A big buzz in the business world these days is customer-centricity. This means knowing your customers, focusing on them as top priority and putting them at the center of everything you do in your business. It means making their voice and their needs part of every decision you make. Some companies take this to an extreme by actually placing an empty chair in their executive meetings that is marked as the customer’s chair. This is a reminder to discuss things and make decisions as if the customer is sitting in the room.
While this is good thinking and, I believe, necessary if you want to really be a company that maximizes its potential, I think there is something else that is overlooked that must come first if you really want to reap the benefits of true customer-centricity. Simply put, you must make a decision to commit and align your entire company to being service focused not just customer focused. This means the difficult divorce from being consumed with a focus on profits and instead focusing on what it takes to serve. If not, you will get mired in competing priorities which will make it virtually impossible to make customer-centricity real.
So what needs to be done? How do you make your business service focused?
The answer begins with first defining service and by defining I mean stripping service down to its bare bones and getting to its root. I know you’ve heard many definitions that include words like exceeding expectations, hospitality, and satisfaction, but I believe service, in its simplest form, is nothing more than helping people and it is this definition that gives us our clear starting point.
From here, the next step is getting everyone from top to bottom to agree on aligning to a singular mission to help people and that doesn’t matter whether it’s a fellow teammate or an end-user customer. This commitment cannot simply be something on paper that starts in the C-suite or that only pertains to frontline customer-facing employees; it has to be something to which everyone in the entire organization commits. It means everyone in the company continually asking themselves, “Is what I am doing right now helping the person next to me? Am I demonstrating a service focus?”
Once everyone is committed to service as the fundamental driver of the organization, it becomes easy to get customer-centric and put customer needs in the middle of decision-making, standards and expectations. When everyone is serving the person next to them, it becomes easy to ask whether what the company is doing has customers in mind. There is no more siloed “me, me, me” thinking to muddy the waters. Everything will start with service and have customer needs at the center. In other words, the CEO will be serving the Executive team and they will be serving the Management team and they will be serving the Customer-facing team, and since customer needs are why you are doing it, everyone will be rowing the boat toward the same harbor.
So, to sum up, to get customer-centric requires first aligning the entire organization to the idea and practice of serving from top to bottom and inside to outside, speaking the same language and driving to the same goal. With service focus, the entire organization makes helping people everyone’s habit, and with customer-centricity, the customer’s success becomes the ultimate goal.