How to ACTUALLY Become Customer-Centric

A Superset of Principles to Accelerate Your Strategy

The Digital Leader Newsletter — Strategies and Techniques for Change Agents, Strategists, and Innovators.

How can we attain a goal or a trait if we can’t define it? How do we judge an athletic event if there aren’t rules and standards to judge by? Can we build and strengthen a strategy and culture of “customer-centricity” with a set of principles or guidelines for what it means to be customer-centric?

Getting Caught Up

In prior newsletters, we have defined what customer centricity is

At its broadest, the definition of customer-centricity is “to put the customer at the center of everything an enterprise does.” 

What does that feel like? What are the limits of that? How do we coach and practice that?

The Digital Leader Newsletter -- Compete in the Digital Era
Getting Started on Customer Centricity
When it comes to the English language, context is everything. For instance, the word ‘wicked’ can mean either evil or cool. It can even be used as a superlative in Boston (“She’s wicked smart.”). Alas, misinterpretations and flat-out mistakes occur when your audience isn’t on the same contextual page. And once words and phrases lose their meaning and cr…
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And we have discussed the value of clear, easily recognized principles to help define strategy and culture.

Operate by principles that are so clearly laid out that their logic can easily be assessed, and you and others can see if you walk the talk. — Ray Dalio, Principles

The Digital Leader Newsletter -- Compete in the Digital Era
Principles -- Swim Lanes for Strategy and Culture
Operate by principles that are so clearly laid out that their logic can easily be assessed, and you and others can see if you walk the talk. — Ray Dalio, Principles Any leader, from a CEO of a large company to the manager of a small team, is trying to get more throughput, more efficiency, get more done. We think we want a…
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What might the principles be to help our journey of building a better business with a customer-centric approach?


Instead of suggesting that you start from scratch in developing a set of principles to enhance customer centricity, here’s a superset to accelerate your development of principles on customer-centricity.

(I’m sure there are other great principles that could be added — please suggest by leaving a comment)

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This superset is long — twenty-two principles in total. I’m confident that for any specific company, finding the right five to ten principles is the sweet spot for the number of principles to endorse.

With no further setup, here is the superset of principles for customer-centricity. I purposely make these outrageous and un-compromised — we are setting guidelines for an aspirational, never to be attained state for our business. Each principle has a simple descriptor and then a short description. The descriptions are critical to the effect of the principle.

In future releases of The Digital Leader Newsletter, we will do a breakdown on some of these principles, one at a time.

1.    Accountability -- We take accountability for ensuring the realization of the full benefit of our customer’s use of our products (services).  We do not point the finger at others. We develop strategies and aggressive plans to expand our reach and influence to achieve this goal.

2.    Mission -- Optimizing and improving intended and realized outcomes for our customers from the use of our products or services is our primary mission. By accomplishing this mission, other business results such as growth and profitability will be possible.

3.    Trust -- Customer trust is a valuable corporate asset and is a key brand element.  Customer trust is defined as making and keeping explicit commitments to our customers.

4.    Privacy -- Customer privacy is a core element of customer-centricity.  We default to “customer privacy” on all matters and keep all choices clear, simple, and reversible. 

5.    Effortless at Every Moment -- Education, discovery, use, maintenance, and service of our product is effortless for the customer at every moment of their customer journey.  We have a sharp eye for spotting friction in the customer journey and work to eliminate the friction.

6.    Simplicity is the Best Feature -- Simplicity (e.g., simple and short language in our contracts or obvious packaging) is essential in every customer moment.  The simplest experience is one that does not have to happen (e.g., I don’t have to contact customer support because we avoided a customer question).

7.    Do the Right Thing -- We do the right thing for the customer even if doing so results in revenue loss, an additional cost, or some other challenge.

8.    Customer Metrics -- We strive to have facts and metrics at the granular customer experience level to drive an effortless customer experience for every customer at every moment.  We are always working to improve, innovate and make better use of metrics and SLAs to improve the customer experience.

9.    Trust Customer Feedback -- When customer feedback conflicts with our metrics, we trust the customer feedback and dig deeper.  

