Published 17. Oct. 2017
The Customer-Centric Organization
Organizations like Amazon, Netflix, and Uber have 100% customer-centric approach. They have totally changed behaviours and expectations and have massively impacted every businesses and institutions. They have trained all of us to have everything on our terms, and have it instantly.
For PwC, one of the largest professional services firms in the world, real customer-centricity stretches into every aspect of the company — from process and strategy to culture, measures, and even structure.
Companies like to believe that they place the customer at the heart of their business. But the orientation and prioritization often is derived from what is easier and more efficient for the company, rather than what’s better and more effective for the customer.
Most of the time, companies are organized in ways that make little sense for the customer (ever had a customer representative need to transfer you to another department because they cannot action your query?)
A lot of organizations put too much emphasis on business efficiency over customer satisfaction. Too much customer-facing resource is focused on dealing with a failure or in doing something well (failure demand), rather than on helping create more value (value demand).
Four Undeniable Characteristics of a Truly Customer-Centric Organization
There’s a Youtube clip of a young Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, from early 2000, where he answered a reporter’s question about Amazons mission statement, “We seek to be earth’s most customer-centric company for four primary customer sets: consumers, sellers, enterprise, and content creators.”
This was more than 15 years ago, but it still influences operating models, measures, and cultures. In the interview, Bezos explains what Amazon’s four pillars of customer-centricity means:
- You have to listen to customers. Organizations that don’t listen to customers fail.
- You have to invent for customers. If all organizations do is listen to customers, they will fail!
- You have to personalize. Take every individual customer and put them at the center of their own universe.
- You have to make space for experiments where you can fail and learn.
These pillars are characterized by a young Jeff Bezos illustration. During Amazon’s early days, he would bring an empty chair into the room and just like what Jeff Bezos would do during Amazon’s early days. Bezos would bring an empty chair into a room, which and say it represents the customer, which is the most important person in the room.
Each year, thousands of Amazon managers (including the founder) spend time in call centers to help ensure the culture of not just listening to, but understanding the customers. Amazon sees to it that team objectives and metrics are aligned to the customer experience strategy and that data-driven decision-making is used to continually improve against those measures.
In 2013, Amazon created an internal platform for experimentation called Weblab.
Weblab allows any developer or product team inside Amazon to create and deploy experiments on the live website with real customers. They run over 2,000 experiments per year. And these experiments have led to all kinds of useful new features.
Everything Amazon do as a business is oriented towards the customer.
The Service Design Approach
Having digital capability is just an aspect of great customer experience delivery. Don’t let the word “digital” fool you. The real job is in shifting the focus towards the customer and really trying to understand the why, what, and how of helping the customers with their pains and gains.
The UK government has been very successful in creating services for their citizens using customer-centricity. The traditional approach was to begin with government policy, then consider the process needed to fulfill the policy, and then the system needed to support that.
The new approach turned that on its head. Today, user needs provide the foundation, then the services are designed around those needs. Only after which will the system needed to support the services is considered, and then checked against the government’s policy.
Stephen Foreshew-Cain, Executive Director, GDS (The UK Government Digital Services) on the needed capabilities,“The upshot will be services that shape government, not the other way round. For the reason that we’re putting the user first, and because we’re working in an agile way and making data easier to use, the government itself will have to change.”
Put simply, it is not about incrementally making existing things a little better; it is about completely rethinking the way people work.
What if you instead try working with a service design approach, with small multidisciplinary teams working in short sprints, appointing project managers that facilitate and make sure that the team learn? This is one way to bring the breadth and depth of customer-centricicity to an organisation, which in turn leads to real transformation.
The Empathy Map
A simple tool that organizations can start using today is the empathy map.
An empathy map is a collaborative tool teams can use to gain a deeper insight into their customers. Much like a user persona, an empathy map can represent a group of users, such as a customer segment.
An empathy mapping session may be as follows: Assemble your team and have them bring any personas, data, or insights about the target of your empathy map. Print out or sketch the empathy map template on a large piece of paper or whiteboard. Hand each team member sticky notes and a marker. Each person should write down their thoughts on the stickies. Ideally, everyone would add at least one sticky to every section. You might ask questions, such as:
- What would the user be thinking & feeling? What are some of their worries and aspirations?
- What would their friends, colleagues, and boss be likely to say while the user is using our product? What would the user hear in these scenarios?
- What would the user see while using our product in their environment?
- What might the user be saying and/or doing while using our product? How would that change in a public or private setting?
- What are some of the user’s pain points or fears when using our product?
- What gains might the user experience when using our product?
Have the team members speak about the sticky notes as they place them on the empathy map. Ask questions to reach deeper insights so that they can be elaborated for the rest of the team. To help bring the user to life, you may even wish to sketch out the characteristics this person may have on the center of the face. At the end of the session, ask the team members what insights they learned. More importantly, ask them what hypotheses they now have about the users that they’d like to validate.
Empathy maps can be used whenever you find a need to immerse yourself in the customer’s environment. They can be helpful, for example, when:
- Diving into the customer segments of a business model canvas.
- Elaborating on user personas to come up with better ideas.
- Capturing behaviors when pair interviewing a customer.
- Building out the “user” in your user story.