“What does it really mean to create a customer-centric culture? We hear companies say it all the time. I would wager that almost every business claims to have it. But what does it really mean and how do you know if you really have it?”

The definition of a ‘customer-centric’ organization is: an organization that defines markets and sells its products and services from the customers’ point of view. The term itself has become overused, as many organizations say they are customer-centric, but few really are. It is important for organizations that claim to be customer-centric to deliver on the proclamation or risk alienating customers who rely on the statement. If customers have a reasonable expectation that they will be the focus of the organization, it is imperative that they are.

Organizations that fail to deliver on the promise of focusing on the customer, often suffer the consequences in the form of economic loss. Becoming customer-centric involves many of the elements such as: branding, marketing, service, performance measurement, and customer service management programs. Actually becoming a customer focused and driven organization requires more than just deciding it is a good idea in order to boost sales. As a matter of fact, becoming a real customer focused organization requires dedication, time, commitment, and a great deal of effort.

Organizations that become ‘customer-centric’ understand that their business is no longer about the product or service that they once provided; it is now about the customer that uses the product or service provided by the organization. Customers don’t buy products or services; they buy results. The attitudes and quality of the service provided to customers is an important consideration. Customer-centric organizations ask questions differently. Their values, mission, and organizational structures exist for the customer, not the organization or its owners. In their quest to become customer-centric, organizations must consider that it is not enough just to take care of the customer today, they must think beyond today and plan for what the customer will desire tomorrow.

Organizations must do more than anticipate customers’ stated needs. They need to go beyond stated needs and become proficient at anticipating unarticulated needs and desires. This is not always an easy thing to do, especially when technology is involved. However, organizations that make the investment required to change their whole way of thinking often find that the process is made easier. At the heart of becoming a true customer-centric organization is the ability to create value for the customer whenever they come into contact with an organization.

What drives this new model is not profit but the creation of value for the customer, a process that lies at the core of all successful enterprises. Value creation generates the energy that holds these businesses together, and their very existence depends on it.

The subject of customer satisfaction and retention has grown immensely in the 21st century. It is not enough anymore for an organization to just provide good customer service; they must ensure that they are engendering customer loyalty. At the heart of customer-centricity is the concept of the customer value equation. This equation suggests that the value of goods and services delivered to customers is equivalent to the results created for them as well as the quality of the processes used to deliver the results, all in relation to the price of a service to the customer and other costs incurred by the customer in the acquiring the service. This symbiotic equation relationship can be the basis for the prognosis of strategy implementation of a sound customer-centric philosophy any organization will choose to adopt.

The element of customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty has to be examined comprehensively in detail to better understand its impact on employee satisfaction and corporate profitability. The concept of customer-centrism is supported by the hypothesis that loyal customers positively affect employee satisfaction and symbiotically contribute to corporate profitability.

Market conditions are driving organizations to become more customer-centric. In order to provide the best possible customer service experience possible and differentiate one’s self from the competition, organizations are beginning to transition from being product-centric to being customer-centric. Profit making entities are realizing that the common denominator between product or service delivery and corporate profitability is the customer. Because of this, many organizations are redesigning their current business strategies around the customer-centric philosophy. Organizations are recognizing that just like employees, inventory, or cash, customers are a valuable asset that should be managed accordingly. Not only do customers generate revenue for an organization, what they say and how they feel can influence future revenue.

Customer-centric organizations listen to their customers and respond accordingly. They view their business strategy from the point of view of the customer, and thus reduce expenditures on unwanted processes, and at the same time create new business opportunities as a result of customer feedback. It is now widely accepted that profitable customer experiences are no longer transaction based, but rather relationship based. For an organization to maximize the Service-Profit chain strategy, they must not only concentrate on employee satisfaction, but they must also become “customer-centric.” Being truly customer-centric requires that everyone in the organization be aligned to have contact, or the opportunity to affect customers. (To be continued next week)

Mukandiwa has emerged as an outstanding non-fiction business author on Customer Service in Africa. This article is a review of his new book on customer service entitled ‘Customer and Employee Satisfaction’ .Copies of books by Benson Mukandiwa are now available on sale at premier online stores such as Amazon, Books on Demand BOD and other online bookstores. Recommended reading for Academic, Professional and business institutes of higher learning, academic libraries and business entrepreneurs who are seeking practical solutions and approaches to business management.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR : Benson Mukandiwa is a certified Customer Service Strategist & training consultant, sales executive / professional, internationally published author, researcher, an erudite scholar. Highly motivational trained Interaction leader by British Council and Certified Champion Coach by Success Motivation International (SMI)-USA.

Mukandiwa serves as Business Development Executive (Southern Region) at the Chartered Institute of Customer Relationship Management Africa (CICRMA). Benson is happily married to Martha the couple is blessed with two sons King Ethan (7) and King Edric (4).His family is based in the Metropolitan City of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

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