Customer-Centricity: A Marketing Or Management Responsibility?

PART 2: How To Be Customer-Centric And Have A Kind of Magic

At Thunderhead we’ve been tapping our feet to the beat of customer-centricity for over a decade now. But who is responsible for customer-centricity? This blog tackles this question whilst we enjoy some seriously slick guitar riffs from some Rock Music giants.

We recently asked our followers in a Twitter poll the same question. 77% told us the answer was Management. We agree.

In the previous article we shared the bum notes you may experience if your business is not customer-centric, supported by findings from our own research*. Here we share some tips on how you can solve those problems, to help you become a true crowd-pleaser and have, as Queen sang, “a kind of magic”

A great deal of progress has been made with businesses moving towards being customer-centric over the last 20 years. We used to call it ‘closing the CRM loop.’ The dominant concept in the ‘90s was “one-to-one” (Don Peppers and Martha Rodgers), which drove an emphasis on personalised communications and interactions with the customer.

In more recent times the “one-to-one” idea was embellished with the need to take the “outside-in” customer perspective, frequently cited by Ed Thompson, VP and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, rather than the business-centric “inside-out”.

A step further, Customer Engagement involves finding a balance between the “inside-out” and “outside-in” perspectives. The fact is that neither the customer nor the business exists in a vacuum. Effective engagement is a matter of finding a way of meeting the needs and desires of each customer, while at the same time creating value for the business.


To become truly customer-centric you need to embrace a new approach to build customer engagement. There is now an emerging recognition that long-term engagement is a far more strategic way to look at customer-business relationships. The result is an increasing drive to create customer-centric engagement-focused businesses. So, pick up your plectrum, plug in your amp, and get ready to make some sweet music with customer-centric engagement.

1. Hear the whole album, not just a single song

Ensure you are delivering genuine engagement over time rather than merely good individual experiences. Customer engagement is built over the long-term, and requires the ability to look beyond individual interactions or isolated experiences and focus on the end-to-end customer journey. When you take a holistic view of the entire customer journey you can align the customer’s needs with the overall business strategy at every point of interaction to deliver a relevant, valuable and personalised experience throughout the entire journey. If you’re able to see the whole journey rather than isolated experiences and interactions you can better acknowledge where people are on that journey and their context.

2. Fix broken strings – fix broken conversations

So that you can play all the notes you need in harmony you need to join up conversations across channels and departments. Break down silos and unify broken conversations so that the customer has a seamless experience with your brand regardless of the channel they’re in.

3. Empower every member of your band

Empower your staff to be customer champions. The right people need to be able to see and understand the customer journey across every channel to have the best conversations. That means these teams need to be able to adapt to flexible customer journeys and deploy relevant, personalised and context-sensitive conversations.

4. Play the songs your fans want to hear – become personalised and relevant

Avoid a one-size fits all approach and think beyond simply marketing to customers. Think about adding value, to service the customer when appropriate by understanding where they are in their relationship and journey.

5. Play in rhythm and to tune – Get organised.

Align and unify your entire marketing, sales and service departments around the customer and customer journeys, unifying departmental silos. Technology plays a significant part in enabling this but businesses won’t be able to meet customer expectations if the engagement infrastructure is siloed, both in terms of technology silos and across departments.

6. Listen properly

The Who sang in ‘The Real Me’: “Can you see the real me, can you?” It’s imperative that you’re seeing the truth about your customers, their behaviour and context of where they are on their journey with you.  Provide your staff with a single ‘customer dashboard’ view of a customer’s details, history and preferences regardless of where they live, channel preferences or what systems of record are being used. Being able to listen across the entire customer journey is a first step towards a customer-centric approach. Allow customer information to be visible in one place, in real-time or near real-time, removing fractured pictures of the customer. At the heart of this must be customer journey insights which show individual behaviour and the holistic behaviour of customers on their journeys. This should help to eliminate silos and the resulting broken conversations.

7. Crowd surf – give your fans the control of their own journeys

Adopt an approach which enables customer managed journeys. You don’t pre-determine the journeys to focus on. Your customers show you what’s most important and help you to understand what value means to them. It’s a value exchange accelerator which results in effortless engagement and happier customers.

8. Avoid being your own biggest fan

Be honest with yourself to be true to your customers. In the words of The Rolling Stones “You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes well you just might find you get what you need.” Likewise you might think you know what you want and what your customers want, but this may be disconnected from what you really need, which is improved customer value. Customer journey insights will reveal the true picture and areas for improvement, customer communities based on their behaviour.

9. You’re a band – it’s a team effort

To achieve all of this, it is essential to create complete buy-in from the CEO and the other executive team members. Customer-centricity is the responsibility of management not just one silo. This will probably be spear-headed by Marketing and the CMO but is ultimately the accountability of the whole management team. The management team who unites behind the customer will be the winners, as Queen sang “We are the champions. No time for losers ‘Cause we are the champions of the world.”

Read Part One