Leadership comes in many different types with varying degrees of being ‘hands on’ or not, being ever present or keeping a low profile and even fostering a serene environment or having an active and invigorating workplace. Putting customer needs at the front of every decision however, is vital for all leadership styles. Customer-centric thinking has far-reaching business outcomes and can affect business transformation.
But how do you go about integrating customer focus day-to-day?
- Provide direction and purpose
It’s vital leaders give direction on how to keep the customer at the heart of things. ‘Customer-centricity’ needs to be based on a vision of what the company must do. It must be guided by a strategy based upon realistic goals and robust data which provides meaningful and actionable customer insight. Cascading the vision accurately and effectively from the C-Suite down is exceptionally important to succeeding in ‘customer first’ thinking.
- Put people at the centre of everything
Customer-centric leaders should know how it feels to be a customer, leading to informed and well-reasoned decisions that balance profitability with customer experience. Leaders with a passion for the customer delve deeper: Pizza Hut UK’s CEO, works a shift waiting tables in the company’s restaurants every month, providing real and valuable insight and a direct connection with customers and staff at a person-to-person level.
- Don’t treat customer perception scores as a vanity measure
Many companies now measure success both in terms of finance and public perception, but to be truly customer-focused, leaders must implement what the data teaches them. Customer-centric leaders don’t treat the data as a pat on the back – or slap on the wrist. They know it’s a way of understanding how the company performs in the eyes of the public, and use it to determine business and operational priorities to provide a better and more successful service.
- Create a culture where managers, team leaders, and employees are all emotionally engaged with the customer
Customer-centric leaders also understand the importance of measuring the ‘Voice of the Employee’ – and acting on their feedback. Employees must be driven by the overall purpose of customer-centricity, want to go on the journey and believe that they are headed in the right direction. Customer-first leaders therefore need to identify ‘champions’, involving them in the change process and listening to their advice. By building a team that is aligned with your vision and strategy at all levels, not just senior management, customer-centric leaders can create an organisation where every employee is emotionally engaged with the customer.
- Be in it for the long haul
A major mistake when moving to a customer-centric vision is to assume that once the plans have been developed and rolled out, the work is done. Constant monitoring, evaluation and assessment means that customer focus is constantly refreshed and reinvigorated.
- Keep on learning
Many leaders don’t keep their understanding of the customer experience up to date, which means that it can’t be an ongoing priority within the organisation. Whether they believe they already know it or don’t deem it a priority, the journey a user takes when dealing with your business changes over time, which means that leaders shouldn’t stop re-learning what they think they know.
Only by understanding the qualities that support customer-centric success can we look to build successful, long-term relationships with customers. Designed specifically for working professionals and ambitious career-changers, the University of York has introduced a suite of online Management and Leadership MScs covering a wide range of topics designed to help students become better leaders.
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