Every two years, Bain & Company publishes a ranking of the most widely used management methods worldwide to find the ones that are currently being used most. According to their research, future-oriented companies structure themselves cross-functionally and those companies that are playing a leading role in the business world are aware of the fact that the customers only decide who survives - and who doesn’t.
"We have to start with a customer experience and then work our way back to technology," Steve Jobs once emphasized. What he meant is that it is important to radically stand on the side of the customer and to consistently reduce anything that does not serve a customer’s direct benefit.
That’s easier said than done, considering that customer centricity is still the number one challenge for companies today. They no longer reach a primacy with what they do, but with how the customer perceives it - and what he tells others about it. Hence, the customer is the most important person in the company.
Even in companies that place great emphasis on customer orientation, customer centricity is often just praised but not lived.
But while old-fashioned managers think of competition, their quarterly goals, and costs, the elite of young entrepreneurs has long understood that it is all about earning the customers' favor. They are constantly and very specifically searching for their customers problems to provide a suitable solution and improve the customer experience All products, processes and technologies are strictly orchestrated by all participants around the needs of the customers. And to ensure that everything fits in perfectly, solutions are developed iteratively and in constant exchange with the targeted customers.
Cross-functional and never self-focused
Ultimately, customer concerns cannot be delegated to service, sales and marketing. Everyone in the company must take care of the goodwill of the customers whose expectations are rising daily. And they carry their smartphones, the almighty device, always around with them. It means, if they don’t like something, they simply swipe it away.
Still, many companies are self-involved, and efficiency driven, which means they expect their customers to submit to the processes envisioned by the providers, accept cumbersome formalities and tick to the beat of their decrepit software. Not to mention that customers’ problems are usually happening cross-functionally: communication and voting problems in the scramble between responsibilities, area egoisms and efficiency. But from the customer's point of view, processes must function across departments and dovetail smoothly. Who optimizes processes, but does not tailor to customer needs, is just getting better in doing the wrong thing.
Some companies are really good in making things more complicated, stealing time, and spreading bad feelings, but people don’t endure such behavior anymore. The power has long been with the customers. With their actions, in which they connect to virtual swarms, they can decide on the life and death of a provider – in the blink of an eye.
Customer comes first, then the internal efficiency
Only those are really customer-oriented who move all sorts of annoyances from the customer to the provider, so that only positive experiences remain. And that's more than a subtle difference, because every single customer-related inconvenience is a gateway for disruptors. So, first the customer, then the internal efficiency.
A customer-centered organizational development is essential. After all, today’s companies are driven by customer wishes. What annoys the customers or is irrelevant to them, fails immediately. Only if they are feeling good, is the company doing well, too. People willing to pay, top talents and society, expect that a company pursues more ambitious goals than market leadership and maximum returns. They want to know what value of benefit a provider offers to people.
This value, the sense of being and higher purpose, determines the identity of a company, generates qualitative growth and makes competitive advantages very likely.
By Daniela La Marca