The Top Five Obstacles to Customer Centricity and How to Overcome Them

Note to reader: This series of blog posts is based on the results of research undertaken by Peter Lavers and Intradiem for a customer centricity webinar that aired live in March 2016. (Access the on-demand version of the webinar)

The Research

We asked participants to answer 10 questions relating to potential issues that their companies might face. Respondents registered how much they agreed with each statement, from 1 = completely disagree to 5 = completely agree. The issue with most agreement—a vast majority at 62%—was:

“My company is organized in silos; customer programs are championed by functions, which find it hard to influence other parts of the business.”

Very few respondents disagreed with this statement! For most of us, it describes a painful reality. Here are just two reasons why silos affect the customer experience:

  1. I often encounter staff having objectives that are for the benefit of the silo rather than the company as a whole—effectively creating unhealthy competition because collaboration is made painfully hard. Have you ever heard a colleague say “Why should I help you meet YOUR objectives at the expense of MY bonus?!”
  2. This issue leads to finger pointing and blame culture. It’s always easier to blame someone in a different silo. Sometimes this even gets out to the customers! I have too often listened to calls in which an agent blames another part of the business for the customer’s predicament. This is a lose-lose situation!

Addressing the Issue

I believe it’s insular and uncollaborative behavior that does so much counter-cultural damage to becoming more customer focused as a business.  In other words it’s about people, and we all know that people don’t like change.

In order to address this issue we DON’T necessarily need another reorganization! We need something that everyone can align to that adds up to success for the customer as well as the different functions within the organization – however they’re structured.

My colleague Doug Leather defines customer centricity in this way:

“Customer Centricity is the eco-system and operating model that enables an organisation to design and deliver a unique and distinctive customer experience.”

I would agree and assert that taking a systemic approach to Customer Management is the fundamental solution to the ‘silo’ problem. A light bulb moment for me was when providing feedback to a luxury auto company, I said to them, “if you engineered your customer experience with the same quality approach as your cars, you would have much happier customers”. They agreed!

What is Systemic Thinking?

Study.com defines it as: “A system is a set of parts that interact and affect each other, hereby creating a larger complex whole. System thinking is a method of critical thinking by which you analyze the relationships between the system’s parts in order to understand a situation for better decision-making”.

The analogy of a tree as part of a forest is often cited as a good example of a system. A forest doesn’t just consist of trees! It is interdependent with plants, fungi, insects, animals and birds. A change to any one part of the system will have some effect on all other parts.

‘Systemic thinking’ is  not Marketing “fluff” and definitely not the IT system!

Systemic thinking isn’t new in business. We do not expect components to arrive at a production line, or cash to be in ATMs, by accident. There’s a complex, quality managed, business system behind them. This then begs the question:

Does your customer experience happen by accident?

If it does—or if it’s so disconnected it’s not recognizable as a system—then your company is exposed to unnecessary risk and you need your own systemic model to align around.

I use different systemic models for B2C, B2B and Public Sector/Not For Profit (NFP).

Business to Consumer Model

When people ask me about B2C customer management I emphasize that it’s all about winning, keeping and developing (cross-selling & up-selling) customers at a reasonable cost. This is exemplified in the SCHEMA model (For further reading, please see The SCHEMA Model for Customer Management)

Business to Business Model

B2B is much more about long-term relationship quality.

Consolidation in the sector has made it critical to effectively manage relationships with key accounts, partners, brokers, suppliers and distributors.

For B2B I’d recommend the Customer Attuned model, which argues that customer relationships are based on trust and working together for mutual commercial benefit.

This model connects all the capabilities required to go to market, manage relationships and organize yourselves from knowledge and insight through strategy, planning, implementation and measurement.

You can find out much more about this model and the best practices of B2B customer management in my complimentary eBook.

Public Sector

For the Public and NFP sectors I deploy the “3C” systemic model. It’s based on the three key drivers of customer focus, commercial acumen and cost efficiency.

If you are managing service delivery with these capabilities you will be doing well! Please note, however, many NFP organizations consider themselves closer to the B2C/commercial model embodied in SCHEMA—in which case that’s the one I’d use! (For further reading on the 3C model, read the post from WCL Customer Management).

In Summary

Do you hear talk of “empires” or “Republic of” within your business? If so, then there’s a silo problem and those in leadership need to take up their responsibilities to drive customer centricity from the top.

Every company has different issues and is starting from its own unique position, but I am confident that you can apply this thinking to benefit both your customers and your staff.

I hope that this post has done a little to inspire you to be agents of positive change towards customer centricity.

About the author

Peter Lavers is based in London and is MD of WCL Customer Management Ltd and a Director of Customer Attuned Ltd (B2B-focused). He is an expert in CRM and customer experience management, and is one of the world’s top influencers in the subject receiving recognition from organisations such as Satmetrix, SAP, Huffington Post, Vcare, MindTouch and Business Coach.

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