A 5-Step Roadmap for Becoming a More Customer-Centric Company

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A Five-Step Roadmap to Become a Customer-Centric Company

By Brian Solis

To drive growth in this new economy takes more than transferring existing models and processes to digital touchpoints. It requires digital innovation centered around a connected customer with ever-evolving expectations.

Leading brands are learning to transform operating models and processes that support digital-first customer engagement while exploring opportunities to create value in new ways. It’s a fundamental shift from selling to understanding customers.

Rob Birse, head of global B2B ecommerce at Kellogg’s, points to technology and a customer-centered mindset for “unlocking innovation to help retail channel customers see opportunities for growth in new and unprecedented ways.”

Historically, it was challenging for Kellogg’s to engage their small retail customers due to economies of scale. Now, Kellogg’s is developing tools for enhanced digital engagement across the entire supply chain and providing store owners with access to critical insights they need to grow their businesses.

“Now, our retail customers access dashboards to view their store’s performance and compare against other stores with similar qualities,” Birse says. “This insight, coupled with more meaningful engagement from Kellogg’s and our distribution partners, is opening up opportunities for customers to learn, optimize, and grow in alignment with consumer expectations and evolving behaviors.”

So where do you start?

Based on research in partnership with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, in addition to advising executives about digital transformation and innovation over the past 20 years, I’ve outlined five phases of customer-centered business and digital transformation to help you chart your own path ahead.

1) Adopt a Customer-Centric Mindset

First, you must embrace a customer-centric mindset and commit to uniting around the customer and the employee.

  • Set a vision and strategy for unified customer engagement across your organization.
  • Make it easy for employees to make it easy for customers.
  • Shift from selling to the customer (product-centric) to serving the customer (customer-centric).
  • Form a cross-functional steering committee to chart and manage a customer innovation roadmap.
  • Optimize decision making to accelerate experimentation and transformation.

2) Foster a Customer-Centered Data Culture

Place customer insights at the center of operational transformation.

  • Build a deliberate path to achieving a single source of customer truth.
  • Embrace a data culture that helps every employee get closer to your customers.
    • Train and educate your employees on digital-first customer and data proficiency.
    • Facilitate access to trusted real-time data sources across the customer’s journey, making it easy for customer-facing employees to find relevant information.
    • Build a center of excellence to cultivate data expertise and promote the voice of the customer.
    • Create defined customer feedback loops.

3) Prioritize Customer-Centered Digital Transformation

Improve and reimagine the customer experience (CX) from the front to the back office.

  • Identify customer friction and opportunities to improve experiences—and deliver new value. Birse of Kellogg’s advises companies to focus on resolving customer issues as the primary justification for any new program. “When you resolve pain points at scale, you unlock revenue streams.”
  • Define the new capabilities both your business and information technology (IT) functions need to support new experiences—and agree on the most critical outcomes your organization needs, and how to measure them.
  • Align IT and business leaders on a 360-degree digital operating model to improve CX and raise customer-facing performance.
  • Create a single enterprise digital governance model that underpins and supports the working digital operating model.
  • Provide technology expertise to help business leaders understand how to maximize shared processes, application programming interfaces (APIs), and data, and reuse these resources across your company.
  • Use shared data, processes, apps, and APIs to create capabilities quickly.

4) Pursue Customer-Centered Operational Transformation 

Reimagine operations around customer insights, integration, and collaboration.

  • Align sales, service, marketing, commerce, IT, digital governance, and analytics to create one team organized around the customer.
  • Unify the organization’s functions and operational models to support cohesive customer engagement.
  • Adopt customer-centric business processes.
  • Make fundamental shifts in your products or services, and how teams work together, to deliver the value and experiences customers seek.
  • Anticipate and respond to changes in customer needs.
  • Embrace agile methodologies to support infinite digital transformation.

5) Embrace a Customer and Employee-Centered Workplace

The formula for enhancing CX is to empower the employee experience (EX).

  • Design EX to deliver a unified CX.
  • Invest in systems, tools, and processes that allow and encourage cross-team collaboration.
  • Train managers and employees to empathize with customers and team members, to ask the right questions, and to be good listeners and storytellers.
  • Apply incentives to individual behaviors that drive business goals.
  • Encourage groups with different skill sets to solve customer problems together.
  • Give teams the authority to act in the customer’s best interest.

Customer behaviors and expectations have changed the trajectory of digital transformation—and, more importantly, the future of business. Now, businesses must use advanced technology and data to reimagine business and organizational models to become more human-centered.

Learn how Salesforce is helping companies unite their marketing, sales, commerce, service, and IT teams around a single view of the customer with Customer 360, the world’s #1 CRM.

Brian Solis is Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. He’s also a world-renowned digital anthropologist, keynote speaker, and eight-time best-selling author.

Read More from Salesforce:

  • Why Going Digital Isn’t Enough to Meet the New Customer Experience (CX) Imperative
  • A Blueprint for Becoming a Customer-Centered Company
  • 8 Steps for Building a Culture of Data-Driven Empathy
  • Here’s What Happens When You Focus on Employees to Better Serve Your Customers

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