Isn’t Customer Centricity a Good Thing?
It seems like an oxymoron. Don’t the best companies exhibit hyper focus on their customers? All successful companies have an early growth phase with a single differentiated product. Early on, the Customer Success team developing an extreme focus on execution and fast turnaround of customer issues is how you win. However, all companies, in order to sustain their growth over time, need to expand their offering so that they can continue to sell to their existing installed base of customers.
Following the Same Recipe
When a new company succeeds through great execution and hyper customer focus, it becomes part of the company’s cultural DNA. To roll out new products, everyone follows the same recipe since it has always worked. R&D and the Customer Support teams will work hard, iron out any bug, and ensure the initial deployments are successful. As the company grows, silos in organization and thinking become established as the metrics continue to measure product contribution margins and profitability. After all, focusing on financial execution and returning strong shareholder value is essential for every maturing company. However, while the company keeps its focus on point technologies it can begin to lose its focus on the larger picture. Are these suites of products continuing to solve customer problems and establish differentiated value versus the competition? If the company has organized into separate business units, there is usually only minimal incentive for these business units to commit their resources to enable and enhance their products that customers need to work together. What may be a revenue generating enhancement from one business unit may only create a defensive capability in another. The incentives to invest may not be the same.
Incentives to Invest
It is at this stage that being customer focused needs to transition into being customer centric. Part of the Customer Success team needs to look at the larger problems that the customer is trying solve when using multiple products together. Does the company really understand the customer journey with their solutions? Are their user interfaces consistent? Is it simple for customers to use their products in conjunction with one another? If not, a soft spot has been created for the competition to attack. If these types of items have not been addressed from a holistic customer viewpoint, customers will get frustrated and begin to look for other providers to solve their pain.
Measuring the Value
The Customer Success team identifying the larger, customer centric problem and potential solutions is not enough by itself to convince the various business units to invest resources to solve. How is the value of a new solution integration, flow and user interface enhancements measured? Each business unit has likely been evolving their own data collection and metrics methods (since each product has different value). Each business unit will likely have their own different view and measurement of the customer. To be successful at being customer centric, the data and metrics from these different business unit silos need to be able to be integrated and measured in a common view. If the company can successfully create a common language to talk about customers, then aligning on a common view of the customer can be accomplished. It becomes easier for the various product teams to prioritize what needs to be done, and do the appropriate cost tradeoffs. Good decisions will be made that benefit the right products and drive overall revenue growth for the company as a whole.
A Common Language
Investing in solutions that enable a truly common language amongst the various product teams will be essential for building and sustaining a customer centric culture. By not doing so, a successful company will eventually devolve into separate infighting teams that will each believe they are maintaining their customer focus, but have actually lost sight of their customer’s larger problems.