How to Build a Customer-Centric Culture

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As a founding member of Accenture’s (nee Andersen Consulting) customer relationship management practice, the customer has always been my focus. It started in 1995 when Siebel Systems onboarded its first client, AMP Incorporated. I helped lead that project and was just beginning my CRM career, which would lead me through dozens of CRM engagements at clients like AMP, Siemens, Sun Microsystems, and the U.K. Department for Work and Pensions. We talked about customer-centricity in the ’90s but most of our work was focused on helping sales, marketing, and service organizations build internal processes for sales campaigns, opportunity management, forecasting, etc. Ironically, CRM was not all that focused on the C.

Today, focusing on the customer is imperative. Business is dynamic, and COVID-19 has pushed us to an increasingly digital experience. Customers can easily move across their buying options. These customers send signals to us all the time. Are we listening? Are we acting? Businesses must be nimble and respond not just to the market, but to the needs of the individual customer. We have entered the age of hyper-personalization, and customers expect us to engage them in their preferred way. Now’s the time for real customer-centricity—in part through voice-of-the-customer (VoC) technologies.

So, how do you build a customer-centric culture, one that is relentless about pulling the customer’s voice into the business?

Don’t Just Ask—Act

For the past decade, organizations have used feedback software to ask their customers for opinions and preferences. Everyone receives lots of surveys, but how often do we get any signal or sense that the company is doing something with our feedback? While dashboards and reporting are interesting (especially to executives), they can obscure the customer’s voice.

As humans, we naturally categorize and aggregate. It makes it easier for us to consume vast amounts of information. But categorization eliminates the customer’s true voice and obscures the intent of a customer’s feedback. VoC technology can transcend human processing capacity. It allows companies to recognize patterns and to automate the workflow and routing of customer intention. The best customer-centric organizations have designed business systems that not only engage the customer for their feedback but also systematically respond and act on each voice.

Empower the Front Lines

For 25 years, CRM implementations have been centrally managed and controlled. It’s the work I did for 20 years at Accenture. Leadership in organizations want to design and direct how the customer processes work, and for good reason. The customer is the life blood of every company. But a centralized system isn’t a great approach for creating customer-centricity. A democratized and “front lines” model is more powerful. It can change the company culture by putting technology in the hands of the people who engage their customers every day. They can respond faster and more personally.

And Yes, Leverage and Extend CRM

This approach isn’t about replacing CRM solutions; it’s about leveraging what they’ve created. In the past 25 years, organizations have built amazing marketing, sales, and customer service processes that organize teams to engage the customer in consistent and predictable ways. Now it’s time to leverage that existing CRM infrastructure to capture the voice of the customer and to put it to work.

Take advocates and promoters and systematically ask them to share their love of your company, with analysts, peer-review sites, social media, etc. Listen to feedback and create support tickets to address concerns that the customer never explicitly stated. Tune and adapt your sales process to pull the customer into their own buying process and learn more about your customer in the process. These approaches will surprise and delight your customer. You’ll acquire and retain more of them.

Customer leaders can take their existing tools (from Salesforce, HubSpot, Zendesk, etc.) and extend them. Use the existing processes to drive the internal response to what the customer is telling you, by extending those systems to engage the customer and show them how you respond.

CRM processes and technology provide an amazing foundation for building a customer-centric organization. They enable organizations to hear the customer’s voice and to act on their feedback. In a world where today’s workforce wants to see the immediate impact of their contribution, we can extend CRM processes and systems to empower more employees to engage the customer. The customer of today expects it and wants these relationships with the brands they love.

David Roberts is the CEO of Alchemer. Roberts’s passion for helping companies create customer-centric cultures is what attracted him to Alchemer, as he has been building great relationships between companies and customers since he was a founding member of Accenture’s Customer Relationship Management Practice. Alchemer gives him the opportunity to revolutionize customer engagement by integrating the best feedback into companies to drive immediate and meaningful action. Prior to joining Alchemer, Roberts was a partner at Accenture and most recently the CEO of ReedGroup.

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