Walking the Talk of Customer Centricity

Do you ever get frustrated that although everyone in your organisation claims to underst and the importance of placing the customer at the heart of the business, nobody seems to be really “walking the talk” of customer centricity? If so, then this post is for you.

Thanks to Stan Knoops from Unilever, I recently came across a great video produced by their Insight Team. It is part of a series of Unilever consumer connect programs and presents a new way for connecting their R&D people at Unilever Vlaardingen to consumers. It shows how to engage and inspire a complete organisation of R&D with consumer insights and is a highly inspirational film.

This got me thinking about the problems that many- or should I say most? – organisations have to get all employees engaged and interested in better underst anding their customers. To help get them started on this essential road to customer centricity, I came up with these 6 points:

#1. Put customer connection in everyone’s annual objectives

This can be left open, or specified such as watching a certain number of focus groups or in-depth interviews, accompanying a certain number of customers whilst they shop for or use your product or service, or listening – and why not also manning, after training? – your care centres or websites.

#2. Conduct co-creation or co-elaboration sessions

Whilst it is good to get people close to your customers, you can also help the company with the development of new products, services or communications, by inviting your customers to join meetings and planning sessions. This is both fun and exciting for your customers and inspiring for company employees. And don’t forget the positive publicity and word of mouth you additionally get, since the participants will certainly talk about their experience to their friends and colleagues

#3. Work on the front line

If marketing, sales, supply chain or another department is struggling to find a solution or new development idea, put them on the front line, to talk to customers directly. If you have your own retail outlets this can be relatively easy to organise. However, even if you don’t it can still be done, with a little planning.

I remember when I first started working at Philip Morris International, I spent a week on the road with a sales representative. Not only did I see first h and some of the issues he faced in selling in his stock, but also learnt a lot from the retailers with whom we discussed. I also began to underst and consumers’ mentally whether smokers or non-smokers, when we were offering free samples in bars and cafés (not sure this goes on today, as I am speaking about 30+ years ago!) Being on the front line is both an inspiring and humbling experience and I just wish that more organisations gave this training, both to new hires, as well as all employees on a regular basis.

#4. Get out of the office

When I worked for Gillette many years ago, all br and managers had to spend one day every two weeks in the field, watching. I am not sure that many organisations still send their staff out of their offices on a regular basis – with a few notable and infamous exceptions of course – but since customers can be and often are, totally unlike the people in your organisation, it is difficult for them to appreciate the customers’ perspective.

Whether it is a difference of age, background, culture, wealth or experience, it is unlikely that the people taking the decisions about your br ands really know what their customers feel. So get them to stop sitting in their Ivory Towers and get out into the real world occasionally.

#5. Listen to the frontline staff

When was the last time you invited your promotions staff or retailers to join a meeting? Unfortunately today, many companies don’t even use their own staff to man promotions and sampling, s the wealth of information about how the events have gone and how potential customers appreciated the offer, is lost.

#6. Share the knowledge

In addition to gathering information and knowledge about your customers, it should be regularly shared so that everyone benefits from each other’s learnings. The latest topics customers are calling or writing in about can be visibly published to stimulate everyone’s thinking; how about putting weekly summaries on the notice board, at the lift, in the restaurant waiting area or anywhere else in your offices where a maximum number of people can be inspired by the information? Or what about holding monthly “lunch and learn” sharing sessions during the mid-day break, in a relaxed, fun and creative environment? A free lunch will get people more involved but won’t take valuable time out of their working day.

I hope this “Starter for 6” has got you thinking about ways that you might start walking the talk of customer centricity in your own organisation. If you are using other methods to get your company to put the customer at the heart of the business, please share them here.

If you would like to learn more about targeting, connecting with and underst anding your own customers, please check our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com

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