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Creating a customer-centric organization.

By Ruth Tearle

Being customer centric is part of many companies' strategies. To execute this strategy most organizations communicate their strategy to everyone in the company, and then develop programmes to transform their organizational culture from a product culture to a customer centric culture.

Yet few of these customer-centric strategies or culture transformation programmes produce the desired results.


Listen to the complaints from customers of companies that say they are customer-centric, and you will hear statements such as:

  • As the customer, why do I have to work so hard just to buy their product?
  • Why do I know more about their products than their salesmen do?
  • I’m not a stupid person, but I just can’t get a direct answer to my question ‘when will it be delivered?’
  • Why don’t they check the quality at their factory? Why do I always have to send the job back? Surely that costs them?
  • Why are their staff so rude and incompetent?
  • To date I’ve had no response. They never turned up or phoned.
  • I tried to phone. After 4 attempts in 30 minutes I had my calls cut, one operator couldn’t hear me, and I repeatedly was put back into the queue.
  • I keep escalating the issue with no reply whatsoever.
  • I was pushed from one person to another. No one wants to help me.

A customer’s experience is strategy in action. Everything else is just spin.

Ruth Tearle.

Such complaints from customers about their experience with the company suggests that instead of putting the customer at the center of everything they do, customers often feel that the company doesn’t care about them at all.

Something has obviously gone wrong between the intention or strategy of customer-centricity, and the operational practices in the company.

Executing a customer-centric strategy.

A customer centric strategy, doesn’t easily translate into delighted customers.

Communicating a customer centric strategy, and implementing a few HR programmes to change your culture – doesn’t translate into a positive customer service experience.

These are 3 core changes a leader needs to make to successfully execute a customer centric strategy.

1. Change the organizational paradigm. From a sales/cost paradigm to a customer-centric paradigm.

To get your leaders and employees to build a truly customer centric organization, you first need to change the paradigm that drives everything that is done in your organization. If your organization has been designed around sales, cost reduction and efficiency, then your systems, processes, policies, procedures, measurements and rewards will ensure that employees focus on sales or costs.


A paradigm shift will be needed to design an organization that supports putting the customer in the center of the organization. Everyone in the organization needs to understand what a customer centric organization looks like, and how the business model works.

Then leaders need to understand that to build a customer-centric organization, they will need to change the systems, processes, policies, procedures, goals and measures that drive:

  • How the customer interacts with their organization.
  • How every employee in the organization behaves.

2. Communicate a customer-centric vision and strategy.

Once your leaders understand the customer centric paradigm, they need to develop a vision or picture that describes in detail how your organization will operate under a customer-centric paradigm.

Leaders will need to communicate this vision to everyone in the organization so that if you had to ask your employees the following questions, they would all be able to answer them clearly, and in the same way.

  • Which customers do we do business with?
  • Which customers don’t we do business with and why?
  • What do our customers actually buy from us?
  • Why would a customer choose to do business with us, rather than anyone else? What package or products, services and experiences do they expect?
  • What do we need to do to attract and retain our customers?
  • What experiences do we want our customers to have when dealing with us?
  • How do we ensure that the total experience that our customers have when doing business with us, is one that delights them.

3. Align every element in your organization around a customer-centric paradigm.

An organization is a complex mix of different elements: visions, strategies, values, goals, targets, priorities, structures, systems, processes, policies, procedures, roles, measures, incentives, rewards, products, services, infrastructure, IT, and specialist departments.

The combination of these elements drive what leaders, managers and employees believe to be important. This in turn affects what they focus their attention on, and how they behave.

Communicating a desire for a customer centric culture may keep your HR or OD people busy in workshops. But it doesn’t create a customer–centric culture. To create a truly customer centric-culture, you need to change every element in the organization so everything that affects what people think is important and how they behave, aligns to a customer-centric paradigm.

The end result of customer centricity – a positive customer experience.

How do you know if you have successfully executed a customer-centric strategy or developed a customer-centric culture?

The customer’s complete experience of buying, paying for, receiving and using your product or service, is their perception of your customer strategy.

Talk to your customers. Ask them the following questions:

  • How easy is it to do business with us?
  • How easy is it to get information about our products and services?
  • How easy is it to get a direct answer to a specific question?
  • How many people did you deal with to get what you expected?
  • Did all the people you dealt with, know the ins and outs of our products and services?
  • How satisfied are you with the quality of our products and services?
  • How were your queries or complaints dealt with?
  • What do you like about doing business with us?
  • What don’t you like about doing business with us?
  • Why would or wouldn’t you continue doing business with us?

If you have a customer-centric strategy, it means that the customer is at the center of everything you do. The customer's experience of your organization, is how you measure the success or failure of how well you have executed your customer-centric strategy.

You may also like:

Tools to use to execute a customer-centric strategy

  • change-puzzle-kitThe change puzzle kit A systems thinking tool. Use this to understand the impact of your strategy on every element of your organization. Identify what needs to be in place to support your customer-centric strategy and culture.
  • change-strategy-toolkitWinning the game of change Develop a detailed approach to building a customer-centric organization or culture. Use the 64 cards to choose practical interventions to execute your strategy.

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