10. Long-Term Customer Relationships -- We optimize for long-term relationships with our customers.  Optimizing for long-term customer relationships is the best way to align the interests of customers, shareholders, our ecosystem, and employees.  We do not optimize for the current period's performance over customer-centricity.  Thus, we optimize for long-term financial results attained through trusted customer relationships. This is best measured by Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

11.  Be Specific on Actors -- We recognize that there is more than one type of customer (or actor) in our ecosystem and industry value chain.  We will be specific about the customer type in our work and build solutions and supports to align the ecosystem motivations and outcomes with the end customer benefits and our business.

12.  Integrate Our Ecosystem -- We proactively support and include the ecosystem in our mission of customer-centricity.  Ideas can come from anywhere.  We co-invest and creatively invest in helping the ecosystem support our mission of customer-centricity.

13.  Take Ecosystem Action -- If we cannot get an ecosystem actor or partner to commit and execute our vision for customer centricity, we lead and take timely action to achieve through other means.  We do not compromise customer centricity for a partner relationship.

14.  Simple, Effortless, Predictive, Personalized -- Simple, effortless, predictive, and personalized are the attributes of our core product & services and all aspects of the customer journey.

15.  Customer Centricity Everywhere -- Every process, function, team, and role in our organization has an explicit understanding, definition, goals, metrics, and SLA’s written and aligned to these customer-centricity principles and pursuits.
(This is my personal favorite. Make “customer-centricity” part of every job and plan)

16.  Customer Centricity Goal Setting -- We set and recalibrate high-bar (aggressive) goals at least once a year, outlining the customer experience improvements we aspire to (goals that are outputs) with sufficient definition to how we resource, test, and achieve these goals (controllable inputs).

17.  Demands Innovation and Experimentation -- We are eager to innovate and experiment with novel techniques and ideas to support customer-centricity.  We recognize that experimenting is key to systematic innovation; that learnings from these experiments are often the key-value; that speed in decision making and testing is the critical currency of experimenting, and that often these experiments do not give the immediate results we may want, but that is a form of success.

18.  Take Action -- Our customer-centricity demands that at any point, each of us is required to take action to live up to these principles.  But once a decision is made with customer-centricity impacts noted, we move on the decision on a positive and well-intentioned basis.

19.  Context to Other Constraints and Priorities  -- Our customer-centricity principles live within the context of other constraints, requirements, and priorities — regulatory, procedural, financial, and others.  We recognize that these factors may limit or at times do not act in line with our customer-centric ambition (or principles).  We commit to recognizing these moments and decisions and capture when we are compromising customer-centricity principles for other factors.  It will happen.

20.  No Excuses -- We do not allow these other constraints to limit our ambition for innovating and improving on behalf of the customer or for living our customer-centricity principles. There are no excuses.  Instead, we use the constraints as catalysts for problem-solving, strategy development, innovating, and being frugal with our resources.  

21.  Integrated into the Employee Experience -- We integrate customer-centricity and the use of these principles in every phase and aspect of employee engagement — interviewing, hiring, training, reviews, promotions, mentoring, etc.

22.  No Compromise Employee Policy -- If employees, any employee, cannot consistently live up to our customer-centric principles, we find a fast & respectful way to separate.


And Back to You — The Change Agent

To re-iterate, this is neither a suggestion to use all of these principles or that any of them are articulated correctly for your business — for demonstration purposes only —- Disclaimer by author

How will you go about creating systemic change and strategy? I suggested an agile approach to building principles in the newsletter below.

The Digital Leader Newsletter -- By John Rossman
An Agile Approach to Customer-Centricity
What’s your plan for building customer-centricity? If your goal, perhaps role, is to lead and influence others to build an organization that is “customer-centric”, how might you do that? There are options & choices and many schools of thought, but here’s an agile approach to building the journey to customer-centricity…
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The term “leadership” gets tossed around as a nebulous, have-it-or-don’t attribute. It’s not. Leadership is a practical skill that can be developed.

Leadership is both a research area, and a practical skill encompassing the ability of an individual, group or organization to "lead", influence or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations. U.S. academic environments define leadership as "a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task1

Putting tangible, specific principles in place to define how we lead in a customer-centric way is a skill we can all learn and put into action.

No homework this week.



About The Digital Leader Newsletter

This is a newsletter for change agents, strategists, and innovators.  The Digital Leader Newsletter is a weekly coaching session with a focus on customer-centricity, innovation, and strategy. We deliver practical theory, examples, tools, and techniques to help you build better strategies, better plans, better solutions — but most of all, to think and communicate better.

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