deliver an adaptive strategy that you can mould to a dynamic consumer environment. More than that, it should allow you to integrate all customer engagement across all products on a single platform. You need it to truly provide you with a single view of the customer. And your technology should enable you to move fast.

    Once you have the organisational infrastructure and the adaptability to move quickly, the technology you use must be capable of supporting it. What is the point of quick decision making if the implementation of adapted business requirements then sits in long IT development queues?

The path to outstanding success is never easy and is certainly never quick. In the case of delivering a true customer-centric vision, it starts with really understanding what that means.