How do you know if a customer-centric strategy is working?

customer-centric strategy

Many companies talk about having a customer-centric strategy. Not all actually do. There are some great companies at this out in different industries — this article profiles a few of them, for example. But if you attempted to apply a customer-centric strategy in 2016 (or even have it on the radar for this year), how do you know if it’s working?

Crawl, walk, run

I talked a little bit about this last week. You have to view customer-centric journeys and strategy in the context of transformation milestones. Too frequently, one of two things will happen:

  • We wait too long to get started because all the processes and pieces are not perfect
  • We get rid of key people (or the CCO him/herself) because the growth wasn’t seen immediately

This is a tricky intersection. A lot of attempts at customer-centric strategy fall down right here. People wait, wait, and wait some more until things are perfect — but as we know, things are rarely perfect. All the waiting grouses the other executives, who see themselves as doing “real work” and not waiting around for voice of the customer data. Buy-in and one-company leadership becomes harder, and the customer-driven growth engine never gets off the ground.

So, the first solution is this: you need to think about your customer-centric strategy as crawl, walk, run. It takes 3-5 years, and often more towards the half-decade than the three year number. There are milestones along the way (much more on this in Chief Customer Officer 2.0). 

But much of American (and overall first-world) business is now now now, so you do need a quick way — within the five years — to determine if a strategy is working.

What’s that way?

I’ve talked about this a few times with different CCOs on my podcast, but this is the basic flow:

  • Root yourself in the core mission of the company and its product/service
  • Understand what the different silos are tasked with
  • Determine who the customer(s) is
  • Figure out metrics that would show that customers’ lives are improving
  • Find ways to tie these metrics to business growth quarter-to-quarter
  • Relentlessly track and analyze these metrics
  • Find palatable ways of presenting them to other executives, meaning …
  • … have empathy for how those colleagues of yours want to receive data
  • Re-contextualize the information (initially) for each silo head
  • Over time, begin to merge the silos together so that everyone can see their application of the data set
  • Keep earning the right to more work and more headcount by a reliance on tying the numbers to the growth

That’s the basic path. Within all those steps, maybe the most important is having empathy for how others want to receive data. You can’t just throw 750 lines of Excel at some people. They’ll instantly be overwhelmed and try to put you on the defensive as a result. Every person deals with data and intel differently. Most high-ranking silo chiefs tend to want a big picture, buffeted by specific examples, with a decision recommendation. If that’s the general flow of your company, make sure your metric presentations are including that.

How do you know any strategy works?

Terms like “strategy and planning” have become process-laden buzzwords in some companies, and that’s bad. The easiest concepts around “Did this strategy tend to work?” are:

  • Are we improving the lives of a customer in some way?
  • Have we made money, cut cost, or saved in some other balance sheet way?
  • Do the other executives understand the work being done and know how it relates to them?

That’s the magic trifecta. If a customer-centric strategy hits on all three, it’s working. Plain and simple.

Back next week with a podcast, ironically with a large focus on customer-centric strategy.

2 comments to " How do you know if a customer-centric strategy is working? "

  • Informative blog. thank you for sharing with us..

  • Great points Jeanne. Like Marketing, customer experience work is medium-term in its effect. If a company is forced to live exclusively from quarter to quarter and justify investments on that basis, it will be difficult for the work to succeed. A short version of some points on your 11-point list above would be “Find out whether the leadership team lists CX improvement in their top three priorities on their intranet site and in communication with employees. If not, work with each to change it. If you have succeeded in getting the investment money you need, ensure you deliver something every three months that is worth the time and effort expended.

    I believe the only way you can objectively show progress is by benchmarking. By this I mainly mean double-blind benchmark studies that compare your NPS (or whatever) results to competition. Your financial results are the other benchmark. If you are providing better customer experience than your competitors, you will take market share. The catch is that there is about a 12- to 18-month time lag between the CX improvement and the market share improvement. Can you retain sponsorship that long? Yes, if you manage to demonstrate progress every three months, to every leadership team member, that is worth the effort.

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