Why creating customer centricity is critical for every services business
This article is written by Andy Campbell, Director, Solutions Marketing at Certinia. Andy is laser-focused on helping services businesses leverage cloud-based technology to react faster, run smarter, and grow through disruption. Get his insights here on the why and how services businesses must prioritize customer-centric change.
No matter your focus, selling services into a recovering business marketplace is tough, and is only likely to get tougher. Whether you operate in technical, professional, consulting, financial, or media services, it isn’t easy to win new business. It is even more difficult to ensure that those customers are successfully retained.
Today, your task is not just to convince an over-served business marketplace that your services are perfect so that you get a contract signature. That’s only the beginning. True success lies in maintaining and extending their custom, in the face of hungry competitors and challenging profitability targets.
Achieving this requires the whole organisation to act as one entity that is acutely focused on delivering for the customer. Customer centricity is critical for competitive advantage, financial success, and even survival. If customers aren’t sufficiently engaged, given answers they need, and effortlessly able to interact with every part of your business in a consistent manner, they can leave – and tell the world why.
What is customer centricity anyway?
Over the years, customer centricity has been described in many ways.
It was originally mooted by management guru Peter Drucker in 1954 when he stated: “It is the customer who determines what a business is, what it produces, and whether it will prosper.” Although many companies have embraced it significantly, it has too often become a glib phrase of “putting the customer first” in many a mission statement and considered as solely within the domain of the sales team.
Gartner’s definition has more depth. It states that, “Customer centricity is the ability of people in an organization to understand customers’ situations, perceptions, and expectations. Customer centricity demands that the customer is the focal point of all decisions related to delivering products, services, and experiences to create customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.” [Gartner Glossary 2021]
Yet even this does not really help a leader trying to ‘create’ customer-centricity to know where to start. Unless you bake this change deeply into the organisation, you can still risk only thinking about the customer at a superficial level. It’s not enough simply to encourage everyone to ensure customers are ‘the focal point of all decisions.’
Creating customer centricity
The starting point is to recognize that every function in the business is interdependent. True customer centricity involves integrating and connecting the processes and handoffs between departments, instead of working in a disconnected way. Breaking down the traditional boundaries between the front and back office, enabling everyone to rely on crystal clear and easy access to the same customer data and collaborate for their, and your, business success.
This entails synchronisation across functional processes, reshaping workflows, and enabling complete collaboration around and with the customer. For example, Finance needs to understand the customer as deeply as the service delivery team if they are to ensure every customer account query translates into a great experience. For this to happen it is essential that everyone is equipped with the right tools to automate and speed up key stages, from powerful Service Estimating capabilities that help to secure profitable opportunities faster, through to Professional Services Automation platforms to power great service delivery. A connected approach, based on a shared source of data, makes it possible for the whole team to wow your customers, from the very first quote, through to final delivery.
Beyond this, every team, function, and individual needs to have a focus of not just keeping customers happy but ensuring that the company is able to maximise long-term relationships. Customer satisfaction translates into higher levels of retention and greater opportunities for new business. The old, linear, transactional way of engaging with customers is simply no longer fit for purpose. Instead, the customer needs a continuous, self-sustaining, and satisfying journey that is helped along at every touchpoint, by every team – from sales to service, to finance. This in turn will provide a more informed view. Having a holistic and deeper understanding of the income received and the cost to serve each customer, will provide real insight into customer lifetime value. This will ensure that customers are nurtured and managed appropriately, and profitability targets are achieved.
Finally, it is worth recognising that competitive advantage is acquired by companies that stand out from the crowd and continue to keep pace with changing customer needs and market trends. This requires a platform that supports continuous improvement, the development of new business models and innovative service offerings. Flexibility and business agility are key to lasting success. Customer centricity is not a ‘once and done’ activity and changing the organisation for the long term is no mean feat. It requires the right mindset and the right platform to succeed, but it can only be driven from the top.
If you’d like more reading on customer centricity, take a look at our recent brief, Delivering customer satisfaction with a single source of truth, which provides more insight into the power of a connected customer journey and how to make it happen.