Why customer centricity drives business performance

By Roger Christie, Managing Director

Consumers are more empowered than ever before, and businesses are struggling to adapt.

Earlier this month, Telstra announced its intent to allocate $3 billion over three years to improve the quality of its networks and digital infrastructure. It’s a move CEO Andy Penn says demonstrates the telco’s ‘commitment to putting customers at the heart of everything [they] do.’

While in July, NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn revealed the bank’s business units would be restructured to make it more ‘customer-focused‘, farewelling two senior executives in the process.

And over in New Zealand, the number of ‘customer-centric’ jobs advertised in the banking and financial services sector went up 52% between March 2014 and 2015.

Customer centricity, it seems, is the new black.

In the three years since we launched Social2Business, we’ve had a front row seat to this emerging trend. We’ve observed the shifting needs of the market, changes in customer behaviour, and the increasing complexity of our clients’ challenges.

To better meet these challenges, we too are changing. We’ve developed an approach that addresses needs across the whole business — one that helps organisations transition towards greater customer centricity and delivers stronger outcomes.

So today, we’re excited to launch Propel: the preferred partner for those who believe customer centricity can transform their business. But why should organisations care so much about customers?

Consumers are more empowered than ever before, and businesses are struggling to adapt.

Thanks to real-time, pervasive, comprehensive data, consumers worldwide have greater ability to access information, influence behaviour and make more informed decisions.

This empowerment doesn’t sit well within existing organisation structures, approval processes and skill sets. It challenges annual campaign planning, goal setting and budgeting. In fact, consumer empowerment is the real ‘disruptor’ building and breaking organisations worldwide.

But an empowered consumer doesn’t need to be a threat. Empowered consumers are equipped to share opinions, feedback, aspirations. Imagine how powerful your organisation would be if all decisions, all products or services, were informed by customer and prospect input and insights? In real-time?

Suddenly, this very same pervasive data that has shifted power from organisations to consumers presents a key opportunity for organisations themselves to respond.

However, a desire for short-term gains is preventing long-term value.

Despite the possibilities, there remains a strange perception among many industries that customer centricity and immediate returns are mutually exclusive. To become ‘truly customer centric’ requires years of work at the expense of short-term profitability.

So organisations skew priorities and activities to those things which may deliver tactical success and meet a quarterly target at the expense of understanding how best to create long-term customer relationships. At best, this meets a quarterly target. At worst, they’re driven closer to obsolescence.

Simply by understanding customer behaviours, expectations and needs, organisations are themselves empowered to deliver both short- and long-term value to customers and shareholders alike. Some have already worked this out — case in point, AMP’s CEO Craig Meller:

“AMP has a clear focus to be a more customer centric, efficient and international organisation. The execution of this strategy is unlocking the long-term potential of our business, which we are confident will continue to deliver value for our shareholders.”

Meller highlights the correlation between a dogged customer focus, long-term potential and shareholder returns. Tellingly, he does so on the back of a 10% increase in net profit over twelve months, suggesting gains from this approach are already a reality.

You can start the journey towards customer centricity today.

But not simply by setting up a Facebook page, running a campaign on Snapchat or crowdsourcing new product names or ideas from existing customers. All these activities may be eventual tactics, but customer centricity requires a more strategic approach, supported by practical knowledge of consumer behaviour.

Customer centricity starts by understanding and committing to providing products, services and experiences in the interests of customers. Suddenly decisions across all levels are made with the customer at the core, rather than organisations themselves. And, by virtue, doing business this way ensures an organisation’s relevance, longevity and success. Rather than telling customers what they want, understand what they need and how your organisation plays a role in creating shared value.

We, too, have adapted to better meet our customers’ expectations.

If organisations believe and pursue a truly customer-centred mindset, what then differentiates them is the way they deliver against those needs: strategy. And this is where we believe we offer a unique, valuable solution.

As Propel, we bring together the practical experience of industry, the strategic thinking of consultancy, and the responsive creativity of agency to help our clients plan and implement solutions in this increasingly complex marketplace. We know how to drive a customer culture from the top-down and bottom-up in the digital age.

We’ve already worked with some of the largest public and private sector organisations in Australia and New Zealand, supporting executives, boards, functional leads and practitioners. We’ve developed a suite of offerings that address the five core areas of becoming a customer-centric organisation. And, with much enthusiasm, we bring that expertise to you through a commitment to your customers.

So if this approach aligns with your strategy, we’d love to learn more about you and your organisation. Drop us a note and we’ll happily shout you a coffee. Or a tea — after all, you’re the customer!

Roge and the Propel team

If you like what you’ve read and want to talk further, drop us a note via email, check out the Propel website or simply follow our thoughts here on Medium. Don’t forget to hit ‘Recommend’ to share with others!

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.