thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Customer-Centered Strategy

By on April 15, 2009

What if you developed a specific strategy that focused your organization on becoming more customer-centered? It would take your organization to a new dimension, where you will outperform your competitors in the eyes of your customers.

Most companies tell themselves that their strategy is to make profits or maximize return to their shareholders. This is not a bad outcome, of course, but it is difficult to engage employees because they perceive their jobs as taking care of customers. For most employees, management of profits happens at the executive level and, frankly, can be somewhat mysterious.

David J. Collis and Michael G. Rukstad, in "Can You Say What Your Strategy Is?" (Harvard Business Review, April 2008) have given us one of the best descriptions of the elements of a strategy statement. The essence must be in a "simple, clear, succinct (form) ... that everyone can internalize." The metaphor that they use to illustrate how this works is a mound of 10,000 iron shavings, each representing an employee in a major business. Because they are pointing in every direction, smart people could be working hard and making what they think are the right decisions but still the net result could be confusion. As the authors observe, "If you pass a magnet over those filings, what happens? They line up."

A customer-centered business strategy acts like that magnet. When the direction in your organization is to outperform for your customers, anything is possible. It is a basic philosophy rather than a technique or method. It expands the development of your company's capacities for new ideas and it stimulates constructive change in everyone. It transforms the company into a nucleus with the skills to produce successes for your clients.

The end result is a growth-promoting climate throughout your organization because it focuses the entire system on how it can do things differently or better for these customers. As Collis and Rukstad point out, "Clarity about what makes the firm distinctive is what most helps employees understand how they can contribute."

A clear change in your strategy will have a significant impact that will make a big difference in your performance. Balance your strategy around delivering innovative ideas and services that your competitors are not offering. Your employees will act more confidently because they will understand their roles much more clearly. And the profits will come.


2 Responses to “Customer-Centered Strategy”

  1. Mark Price says:

    A change to customer-centricity is indeed critical, as you have identified, not as an overtone, but as a fundamental strategy. I would go farther and say that customer-centricity must become a core philosophy of the organization.

    The difference between a strategy and a core philosophy is that a philosophy raises the objective into the values of the organization. With such an elevation comes empowerment, commitment to measured impact, voice of the customer and several strategies to fulfill on that value.

    The culture change of customer-centricity is often underestimated. The change in the "way of life" of employees of all levels will not come smoothly nor quickly, but will definitely have its own rewards

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