Successful Cultures Respond To Changing Customer Needs

Relevance and responsiveness to customers are increasingly viewed as key measures of success for marketing efforts, representing the new path to ROI that senior leaders are tasked to deliver. Winning and keeping customers is more and more about listening, understanding changing market conditions and customer intent, then responding quickly, relevantly, and profitably.

Furthermore, organisations that do not put the best interests of customers first in the way they do business risk reputational damage as well as pressure from regulatory bodies to change.

So how can organisations ensure that their business strategy brings their brand to life for customers and consistently delivers positive customer outcomes that drive acquisition and retention?

An effective organisational culture is becoming recognised as key to a superior customer experience, innovation, accountable leadership, and sustainable growth. Many leading brands are actively managing culture as a core part of their customer strategy, and it is clearly making a difference to their performance and their ability to manage growth and reduce uncertainty.

Customer-Driven Decision-Making
Fostering a culture that is not merely customer-focused but fully customer-centric and market-responsive encourages decision-making that is in tune with customer expectations and market dynamics. Performance is driven by encouraging specific attitudes and behaviours across the organisation, and the embedded mindset will determine the results.

The letter Jeff Bezos wrote to shareholders this year revealed the playbook he uses to ensure Amazon remains on Day 1, continuously driving growth and value, and avoids Day 2, seeing the business peak and decline through complacency and commoditisation.

As he says, “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.” In his view, a customer-obsessed culture is the best possible protection against Day 2. Customers always want something better, and customer-centric culture creates an environment where the organisation is primed to invent new solutions that will deliver value.

Adapting To Future Intent
Digital transformation and other CX change initiatives are primarily focused on improving the end-to-end customer experience through more efficient customer journeys, simplicity, and reduced cost-to-serve. However, it is important they also create a cultural shift in organisations that incorporates an understanding of customers’ future intent and how to address it in compelling ways. Otherwise, once seamless digital platforms have fully been implemented to minimise customer effort across most industries, how will brands stand out and remain desirable? Looking ahead for the white space or reinventing the old keeps leaders from being one step behind and competing on table stakes.

Transformational Leadership
A customer-centric and market-driven culture is influenced through leadership from the top down. The tone from the top is critical for creating an environment where all parts of the organisation are agile in an effort to create value and anticipate how to gain competitive advantage in a changing business environment.

Transformational leadership has used cultural change to drive engagement and agility. Every leader’s style is different, but the tone from the top is critical to creating a customer culture that has a deep sense of purpose.

Culture tends to be considered an abstract element of business strategy, but it is primarily the outcome of employee behaviour, and a laser focus on a set of specific behaviours can lead to superior business results. Shaping a company around the customer to deliver relevant and distinctive brand experience quickly requires a different mindset from the leadership as well as new roles, skills, and behaviour from employees.

Managing And Developing The Culture
But do you know how customer-centric your organisation is? Most companies and marketers overrate their level of customer-centricity, but have no evidence to support their views. Often there is a big disconnect between what they think and what customers experience. If you don’t measure performance, you will have little evidence or direction as to how to get the rest of the organisation behind marketing and the customer-first approach.

Now there is a validated tool, called the Market Responsiveness Index (MRI), that enables the CEO and other senior executives to benchmark their level of customer-centric culture against a global database—for the organisation and for business functions including marketing. It provides a tangible and measurable baseline from which action can be taken to strengthen customer culture resulting in customer retention, advocacy, and sustainable revenue growth.

A key challenge in many organisations is finding a catalyst for change that bridges internal silos, aligns thinking, and encourages collaboration. These are all critical elements for a learning organisation that adapts effectively. Evidence is often required to demonstrate that change will actually deliver the promised returns. By measuring performance on customer-centricity, it becomes clear to all involved how well the organisation is doing relative to others, where changes need to be made, and how initiatives can encourage specific behaviours that will impact customer outcomes and business results.

Top talent increasingly decides which organisations they wish to work for based on their values, brand reputation, and the way they treat their customers. Organisations that are committed to their customers and seek to make a genuine difference are increasingly recognised as offering a more desirable working environment. This is particularly the case with Millennials, who possess the digital skills currently in high demand.

As the fight for highly-skilled and committed employees sharpens in a rapidly changing marketplace, the gap between great and good brands is likely to widen. Developing and actively managing a customer-centric culture that remains relevant and responsive to the expectations of both employees and customers will go hand in hand with “stay on Day 1.”

Marketing and customer experience leaders have an obligation to focus energy across the company into how they build and deliver a brand promise that makes a difference to customers’ lives today and tomorrow. By highlighting and actively managing the key elements behind a customer-centric culture, transformation leaders can demonstrate to the rest of the C-suite how to think differently about sustainable growth and foster a culture that reflects the best interests of customers.

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