The Office of the Customer

A remarkable growth strategy for your brand or business should be, at its core,  a customer-centric growth strategy.  Contrast this with most companies’ strategies which are strongly product-centric or channel-centric.

To be truly customer-centric, your organization needs to start with a single, cohesive understanding of the value, needs and wants of your most important customers and prospects. And then you need to consistently turn this insight into action to drive meaningful results.

So how are you doing?

Have you integrated all your relevant customer data into an enterprise data warehouse?  Is all your “voice of the customer” information–from formal research studies to satisfaction surveys to customer complaints accessible and its implications understood by key decision-makers? Do you have people, and I mean specific individuals, responsible and accountable for understanding your most important customer segments, monitoring critical metrics and for coming up with new and improved ways to engage, grow and retain them?

I can hear the objections already. We don’t have enough data!  Our systems aren’t good enough!  We can’t afford to get good customer research and create sophisticated segmentations!   We can’t add headcount in this economic environment!

Sure, it would be better to assemble a new department with lofty goals and a big budget to take on all these noble activities.   But here’s the choice you can make.  You can sit around and hope for money to be freed up or for your CEO to suddenly get that old time customer religion.  Or you can make something happen.  Today.   You can become a linchpin in taking that first step in the journey towards true customer-centricity.

If no one else is doing anything that’s making a difference, create the “The Office of the Customer.” Invite people to become part of your tribe.  Vest yourself and those who join in your movement with the responsibility to pull the critical customer information together.    Work collectively to glean the insights, design the better solutions and relentlessly advocate for putting the customer first.    Help your management see what can be done with a purpose and a passion.

If no joins in, or perhaps worse, your boss tells you to stop wasting time on these fanciful notions, you’ve learned something valuable.  It’s probably time to find a job at a company that gets it.
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2 thoughts on “The Office of the Customer

  1. I love this idea of ‘The Office of the Customer’ however if, as I hear from a lot of retailers I work with, it is hard enough to break down silos between departments – be it to gather data, set prices etc, so the mind set change to remove silos to allow this joined-up and truly customer-centric approach seems some way off. Also who would you see as the key stakeholders when the customer touches every part of the retail organisation?

    1. I have encountered this many times myself, so I definitely agree with you this is a widespread issue in retail.

      The best case is the CEO (or CMO) takes this on and pushes it top-down. In the absence of this, the next best case is a grass-roots movement where people who are passionate build the business case by starting to generate insights and implications from their own “guerrilla” efforts. Most of the early traction I got at Neiman Marcus was through using small pieces of my and other folks time to discover provocative findings and potential opportunities. This can take a lot of time and be fraught with frustration but if you have the facts on your side it usually gains traction.

      As multi-channel grows, I believe retailers are exactly the sort of companies that would benefit the most from a customer-centric approach. Not to mention that the merchant culture tends to cause too much time spent on maximizing product and category performance while missing the role of the market basket, customer experience and multi-channel in growing, engaging and retaining customers.

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