Principles of Customer Closeness: Reorganise around the customer

In a continuing series, Oliver Gwynne delves deeper into CX for brands and looks at how to focus on the customer. This provides a fabulous context for those who are conducting customer research and anyone interested in the way brands have evolved in recent years and refocussed on consumers.

As we have seen with the pandemic, whenever there are times of uncertainty it is perhaps natural that organisations will seek to restructure with the goal of unlocking efficiencies and cost-savings. Whilst streamlining may be a necessary evil, how can organisations look to reorganise around their customers and change their output from cost-cutting to value creation?

Active Listening

We have already talked about the disparity between customer desires and those of an organisation. Customers want simplicity, seamless responsive experiences, and value for money. Businesses by their nature are complex, often comprising of fragmented systems and processes, and are considerably less flexible than the customers they seek to serve.

Re-organisation is a time-consuming exercise which is not without its own expense. In order to achieve a return on investment, it’s important that organisations know their customers at a granular level. You can’t justify a re-organisation based on yearly customer surveys or online feedback, it needs to be on the core attributes that are important to your customers, the values that brought them into the category and their expectations at different price points.

Culture Change

Re-organising around your customers is not a one-off exercise or something you add to your mission statement, print out on a poster and then never mention again. It must be something led by your leadership team and embraced by all parts of the organisation. In order to ensure that change sticks, it’s important that the organisation rewards customer-centric behaviours and this may mean a change in outlook where most organisations are purely profit focused.

Forgo Silos

Every organisation typically structures itself around functional expertise, which can inhibit collaboration and often stifle innovation. When you have a group of people solely focused on one task it’s easy for them to be too close to understand the larger picture and/or be resistant to change for fear it will impact their livelihood. In embracing customer closeness, it is better to re-organise your functional areas around the customer journey. Today many teams are still slowed down by being dependent on each other, and even cross-functional teams often don’t work close enough together, which results in scattered customer journeys, outcomes and service levels. Re-organise so that the right people sit together in ways that make sense to your customer. Align your most expensive resources to your most valuable customers, for example in customer acquisition align your high-touch and face-to-face channels only with high-value segments.

Hire Specialist Roles?

Amazon famously used to keep an empty chair at all their major board meetings to represent the customer. (Or at least this is the excuse the procurement person came up with as to why he’d bought too many chairs) Many organisations are now deciding to instead fill that empty chair with a Chief Customer Officer or a Chief Experience Officer etc. The role of a CCO or CXO is to be an advocate for customers and enhance their journey. All too often though, they aren’t given enough power, resources or influence in order to impact real change and whilst having a single “owner” is desirable from an organisation’s point of view, they can unwittingly take responsibility away from the employees actually serving customers. Unless you fully support a CCO/CXO they will quickly become a figurehead and may even be perceived as being put in place as a gesture.

About the author:
Oliver Gwynne works for STRAT7, which turns market and customer data into real world knowledge, and knowledge into competitive advantage. We are a group of companies all dedicated to helping you get closer to your customers through cultural understanding, hybrid segmentation and insight communities.

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