In highly disrupted and fiercely competitive markets, the smartest of organisations move beyond aspiration to create compelling experiences for their customers, driven by whole-of-business alignment with a focus on the engagement of its people.
As technology has evolved, so too has the power of the customer in all industries. Customers are embracing the omni-channel world, relishing the choice to engage with different organisations, and to transact in any place and time that suits them – not when a business decides to open the door.
“They are also demanding more personalised, seamless, timely and trustworthy experiences, thanks to comparing standards across industries from communications, to financial services and healthcare,” says Kelly Owens, Executive Director, Customer, Brand & Marketing Advisory KPMG.
Not delivering to this demand puts a business at risk of irrelevance. However, the good news is, many organisations recognise this challenge and are getting on the front foot, with strong aspirations to be truly customer centric. KPMG Nunwood’s US 2017 research found that 88 percent of CEOs are concerned about customer loyalty and recognise that mastering the customer agenda can unlock financial value.
“Organisations are looking to retain and win customers and drive greater loyalty through cost effective, differentiated experiences that meet, or sometimes ideally exceed, customer expectations,” Owens says.
However, the aspiration to be customer centric can only be realised if it is backed up by both a robust operational delivery model and engaged people throughout the organisation.
Mark Hassell, Partner, Customer, Brand & Marketing Advisory, KPMG, says he often asks his clients: “Are the operational parts of your business 100 percent behind the strategy with compelling solutions? Are your teams engaged, do they embrace the vision, and are they energised and equipped to bring it to life?”
A customer centric organisation puts the customer at the centre of its overall strategy, whatever the unique challenges and opportunities are.
“Are you the new market entrant that needs to have your brand considered by your target customers?” Hassell says. “Are you well established, and do you want to become the most preferred brand in your sector? Once clear on this, you say, so what are the key ‘customer drivers’ that need to be put in place and consistently delivered to give yourself every opportunity to fulfil these objectives?”
To do that, as stated in KPMG International's 2017 Me, my life, my wallet report, it is important to understand customers in their own context – ‘their lives, needs and the forces that open and close their wallets’.
This integrated approach is something organisations need to work on. KPMG’s Competing for Growth – Building a Connected Customer Enterprise 2017 survey revealed that 30 percent of organisations score themselves as ‘average’, and 16 percent as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’, when it comes to how well they are able to develop and then deliver on their customer strategy.
Owens says: “We see many businesses struggling to connect the front, middle and back of house to get all people, processes and systems moving in the same direction to execute on an organisation-wide customer engagement strategy.”
Overcoming this challenge requires executive vision and leadership, agile management, cultural alignment and performance measures that recognise and reward people for what and how they deliver, she explains.
“Getting all aspects of a business on the same page and signed up for the change is pivotal to getting the customer-associated overall business outcomes that you want.”
Once the operation people are behind the strategy, organisations must consider how each division will be impacted by change.
“Instilling customer centricity is a team sport. Can your sales agents be more empathetic without driving up call centre costs? How do you blend people and technology to optimise the experience? Is your supply chain appropriately resourced to ensure commitments are fulfilled?” Owens says.
This is where it is vital to identify the gaps in the organisation’s ability, and to fix them up front to be able to consistently deliver the desired customer experience and realise objectives.
Hassell describes it like a relay race: “Whatever role they have, everybody in an organisation has a customer. For this to work perfectly, everybody has to hand over the baton to the next colleague in the chain, seamlessly and effectively.”
He says for the customer, this ensures they receive not only what they have purchased, but also the experience promised and inherent in the product or service offered.
Working hard to build and sustain the engagement of everyone in an organisation significantly helps ensure cross-company commitment to the strategic vision. Everyone should understand what it means for them and how they will be key to its success.
Hassell explains: “Anybody can build a product or design a service. Anybody can build an app. But if you impose it on an organisation without everyone being ready to accept and fully enable it, then you almost certainly will see failure,” he says.
He adds that effective internal communications and training, further developing leadership skills, setting clear delivery standards, and putting the right management structures and performance measures in place are essential.
“Everyone needs to see that they are being set up to succeed.”
Organisations that have a clear customer strategy, align their operations behind it, and get their people on board from the start will present a consistent, open and responsive face to their customer.
Owens says: “KPMG research shows this pays out in a range of measures from increased revenue, increased market share and lower costs, to stronger customer retention, higher customer lifetime value and team engagement.”
Regardless of industry, it is clear that aligning operations and people to deliver a customer centric vision is vital for a sustainable future. Over the next 3 years, almost 90 percent of companies expect to be competing on the basis of customer experience alone.
Hassell says: “Whatever your ambition for the business, being a customer-centric organisation is an essential enabler in putting yourself ahead of the competition in a crowded market.”
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