The new customer centricity

Every business claims it’s customer centric. At least that’s the discourse, reality being very different. Between those thinking they know their clients while their client think they don’t and those that collect data without using it, the scope is wide.

Being customer centric means knowing and understanding the client

Being customer centric means a lot different things, depending on the person taking the line. It ranges from “delight the client” to ” plague them until they buy”. Too often the word is led astray and obsession with the customer becomes obsession with his wallet. I don’t even mention organizations that are so obsessed with the client that they forget their employees, who, in result, forget their employer and their clients.

No. Being customer centric means meeting the customer’s needs. It’s having the product that meet his needs instead of trying to create needs that meet your product. It’s not stopping halfway because “he have to content himself with that”. It requires to know and understand the customer, what are two different things.

Knowing him is to have enough data to say who he his in terms of demographics and consumption behaviors. Understanding him is starting from that to anticipate his reactions and needs. It’s understanding the mechanisms that will trigger the buying decision, what will make him satisfied, what will make it recommend a brand or a product.

Knowing the customer is not for targeted emails only

Unfortunately in most cases customer knowledge is only use for targeted advertising, no matter the channel used to harrass address the customer. Knowing the customers means taking decisions based on the customer and the customer experience. Chosing the right ad for the right product is a decision but lacks  ambition regarding the customer’s expectations and what technology makes possible.

But the road will be very long. A Forrester Study issued this spring shows that :


• 95% of businesses are unable to make sense of customer data and struggle to gain real-time insights from it.

• Only 38% have made it a top priority to improve their use of data to make decisions that affect customer experience.

• only 23% can execute their CX strategy extremely successfully.

A disastrous acknowledgement for the present that may even make us expect the worse for the future.

One can’t manage customers without knowing them

We all have heart that “you can’t measure what you can’t manage”. In the era of data and cognitive computing we can also say that “we can only manage what we know”. It’s hard to manage customers in that context.

Manage customers ? What for ? Businesses manage product, they manage technology, but they don’t manage customers. Customers have their own lives, they manage themselves and that’s the reason we try to understand them, right ? To meet them as often as possible and even make them come by themselves ?

Maybe true today, totally wrong tomorrow.

The future of your business is your customers, not your products

This summer, Olivier Delabroy, Air Liquide’s digital transformation, told me something that caught my attention. “What we must learn from the GAFAs is that they’re not managing products or technologies but clients”. It may sound obvious afterwards but the truth is that very few business get it.

Managing clients instead of managing products, what does it mean.

Managing products is simple to understand. That’s the way we’ve ever done business. With more or less talent, smartness and success but that’s the current normal. Businesses manage products and try to attract customers. The foundation is the product. A business is defined by its industry, then by its products and in the end tries to bring it to customers?

But that was before.

In 2015 I saw in a PWC study that for most CEOs the future of competition was cross-industries and that they were trying to address new industries in the following years. What means that the future was delivering consistent experiences from end-to-end, what requires to improve one’s offering by adding closely related ones (rember…the experience chain….). Another approach is also to identify one’s key asset and use them on new sector. And the study already said that businesses should focus more on their clients and less on their industry. But to do so, to be legitimate, to understand what customers need, to be followed by customers, a business must focus on the client, not on the product.

Examples ? That’s what helped apple to move from it’s computer vendor square to sell music, phones, mp3 players. That what allows Google to be at the same time a search engine, an advertising agency and a office solutions vendor. That’s what AXA bets on to become more than an insurer. That’s what will make Orange Bank a success or not. I don’t even mention the automotive industry.

On the other side, the list of businesses that did not understand the need to move to other sectors and are slowly dying on their mother one or tried to make this move but were not followed by the customers is bigger than a phone book.


Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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