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7 Reasons Companies Fail to Adopt a Customer First Strategy (And How to Succeed)

By now, every CEO knows that a stronger customer focus is the answer to many of their business challenges. Why therefore do so many companies still struggle to adopt a customer-first strategy and culture?

Read on for my own thoughts and perspectives on what should be a top company objective for proven business success.

1. The CEO has stated it as a company objective but has not detailed what and how the organisation will change

While it is essential that a customer-first strategy has a board-level sponsor, it is important that every employee understands their role in making it happen. It should not be treated as just another project but as a long-term company top 3 objective.

When this happens, every division is obliged to see how they will be impacted and what part they will play in meeting it. This is one area where the CEO can’t set it and forget it. He/she needs to be regularly informed of progress and ask “awkward” questions to ensure that everyone is embracing it. Without company-wide support, it will never succeed.

The CEO needs to ask the awkward questions to ensure everyone is embracing a customer-first strategy Click To Tweet

2. The organisation has not fully embraced the strategy

As mentioned above, everyone has a role to play in satisfying and delighting the customer. It is not the job of marketing, sales or market research alone. It is vital that each employee thinks customer first and ensures that every action and decision they make is customer centric.

One easy way to do this is to ask this question at the end of every meeting: “what would our customers think of the decision we just made?” If there is something they wouldn’t like or you know that you yourself wouldn’t approve of, then it needs to be reconsidered.

What would our customers think of the decision we just made? #CEX #Customer Click To Tweet

3. The project is treated just like any other

As with every well-defined objective, it is important that there is a leader supported by a team, to make progress while also adapting and adjusting as challenges arise in its execution. The same is true for a customer-first strategy.

However, unlike most other projects, this one will not have an end date! It should have a timeline to identify milestones, of course. But as the customer will continue to change, the actions needed will need constant adaptation. I like to say that “customer-centricity is a journey, not a destination.”

Customer-centricity is a journey, not a destination. #CEX #Customer Click To Tweet

4. The initiative does not have a visible leader

The initiative must have an executive sponsor and a passionate and charismatic leader, to excite and drive the whole organisation towards a more customer-centric approach to business.

Once the board has endorsed the initiative, the every-day leadership should be handled by someone who exemplifies customer-centricity and has a passion for customer delight. In the most customer-centric organisations, this person is a Chief Customer Officer who sits on the executive board alongside the CEO, CFO and CMO.

According to this recent article in Forbes, the responsibilities of a CCO are to:

  • 1. Bring The Customer To Life
  • 2. Reach Outside The Organization
  • 3. Involve The Front Lines
  • 4. Embrace The Data

As you can see, these are actions that demand specific capabilities that complement rather than replace those of the heads of sales, marketing and PR. That is why a customer-first strategy needs a separate functional head. Trying to integrate these into the responsibilities of these leaders is unlikely to meet with much success.

 

5. No-one understands how to move the initiative forward.

When you don’t know where you’re going, most people are afraid to take the first step. But that’s the only one you need to know. It’s easier to course-correct when you are moving than when you’re standing still. As already mentioned, customer centricity is a journey, not a destination.

That’s why many organisations now work with a business catalyst to help them take those all important first few steps. Once the project is up and running, occasional sessions are then sufficient to keep the internal excitement for the customer growing.

Successful businesses work with a business catalyst to help them take the important first few steps of a customer-first strategy Click To Tweet

6. Everyone in the organisation is not clear about their role in satisfying and delighting the customer.

It is well-known that companies such as Amazon and Zappos have new employees enjoy direct contact with the customer from their very first days working in the company. However, this is something that should be encouraged on an ongoing basis as well.

Ideally, every employee should get the chance to watch, listen and interact with customers regularly. The best organisations have such connections on every employee’s annual objectives, specifying such exchanges on a monthly basis as a minimum.

7. They think it costs too much

While this may be the perception, in reality, it costs a lot more NOT to adopt a customer-first strategy. It makes both business sense AND customer sense.

