Customer-Centricity: A Marketing Or Management Responsibility?

PART 1: Typical Problems Non Customer-Centric Brands Have

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.

Customer-centricity is an approach to doing business that focuses on the customer. Customer-centric businesses ensure that the customer is at the centre of a business’s philosophy, operations or ideas. At Thunderhead although we see Marketing, and therefore the CMO, as the ultimate champion and custodian of the customer we believe that for a business to be customer-centric this needs to be the responsibility of every single employee who contributes to the value chain to drive customer value. A guitar solo does not make a rock band. It’s the sum of the parts that make the band. To make customer-centricity the beating heart of the business it therefore needs to be the responsibility of the whole management team, not a single band member.

In this blog we discuss the problems you may experience if your business is not customer-centric, supported by findings from our own research*. Next we’ll share some top tips on how you can solve those problems, to help you achieve, as Queen sang, “a kind of magic”

Problem 1 – The Silo Effect

Pink Floyd’s lyrics summarise departmental silos well with their lyric: “just another brick in the wall.”

Businesses think in terms of sales, service and marketing to customers. These can be isolated islands with walls of their own. However, your customers are only interested in what’s relevant to them. Immediately there’s potential for discord and bum notes. Research published in the Harvard Business Review** pinpointed the damage caused by the silo effect – the result of a lack of cohesive, connected interactions across all channels – as a key contributor of customer unhappiness.

Organisational silos damage the customer experience, particularly within larger companies. These silos exist between channels (e.g. the call-centre and in-branch experience being disconnected) and also between departments (e.g. marketing thinking only about customer acquisition, while customer services focuses separately on supporting the customer after-sell and resolving cases).

Because customer insight is often housed in separate silos, individuals within the company don’t have a complete view of the customer across their journey, which means no one is able to harness the company’s full knowledge of the customer and use it to inform more personalised, relevant and valuable experiences.

Organisational silos combined with a proliferation of channels and touch points means that customers have many different ways of interacting with businesses, resulting in different kinds of experiences. However, these are rarely co-ordinated or joined-up as businesses struggle to share and connect customer information and insight across departments internally. The larger the business, the more likely this is to be the case.

The result for customers is summarised by the words of Queen in ‘I want to break free’: “I want to break free; I want to break free from your lies; You’re so self-satisfied I don’t need you. I’ve got to break free.”

The consequence is a highly fragmented experience for the customer. The vast majority (92%) of customers say* that providing information to a business in one channel then having to repeat this information when they interact with them in another channel negatively impacts their perception of that organisation. Indeed over a third (35%) say* it would significantly reduce their opinion of that business. More than one sixth (21%) say* it would be enough to make them consider leaving for a competitor.

Problem 2 – Broken conversations

If you’ve ever been to a rock concert, loving the bat-frequency squeal of the heavily distorted and overdriven electric guitar, only for an amp to blow up? Show-stopper, the music has died. Similarly company silos create disjointed communications or broken conversations with customers which undermine customer relationships. Broken conversations caused by company silos present a major challenge.  Almost a third (31%) of customers* feel so negatively as a result of broken conversations that they are likely to stop doing business with the company concerned.

The Rolling Stones could have been singing about broken conversations in ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ and about annoying marketing when they sang: “that man comes on the radio he’s tellin’ me more and more about some useless information.” Despite best efforts, marketing campaigns working in silos outside of customers’ actual journeys make an expensive contribution to this problem. Marketing campaigns as a result are often received as being irrelevant, out-of-context, fall on deaf ears or miss their mark, resulting in poor ROI. There are even silos within silos where even a Marketing department is broken into acquisition/ lead generation, campaign management and CRM, all focused on their own goals and not the customer.

Problem 3 – The arrival of the ‘age of the customer’

CUSTOMER STORY*: Alex Whitelaw*

“The problem comes as you don’t know what the person you’re speaking to is writing down on the call log on your records. Unless each call is accurately logged there isn’t a full and fair run-down of the situation. I never understand why you are asked to automatically enter your account details, date of birth etc when you first call customer services. Then as soon as you speak to someone they ask you to go through security questions again. Inevitably they need to transfer you to a different department and you have to go through the process again! It drives me mad.”

Pink Floyd fans didn’t go to The Who concerts in their day, ‘Mods’ and ‘Rockers’ did not mix. To avoid a Quadrophenia-esque Battle-of-Brighton skirmish with your customers then you must listen to and acknowledge their needs and preferences.  Today they demand to be heard. Power has shifted from businesses to consumers.

Surrounding your business the changes in digital technologies, especially the Internet, mobile and social, have also led to dramatic changes in your market, in customer demand and behaviour. Your customers have an ever-increasing choice of how they talk with you. Today’s customers want personalised, contextual and relevant information that delivers value at every point where they interact with a company.

How your customers perceive value in the moment when they interact with your brand has changed radically in recent years. They want it now, on their terms, their way. This means you have to completely rethink about the way your business approaches, interacts and builds relationships with customers. You need to be able to hear the difference between who wants crunchy blues or grungy, heavy rock.

To summarise becoming truly customer-centric has a huge impact on every aspect of how your business operates: your internal processes, your operating model, what you sell and how you go to market, across every department. In a nutshell, your entire business model and value chain are affected. That’s everything in your business. Hence this is a challenge for the whole management team, not marketing alone. And no one would suggest at face-value it’s an easy puzzle to solve, like trying to manage a complex instrumental medley, it requires talent, skills, organisational coordination and change. But the result can be a beautiful harmony for your brand.

Read Part Two


Thunderhead Engagement 3.0 Research Report