The term “paradigm shift” describes a process by which our interpretation of a specific issue is replaced by a completely new understanding. A good example would be companies that transform themselves into customer-centric organisations. I mean companies for whom the customer experience is not limited to their IT infrastructure, but it’s, actually, part of the business’ vision and mission to delight their customers.
To become truly customer centric requires a step-change in four key areas that has to be driven internally and across the whole business.
1. A Continuous Process
According to a study by Capgemini, 75% of all companies already consider themselves to be customer-focused. Their customers, however, have a somewhat different view. Only 30% agreed with that statement. But a positive customer experience is so important to them that eight out of 10 of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay more for it.
The question is what companies mean by “customer experience.” If you look closely, their understanding of the concept is mostly shaped by the methods used in individual departments. So areas as diverse as IT, marketing, sales, and service might have a completely different interpretation of what customer experience entails—and not just from department to department, but even within teams. This understanding is further affected by the tasks performed and methods used.
Customer experience, in its truest sense, encompasses the entire range of relevant contact points such as branding, products, purchasing, and service. It has to be viewed as a process that affects the entire company and is shared at all levels.
Customer focus also means the people involved. If a company wants to delight its customers on a sustainable basis, it has to engage its employees. Only by working together can this aim be achieved. Employee experience and customer experience are, therefore, directly dependent on each other. Only with a shared understanding of what they are can you shape the future and design a first-class customer experience. But this is not an isolated action with a defined beginning and end but, rather, an ongoing process.
2. Investment In Quality And Sustainability
In their book “Killing Marketing,” Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose analyse innovative companies. They look at how these companies manage to turn marketing costs into profits. Using the results of their studies, the authors predict that, for marketing to continue to justify its existence, current structures and profit centres would need to be abandoned.
But organisations are used to judging processes according to how efficient they are. So while studies from consultancies such as McKinsey can show how decision-makers and staff rate their company in terms of having a “digital culture” and a customer-centric approach, what effect these, actually, have on the company’s efficiency is often not apparent until years later. Deep change and the creation of a new culture need time.
3. Agility And Collaboration Must Be Learnt
English actor Colin Firth was once asked how he prepared for his roles. He replied that you could read a thousand books on transformation, but you only really learnt by doing it yourself and experiencing it for yourself.
One of the biggest buzzwords of recent years is agility. But the question is what exactly we mean by this term. How—and for what purpose—is agility used? Where have we experienced agility? What can we and our teams learn from this concept? If we engage with these questions in an open and honest way, we can realise our full potential.
Nicholas Drake, executive vice-president and chief digital officer at T-Mobile U.S, said recently that if he could go back three years, he would implement agility and collaboration with even more rigour, right from day one. As an organisation, Drake said, his company has to ensure it is in those places where the customer really needs it, and that it is always one step ahead. Only then, according to Drake, can every employee make a contribution.
It matters, therefore, not only that we understand concepts such as agility, collaboration, or transformation. It matters even more how we think—our attitude, our experience, and our approach. McKinsey’s study “Culture for a Digital Age” has shown that companies often lack a “digital mindset.” This, in turn, inhibits change.
4. Does Working Together Encourage Innovation?
A study conducted by the University of Tennessee has confirmed the current assumption that collaboration encourages innovation. The positive effects of new forms of collaboration have been used to great effect by firms such as P&G, who launched a scheme entitled Connect + Develop. New platforms such as Slack and Asana are also often involved. But Slack, which is the most popular of these platforms, is not always the best tool for the job. Even before Slack, several useful collaboration tools had been developed.
In some companies, it seems that every meeting ends with a commitment to set up a new Slack channel for the issue at hand. Tim Leberecht of consulting firm Leberecht & Partners ponders: “To what extent does this hyper-communication really help us in our work? How many half-dead and unused Slack channels do we actually need? Are we collaborating ourselves to death?”
It’s, therefore, even more important to choose and use the right collaboration tools. It’s worth getting to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the various platforms and assess the pros and cons of each tool. Some tools are good for chat, others map and simplify entire added-value chains
Informed use also means understanding that collaboration tools should be more than antiquated intranet communication channels. When staff have space to think, and at the same time are motivated to exchange ideas and skills, the power of the community can be used to develop these skills together. This shared creative process is the best way to meet challenges head-on. The specific channels and the individual interests do not really matter. What matters is customer experience. Various angles then can be considered so that a delightful customer experience can be created.
Paradigm shifts are complex. They have to be experienced and mastered to be really internalised. Old paradigms are also hard to shift, as they appear to offer security, so a company has to learn before it can trust the new paradigm. It’s no different for becoming customer-focused. There should be a clear commitment on the part of management and a serious investment in the development of the company, added value, staff, and customers for the process to be a success.