There has been so much research done on the impact of a customer- first strategy that there is no doubt that it provides a positive ROI (return on investment):

  • Walker found that 86% of buyers would pay more for a better experience.
  • Genesys showed that improving the experience for customers is the key to increasing retention, satisfaction and sales.
  • Deloitte and Touch claim that customer centric companies are 60% more profitable.
  • Bain & Company research shows that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by between 25% and 95%.

These numbers should be sufficient to convince every CEO that a customer-first strategy is worth investing in. In fact, it is an essential strategy every CEO would be wise to adopt, no matter what industry they are in.

So what are you or your CEO waiting for? Did I miss a different problem you are currently facing? What other challenges have you faced or are now facing in adopting a customer-first strategy? Please let me know by adding your comments below.

5 Tips for Global Project Management

One of my global clients recently called me about a problem her team was having implementing a process change within her organisation. After a long conversation, during which I gave her some tips on global project management, she was happy to continue the work with renewed enthusiasm.

If you are facing a similar challenge at the moment, you should find these five ideas I shared with her, to be of use.

#1. Involve the markets

This particular client works for a leading consumer packaged goods company in their London headquarters. One of the biggest challenges a global organisation can face when introducing process changes, is getting market buy-in, even when centralised.

My suggestion was to invite five to ten market representatives to work on the project team with her. Whilst a face-to-face meeting or two will be needed in the beginning, the project can usually continue with conference calls or webinars once it is under way. I also suggested taking a selection of markets from her different regions and not just the major ones, which always seem to be chosen due to their importance. This will reduce, but perhaps not totally eliminate a “it won’t work in our market” type of reaction which could slow down or even exclude adoption, especially by emerging markets.

#2. Allow for culture

When working in a global or regional environment, we often wrongly assume that everyone is making allowances for cultural differences. For this reason it is vital to double-check underst anding and agreement at every major milestone and before each new step is started. Although there is often an over-simplification of cultural differences made, such as Asians tend to always agree, Germans are not flexible, or Americans are opinionated, it still remains true that people think differently. The advantage of a diverse project team is that it includes people with differing perspectives, so make sure everyone appreciates the diversity, listens and adapts to it as appropriate.

#3. Involve different departments

I am amazed at just how many projects can be running simultaneously in large organisations. Whilst this should not be surprising with today’s dem and for rapid change and continuous innovation, I am always disappointed that in most cases, only the members of the department working on the project are aware of it. This may appear normal until one realises that most projects have impact beyond just departmental borders and sometimes can in fact actually be redundant. Let me give you an example.

I was once developing a proposal for a customer information integration programme and I discovered that there were four separate projects that were already running on similar areas to my project. And none of the departments were aware of the others’ projects! R&D was developing a st andard customer complaint classification; finance was harmonising category and br and definitions; market research was developing a tool for analysing customer call content and customer services were updating their platform.

I am sure you can see the value there would be in the departments collaborating together in order to avoid duplication of effort. Luckily, I was able to integrate and prioritise all five projects, making each department responsible for their specific part of the whole development. Everyone felt good about it because they saw the implications of the integration, and realised that the impact of the combined project would be greater than that of each separate plan alone.

#4. Think forward

Even when different departments are collaborating, there can still be an issue with taking the bigger picture. This is particularly important when planning for future expansion. I have witnessed several projects fall short of their potential, by not considering the future needs as well as todays. Are all areas going to exp and? Will customers have different needs? Will the company have different needs, different partners, or different categories and br ands? All of these can impact a project’s system and platform in the long-term and need to be considered before anything is developed.

#5. Over-communicate

Especially when the project team is spread across the world, it is vital to keep everyone informed about progress. In addition to the conference calls and webinars mentioned above, status reports with input from all areas on a regular basis will ensure that everyone underst ands how their part builds into the whole. It also shows that they are responsible for the success of the total project, as they will see the impact of delays or changes they initiate.

These are just five of the tips that I shared with my client and I am looking forward to hearing from her soon, that the project is now back on track and advancing successfully.

What other tips would you have given her? Please add a comment below.

If you are looking to improve your own global project management and knowledge sharing processes, please contact us for an informal chat. No Obligation, just Inspiration!

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