Customer-centricity Begins with Creating a Culture of Change

Customer-centricity or getting closer to customers is often the focus of many executive meetings I attend these days. The question always arises, “how can we use new media to get closer to customers?”

The answer is not, develop a social media strategy to start engaging with customers. The answer is, change. Any organization that focuses on operations, margins, and efficiencies over customer experiences will find itself unfavored by tomorrow’s connected customer. It’s difficult to see the customer or empathize with them if you’re focused on a spreadsheet. It’s impossible to change if you can’t see what it is they value.

Social media is as rewarding as it is complex. For businesses seeking to engage customers in the social web, lucidity is the key to relevance. However, social media is not static nor is it constant in any one state. It’s part of the new media revolution and it’s driving the new information economy.

Its importance lies in maturation and the stages we experience as we experiment and learn. As we dive deeper into understanding its potential, we uncover new opportunities to create not only a social business, but an adaptive business. Social media’s true promise lies in its ability to reveal human behavior, emotions, and experiences to inspire brand empathy. While we talk of humanizing our brand and our business or becoming a more consumer-facing brand, the reality is that we are merely at the beginning of an important shift in business philosophy. Customer-centricity begins with internal transformation and the willingness to adapt or create processes and programs that break down internal silos. It’s not just about communicating with customers; it’s about showing them that listening translates into action within the organization to create better products and services and also foster valuable brand experiences and ultimately relationships with customers. It’s also about empowering employees to improve those experiences and relationships in the front line and to recognize and reward their ability to contribute to a new era of customer engagement and collaboration. They have to care, not just because they’re human, but because it’s part of the corporate culture…and a recognized contribution at that.

Innovation and collaboration is an outside-in and an inside-out process. It is living. The activity we tap into in networks inhabited by connected customers forces a groundswell that inspires top-down transformation from the bottom-up.

It’s time to take new media to the next critical phase, the need to understand the needs of the market and deliver against them. The adaptive business will plug into the human seismograph to listen, innovate, and co-create. To do so, engagement, customer recognition and empowerment and investment in empathy become the pillars for an external mission. Creating a culture of change for employees, customers, and partners and equally investing in movement of adaptation, innovation, and co-creation become the pillars for internal transformation. This is just the beginning of how we create a more customer-centric organization and how new media plays a role in engagement and learning to foster change and relevance.

The future of business isn’t created, it’s co-created.

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Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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