Customer Centricity Is Crucial, But It’s Not Enough

Unhappy employee or demotivated at working place.
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Many organisations position themselves as being customer-centric, and in doing so consciously put the customer front-and-centre of their decision making.  In a dynamic and competitive business environment, this is a sensible move. In many industries competition is rife and the cost of switching is low, and it may even be possible for a customer to change supplier at the click of a button.  In this type of environment, being efficient whilst also understanding customer needs is of upmost importance.

This thinking, quite logically, permeates into change initiatives too. As analysts, we have a whole range of techniques that allow us to understand customers, put ourselves in their shoes, and create exploratory models.  Perhaps we use elicitation techniques such as focus groups, market research or questionnaires.  Perhaps we develop personas, customer journeys, scenarios and use a range of other techniques that help us to ensure that we’ve fully considered the types of experience that our customers will have.  This is sensible, surely?  I mean nobody would argue against customer centricity, would they?  

It’s About More Than Just Customers 

Customer centricity is a sensible approach, and we should certainly continue to use analytical techniques that help us to understand and model the needs of different types of customers. However, in many situations, focussing purely and exclusively on customer needs can cause unexpected and often problematic outcomes.  In reality, our organisations tread a nuanced balance between customers, employees, suppliers and many other interested stakeholders too.  Focussing on any one of these to the exclusion of others is likely to cause issues.  

Let’s take a hypothetical example.  Imagine a motor insurance company offers a brand new digital portal to its customers.  It allows customers to manage every aspect of their policy online,  to make changes and even to monitor claims.  Customers can “chat” to an advisor if they want advice, although in most cases the portal is so well designed it pre-empts their questions and provides them context-sensitive information at the moment they need it.  The site also compares the premium with competitors every year at renewal, and matches the cheapest—reducing the need for the customer to shop around.  This, from the perspective of a customer, sounds fantastic!

But imagine the needs of other crucial stakeholders—such as internal claims handlers and suppliers—hadn’t been considered.  Perhaps claims handlers are still stuck using a bulky old “green screen” mainframe that was implemented in the late 80s. They see a disparity between their IT system and the “glossy” front end that customers use.  Lots of routine “re-keying” takes place between systems, leading to the potential for errors (which will, ironically, affect customer experience) and a general feeling of frustration.  Motivation suffers, as people feel they do not have the tools to do the job.  After all, surely internal user experience is a crucial consideration too?

And how often have you heard somebody ask “how can we optimise our supplier experience?”.  Probably not very often! Suppliers are crucial actors in the delivery of goods and services to our customer, but it is easy to neglect then.  Perhaps the same fictional insurance company referenced in the previous example has a contract with a whole network of independent garages, enabling customers to get their cars repaired at a really convenient location after an accident.  This might be a real benefit for the customer, but now imagine that when implementing the new digital portal, insufficient thought was put into the authorisation and payment processes—meaning that invoices from garages were routinely left unpaid, much to the frustration of the (small) garages.  Or perhaps as a manual workaround they insist that each garage fill in a whole series of clumsily-designed forms and unnecessary reports after each repair.  This affects the supplier experience to the extent that they might choose not to work with that insurer, or worse a customer might arrive only to be told “we can’t help you as we’re still waiting for 20 invoices to be paid..”. 

Clearly these are hypothetical examples, but they are intended to illustrate that whilst being customer centric is crucial, it is not enough. Focussing purely on the “customer” (in a conventional or narrow meaning of the word) can mean that we neglect other crucial stakeholders. As BAs, it is crucial that we facilitate and co-create outcomes where the needs and perspectives of our wider stakeholder communities are considered and balanced.


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About the author:

Adrian Reed

Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.

To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, please visit www.blackmetric.com

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Richard Polley

I agree – it’s very fashionable at the moment to think about user needs above all else, but people often neglect that suppliers and colleagues are users as much as clients/customers are. I sometimes feel like I’m fighting a losing battle trying to get leadership to consider the wider user community.

Adrian Reed

Thanks for the comment Richard. It’s tricky, isn’t it? It seems that so often human nature encourages us to “reduce” or “manage” the complexity by considering only one perspective. But of course by doing so we fool ourselves, because the situation remains jsut as complex as it was before (with different perspectives from suppliers colleagues etc).

I think this ability, to highlight different perspectives and to encourage systemic thinking, is crucial.

And I agree it can feel like a battle sometimes 🙂

Thanks again for your comment Richard, I appreciate you taking the time to write it.

Adrian Reed

Thanks Jenil. I completely agree, it crucial that we take a holistic & systemic view, else it’s easy to find that things fail on ways we didn’t expect!

Glad you liked the article, and thanks so much for taking the time to post a comment 🙂

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