The common theme

Putting the ‘customer’ at the centre of everything a business or organisation does is now such a common theme, everyone’s had the opportunity to consider its relevance to their own industry.

And while the noise can swell from superlative hype to questioning conservatism, it's hard to ignore the staggering success many organisations have enjoyed when they reoriented their business model around their customers.

Equally prominent are the obituaries of the many incumbents that have had their business eroded by a more customer-focused service or product.

  • The impact of experience –average annual revenue growth rate of 'experience-driven business' vs other companies (11 per cent). (Forester & Adobe, The Business Impact of Investing in Experience, 2018).
  • Why customers matter – higher year-on-year growth for 'experience driven business' vs other companies in terms of customer retention, repeat purchase rate, average order value, and customer lifetime value (CLV). (Forester & Adobe, The Business Impact of Investing in Experiences, 2018).
  • The better customer experience – 57 per cent of customers stopped buying from a company because one of their competitors provided a better 'experience'. (Salesforce, State of the connected customer: Second edition, 2018).

Behind the hype is something real

In defining how to transform and embrace the customer, there is more to consider. Onboarding the 'customer first' mandate of its own, favours only one side of the coin.

A customer-focused strategy without the full support of the business verticals and stakeholders is a strategy with a lifecycle shorter than a 'Blockbuster video rental app' for a Blackberry.

In short, a customer strategy must be sustainable. This will mean defining how the value delivered to the customer creates an equal (or incremental) value back to the business.

It will also need to account for the technological requirements, considering both current and future state, in order to ascertain viability and roadmap its implementation.

The three key quantifiable and measurable areas

digital transformation diagram

Defining the attainable and sustainable scope of your customer strategy requires consideration across three key quantifiable and measurable areas:

  1. The needs of the customer
  2. The needs of the business or organisation
  3. The technological potential (and limitations)

The path to defining key opportunities to leverage customer focus could be born from customer research or business insight. Regardless of its inception, to be sustainable it will need to balance both, and recognise its scaling opportunity against the technology available to support it.

This insight in turn provides direction in defining priorities and imperatives, and in so doing, can advance a business or organisation’s ability to unify stakeholders and rapidly build momentum.

The real opportunity

Too often, in our marketing, management, IT and industry press, the narrative remains fixed on the customer when the real opportunities come from identifying the relationships between the customer and the business, and the interaction accelerator provided through the technological framework – predicting, and feeding the customers’ needs, while concurrently updating the businesses market intelligence.

With all three of these factors identified, it becomes easier to recognise the greatest opportunities for a profitable and sustainable transformation.

While technical constraints are often cited as the reason some boardrooms fail to establish momentum in transforming to meet the demands of the 21st-century customer, changing the internal culture is often a more significant challenge. A customer strategy that has clearly defined value streams back to the business is an effective asset in changing its internal culture.

A further advantage of a business that focuses on its customers in defining its strategic imperatives is that the relationships to the customer are pushed out beyond the chief marketing officer (CMO) and chief commercial officer (CCO) to become the unifying culture across the business. This allows for diminishing siloed practices and thinking, and helps the business to become more focused on a unified direction.

The customer at the heart

  • Organisations with a "cross-team approach with the customer at the heart of all initiatives" are likely to significantly exceed their top business goals vs other organisations. (11%) (Adobe and Econsultancy, Digital Intelligence Brifeing 2018 Digital Trends, 2018).
  • ‘Experience-driven businesses' see greater personal, team and department satisfaction than other companies. (Forester & Adobe, The Business Impact of Investing in Experience, 2018).

"History has shown that incumbents tend to fight trends that challenge established ways and, in the process, lose focus on what matters most: customers.” 

Jason Kilar, former Hulu CEO

Start before you are ready

The opportunity is then positive. Understanding your customers can significantly reduce risk in determining where and how you innovate.

Ensuring that the ‘problems to be solved and opportunities to be leveraged’ are consistent with the motives of the customer while reducing experimentation in new innovations that stand less chance of being adopted by the market.

Recent research from Adobe and Forester (The Business Impact of investing in Experience, 2018) also points to stronger employee satisfaction when working inside a ‘customer focus’ organisation.

Pick the smartest path to transform your customer experience. Start with your stakeholders or start with your customers. But start before you are ready because digital agility remains one of the last remaining differentiators in a customer obsessive market.


Greg Whitham is Datacom’s advisory services' consulting director, specialising in customer experience. If you’d like some expert help in the area of customer experience design and implementation for your organisation, we'd love to help – visit our contact form and we'll be in touch.

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