In today’s Experience Economy, on the journey to sustained profitable growth and value creation, businesses and brands of all shapes and sizes must eventually answer the critical strategic question of “What’s Next?”. Unfortunately, in many organizations answering this question can be a real challenge, and especially so when corporate cultures are internally-oriented, exclusively focused on short-term performance, and over-committed to the status quo.
What often gets lost in day-to-day leadership conversations is the fact that 50-70 percent of an organization’s enterprise value (i.e. stock price) relies on its future prospects – revenue and profit over the medium to long-term (12-60 months) time horizons. This reality can play a particularly significant role for well-entrenched industry incumbents or market leaders, where the potential for “tunnel vision” makes it easier to miss shifts in customer sentiment or the changing winds of customer behavior.
Expanding the organization’s peripheral vision becomes easier in organizations that truly have customer-centric cultures. In these environments, the customer perspective is leveraged to shape behaviors and beliefs, as well as inform all strategic, organizational, operational and commercial conversations and commitments. This powerful asset gives leaders the clarity and confidence they need to create true differentiation, enable the most disruptive decisions, solve the most complex challenges and achieve the transformational outcomes that are needed for to survive, thrive and grow in The Experience Economy.
Customer-Centricity as a Growth Engine.
Operating at the emotional and DNA level of an organization, customer-centricity is about using the underlying ethos of the organization to create new value and new demand, attract new customers through empathy for their needs, and having the inherent capacity to deliver the exceptional, sharable experiences that turn non-customers or casual customers into customers for life. The core of converting customer-centricity into a growth engine is the notion of identifying and satisfying articulated and unmet customer needs, fulfilling customer jobs and adding value to customers.
1. Satisfying Unmet Customer Needs
In a marketplace that is noisier and more competitive than ever, businesses and brands must be able to “see around the corner”. This means being more relevant and resonant to customers on their various journeys. Experience has shown that relevance and resonance come from engaging at a human level to address the functional, emotional, rational and social needs that customers truly value. Needs are reflections of requirements, obligations and urgent challenges that signal potential gaps, desire or deficiencies in the customer experience. Crucially, customer needs are more enduring than specific product features or functions – smart phones come and go, but the need to ‘communicate on the move’ endures – making them more reliable indicators of strategic opportunities.
Needs can be expressed as customer pain points and gaps in fulfillment or expectations. With articulated needs, customers have already expressed their desire and interest in a particular proposition. Naturally, articulated customer needs may be a source of more intense competition and moderated growth potential as they are likely visible to competitors as well. Unmet needs are those needs that customers themselves may not realize that they have. Uncovering and satisfying those unmet needs can open up entirely new customer opportunities that have high growth potential and limited competition.
2. Fulfilling Customer Jobs
Customers are not really “buying” products or services; they are “hiring” them to do a “job” they need accomplished.. Designing an innovative customer or service value proposition begins with genuinely understanding which customer “jobs” need attention and fulfillment. In the context of a customer experience and service excellence within a customer journey, expressing needs as JTBD statements allows organizations to systematically break down jobs into discrete steps and desired outcomes to strive for. Ultimately, the JTBD framework provides a consistent architecture for customer needs and a common language across organizational and operational systems. Instead of focusing solely on customers as demographic segmentations, the jobs-to-be-done concept focuses on understanding the intentions and motives of customers. With a deep understanding of unfulfilled jobs, organizations are better positioned to create new revenue streams and deepen loyalty from existing customers or create entirely new customer advocates by addressing unfulfilled customer jobs.
3. Increasing Customer Value
Finally, as the saying goes, “one in the hand is worth two in the bush”. Although new customers are critical, maintaining and increasing the existing customer base at appropriate levels will always be fundamental to growth. With deep commitments to customer-centricity, businesses and brands can drive outsized growth and value creation through a predisposition to create the novel value propositions that stimulate and motivate existing and new customers alike. Businesses and brands with true customer-centric cultures are also more predisposed to understand customer pain points and the moments that truly matter on their various journeys. This dynamic uniquely opens the door to deepen value, relationships and retention with existing customers, while simultaneously attracting non-customers into the portfolio. In this regard, the purpose of customer-centricity does not just mean “getting to know” customers from a commercial perspective, but also demonstrating genuine empathy for the customer. This aspiration can then be translated into tangible business outcomes and long-term value creation.
To learn more about the power of service excellence culture, leadership operations, customer experience culture, memorable customer service and employee engagement read the full set of articles by Wayne Simmons of Opptiv – The Service Excellence Company on CustomerThink: Wayne Simmons Articles
As co-founder and Chief Experience Officer of Opptiv, Wayne Simmons was previously the Global Head of Delivery for The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, a Global Commercial Leader at Mercer, and U.S. Army Intelligence Veteran. As a thought leader, change agent and an expert experience strategy consultant, he led a team dedicated to delivering the legendary ethos, practices and systems of the Ritz-Carlton brand for client organizations across industries. Wayne leverages the principles of Horst Schulze, Cofounder of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and creator of that brand’s legendary reputation for service excellence and customer-centric culture. As a Trusted Advisor working at the intersection of HR, CX and C-Suite leaders, Wayne coaches, trains and consults with businesses and brands on their journeys to maximize customer growth, loyalty and attain competitive advantage through service excellence and customer experience culture, leadership and operations.
Opptiv is the Service Excellence Consultancy. We help businesses and brands win through service excellence culture, customer-centricity and exceptional customer experience. Unique in the industry, we take a playbook approach to help clients achieve business outcomes at enterprise scale. We start by applying Design Thinking to activate leaders and engage frontline talent in the co-creation of purposeful culture platforms and unique service propositions that all levels can understand, embrace and hold each other accountable for. We then create brand-aligned playbooks to document the underlying elements of the culture as actionable guidance, practices and function-specific “plays”. Finally, we use these playbooks to inform the internal communications and tailored training needed to align, integrate, reinforce and sustain service excellence across all parts of the business.
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