Seven Barriers to Becoming Customer Focused

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By Sonia Cottrell, Marketing and Business Development, Deloitte, New Zealand

Successful companies today are the ones that revolve their business around their customers. They focus on adding value by designing processes such as technology, training and employee compensation systems to support a strategy of customer-centricity that penetrates all areas of the organization, resulting in a concerted effort towards providing superior value.

1. Internal Focus

Many companies on improving “output” measures (e.g., cost, revenue and returns) rather than improving “input” measures (e.g., quality of the customer experience and staff satisfaction).

2. Short-Term Approach

Many companies drop back to their product-thinking after not seeing immediate results. Customer-focus is a long-term initiative based on customer loyalty and retention.

3. Command and Control Culture

Many traditional companies have structures where power flows from the top to the bottom of the organisation. This creates a climate of poor communication, internal conflict, mistrust and a lack of empowerment. With a command and control culture, innovation, learning and freedom to build customer relationships is constrained.

4. Inadequate Customer Data

Many companies produce large volumes of data to help with internal control, such as call cycle times and productivity, but they produce little data on customers that can be used to predict behaviour and manage relationships.

5. Un-optimised Customer Knowledge

Even when companies are able to gather customer data, they lack the abilities to truly harness this improved customer understanding.

6. Believing that Technology is the Solution

Investments in systems represent the largest single category of investment by businesses in the last 10 years. Executives tend to look at technology as a solution to customer retention or other CRM problem. They find it is easier to put an IT investment on the balance sheet than investment in customers. They also look at IT as a way of removing cost from the process of servicing customers rather than as a means of adding value and building relationships. But technology is a means to an end rather than the end in itself, and without people behind it, investments in IT will not deliver the desired returns.

7. Rewarding the Wrong Things

Saying that your company is now customer-centric, but paying your staff to be product-centric, is just plain dumb! Check how you reward your people – if it isn't aligned to customer-centric thinking, change it so it is!

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