Global, longitudinal analysis of customer expectations and entitlement reinforces the fact that getting and staying ahead of your customer is a matter of corporate life or death.
In August 2019, the Business Roundtable announced the release of a new Statement on Purpose of a Corporation. This Purpose Statement, signed by 181 CEOs and included most of America’s most valuable brands including American Airlines, Pfizer, Bank of America, and many more, revised these leaders’ positions on their primary corporate purpose, and presumably, therefore, their internal corporate top-of-the-house goals and objectives.
by Tim Myers
This new purpose is a huge deal as it represents a fundamental shift from “shareholder value” to “stakeholder value.” This change put the customer front-and-center! Here is an excerpt from the first, and I would argue the most important position in this purpose statement:
…we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders. We commit to delivering value to our customers. We will further the tradition of American companies leading the way in meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
Our question to these corporations, based on our fierce understanding and advocacy for delivering on customer expectations is: How is that working out for you?
The Elephant in the Room
If you have spent any time in large corporations, there is one thing that silently stands out — the fact that companies are designed from the ground up. They are an inside-out phenomenon. That is, they start at their foundation or “ground floor”, which is product or services — the basic “thing” that you’re offering — and they are built up from there. Operations, organizations, technology, metrics — they are all built on top of the product, and the last item considered is the customer. These organizations are designed from the “inside-out”, not the “outside-in”. Customers are always at the end of the design / planning / metric process, not at the beginning or the center.
Business schools continue to churn out thinking that is “corporate centric”. What’s more, educational offerings that sell themselves as “customer-centric” are STILL missing the point. They are putting customers into business terms, not business into customers terms. This may seem like a small distinction, but it is everything. It drives corporations to continue to miss the point in the now, decades-old “CX or Customer Revolution”.
This is the Elephant in the Room. CX initiatives, CX software firms, and CX consultancies and practices are all trying to help companies be “customer-centric” when in fact they are designed to be “corporate-centric”. It’s like apples and oranges or a square peg in a round hole. Whatever your idiomatic expression of choice, current corporations are not set up to operate around an entitled customer.
In the end, a fundamentally new approach to how companies operate around the customer is required. To achieve “Customer Delight”, a fundamental transformation is necessary, one in which the corporation is set on a path to change from an “inside-out operating model” to an “outside-in operating model.”
This is your starting point. Call out that elephant and set your organization on a path to be different.
How do you address that elephant? One step at a time. Evolution is the keyword here, not revolution. You need to set yourself on a path to evolve to an organization in which the customer — not the product — is the more important driver in your organization.
Speaking of Animals
One additional observation, further proof that companies are not achieving their customer-centric status is the impact on the Customer Experience or CX ecosystem. Why are there no Unicorns in this space? If you don’t know, in business, a unicorn is a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion. The answer to this question is simple when you look at it through the lens of the elephant. CX software whether it be journey, NLP, CDP, CXM, or other solutions are often “nice to have” not “need to have.” From the software to the consulting ecosystem, none of these platforms are set up to help you become a company that puts your business into customer terms.
That is to say, if you’re running your company based on traditional business school metrics like product sales, etc. then “needing” software that provides metrics to put your business into customer terms is not in alignment with business operating models. All of these companies (and consultancies) have adapted to your business model. You and they are siloed by definition. They are designed to look at the customer through an inside-out lens, not the required outside-in Customer lens.
One special note on two CX companies that many say stand out, Medallia and Qualtrics when private, were not CX unicorns. They were simply automatic surveys. An old-school, long-standing customer voice offering being automated. Yes, they were Unicorns, but I argue that they were not true CX companies for the reasons outlined above. Their operating model did not aim to help their buyers achieve true “customer delight”. Also, just as in early Internet retailers, many online companies have come and gone. If these startups were simply “automating sales online”, they quickly disappeared. Amazon and many others have redefined retail, and they are the “true retail leaders” and considered, rightfully so, unicorns in their day.
Start with The Customer
Global, longitudinal analysis of customer expectations and entitlement reinforces the fact that getting and staying ahead of your customer is a matter of corporate life or death. How your company is designed around the customer and their ideal experience is paramount.
Don’t worry though, it’s a journey. You won’t get there overnight, but you need to get there. Today is the day too, from the top down, set your mission to become a “customer delighting” organization and start your evolution to get there.
Tim Myers is a Principal at Atlaas.