Making the Pivot

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The very best athletes shift the momentum of their game at critical moments and as spectators this pivot can take our breath away. Any sports fan can recall a game-changing play that enabled the team to take the upper hand and demoralize the competition. Businesses today need to be equally agile when managing customer relationships, and must be able to turn on a dime to capture new markets and break away from the competition. High-performing businesses also shift the momentum to attract and retain customers--they must pivot. High performers are moving from a transactional view of their customers to one that measures the value of relationships as the sum of each and every experience. These experiences are defined by an increasingly complex set of interactions during customer contact and cut across the enterprise with varying degrees of significance. Connecting with your customers can be intimidating. Companies conduct business, offering numerous products and services via many channels and with multiple partners, making the prospect of planning, designing, and executing effective customer experiences daunting. Companies must acknowledge the importance of the experience when managing customer relationships, but strategic and operational changes are also required to complete the pivot. The fact is that companies are at different stages of maturity when it comes to designing and deploying satisfying customer experiences. The customer expectation bar has been raised and the pace of change often exceeds companies' abilities to respond, and so they must look across industries to understand the types of services their customers are accustomed to, which they also will be expected to deliver. Perhaps the most important bar to clear, however, is the one a company sets for itself--its brand promise. Failing to live up to a brand expectation can damage a company's shareholder value; it creates a gap between what customers expect and what is delivered. As that gap widens, customers become disillusioned, resulting in disloyalty and churn. Fixing the problem requires a customer-centric approach, including market focus and positioning, defining distinctive capabilities, and enabling a performance anatomy. High-performance businesses have remarkable clarity when it comes to setting strategic direction, especially regarding big decisions. They are in the right place at the right time as a result of their market focus and positioning. They know where and how to compete when they set their business strategy, and invest in distinctive capabilities that inherently provide direct value to the customer. They design product functions, features, and services with the customer experience in mind. Often, this means working across the enterprise in addition to multiple channels and business partners. Flawless execution is also a key factor for the organization--first impressions are essential and the responsibility for a good one falls on the frontline. Equally important is having the commitment to follow through when times get tough. This means outperforming the competition, which always requires having an effective coach to call the right plays. Naming the right coach in today's environment is an emerging dilemma requiring attention. In some cases this responsibility can be filled by a traditional line of business player; in other instances a chief customer officer may be the answer. Whatever decision companies make regarding who leads the change, the fact is that making the pivot to this new CRM mindset is critical and urgent. Delivering the customer interactions that produce optimal experiences to produce long-term relationships is the new mission of CRM executives. Achieving high performance in any industry will depend on the ability to bring all the dimensions of a company together to deliver outcomes that are meaningful satisfying. Woody Driggs is managing partner of the Customer Relationship Management practice at Accenture. He can be reached at CRM.Woody.Driggs@accenture.com.
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