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  • Jo Chapman

Customer first...just a buzzword?

How many times have you heard these words - Customer focus, customer centricity, customer obsession, customer first? They’re all words that people use (typically in senior roles) when they begin to try to pivot their business away from an internal, corporate ad financial focus and instead towards the customer. With the hope that revenue growth and profit will follow, like some of the most successful truly customer focused organisations are achieving today.

The trouble is if you ask people working in customer facing roles, they are just words often not backed up by action. Often the reality of becoming customer centric requires change. It requires changes in priorities, how decisions are made, how things get done and what gets rewarded. If you have been part of a “customer transformation” you’ll most likely have experienced something seemingly invisible that’s made the whole thing seem like really hard work. I heard a great quote from a senior customer director at a large corporate say “we’ve become brilliant at making hard work of changing nothing”.

This thing is culture. It’s one of the things that can cause you to burn through millions of pounds and change nothing. And when you look and listen closely it isn’t that invisible at all. It’s there every day. The governance structure, approval levels, performance management, words used in meetings and corridors and the customer insights team who churn out reports that nobody looks at. Even the way customer transformation programmes are set-up, run and staffed, often without any deep understanding of customers.

This final point about understanding customers cannot be understated – it is a remarkably effective way to start the process of re-wiring culture. That and people who use words and act.


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