Customer focused – is it even worth starting?

I was re-reading some old articles about customer focused organisations, and came across the following as an opening statement “To become customer centered and customer preferred, a firm must change its orientation and design its business capabilities, infrastructure, and measures of success from the outside-in by using the customers’ perspective.”   Ugh!   

It’s no wonder that companies find it hard to shift from being “product led” to “market led” if they are faced with such major changes to execute.  How would you even know where to begin?  Maybe it’s the enormity of this list that has become the excuse for organisations still hesitating about letting customers become a key driver of business choices.  Or maybe it’s the uncertainty about what it really means to be customer centric and the benefits that a switch like that brings?  Whatever the reason, both within and outside the insurance industry there remain clear examples of companies who can’t clearly articulate who their primary customer targets are, let alone explain their wants, needs, beliefs or even purchasing behaviour.  Such an untapped opportunity – and one you can be sure at least one competitor is capitalising on. 

So, what to do?  And how do you know where on the spectrum of being ‘product led’ versus ‘market led’ that your organisation sits?  First, talk to your customers, and get the real “outside-in” view.  Find out which of your perceptions are real versus a myth, which are top priority to fix and which are of lower importance, and where the biggest untapped opportunities are.  This doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking, and doesn’t need to cost thousands upon thousands.  (Of course, ideally you do get the information via a third party – to make sure customers speak the truth, and you do cover off sufficient people from your different customer groups.)  Second, go through the results.  Get key decision makers in a room to talk about the learnings.  Where are the opportunities for biggest impact?  Which actions can be put in place most quickly?  What’s the balance between ‘big’ impact’ and ‘quick wins’?  Third, agree not to leave the room until specific priorities and actions are assigned, and then set follow-ups to track progress.  

The above process isn’t rocket science, but it is a start.  While it won’t address all the issues and it doesn’t address the major structural changes that were alluded to in the first paragraph, it does get you talking to your customers and hearing about their experiences first hand.  And moving forward rather than being over taken by competitors is progress in the making.