It has long been accepted that the most loved and successful businesses became so because, whenever and wherever possible, they put customer service first. From Selfridges, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer in the retail world, to Cadbury in manufacturing and Dell in technology and innovation, decades ago their leaders realised that having a finger on the pulse of both the employee and consumer was both what felt right and what delivered results in equal measure.

Somewhere in between then and the last five years, as we went through booms and recessions, companies prioritised other performance metrics. Profit, expansion, employee productivity, shareholder value, market share. These words formed the rulebooks for how organisations should deliver results on a day-to-day basis, as more competitors emerged, costs went up, globalisation became prevalent and business was tougher. Market research was often featured in the rulebook, but it was rarely a fundamental guiding management principle.

In 2003 a customer loyalty metric called Net Promoter Score (NPS) was conceived by American business strategist, Fred Reichheld, who published an article introducing it in the Harvard Business Review. NPS measures the loyalty that exists between a provider (a commercial company, employer or public service organisation) and a consumer. This ground-breaking idea brought customer service back to the forefront of management teams around the world and ushered in the next generation of customer service. The concept of establishing a 360-degree view of a business, with customer viewpoints at the centre, was born. The now widely-used term, customer centricity, is happily an accepted and critical value and foundation for any business wanting to be successful.

Those leaders that actively vocalise the importance of customer-centricty and ensure that their teams walk to that drumbeat are achieving their strategic and commercial goals better than their competitors. A Gartner report in 2001, entitled ‘Eight Building Blocks of CRM: A Framework for Success’ still provides relevant insight today, especially this excerpt from the third building block. Named ‘the valued customer experience’ author (and at the time Gartner’s Research VP), John Radcliffe, said:

“Good customer experiences drive satisfaction, trust and long-term loyalty. Poor customer experiences have the opposite effect and, because bad news travels faster and further than good news, they harm the enterprise’s ability to create new relationships with prospects. No amount of internal “second guessing” can simulate what it’s really like to be a customer.”

In 2016, customers are demanding – and rightly so. Expectations and standards have never been higher. Customer-centricity is a two-way street, involving honest and constantly evolving conversations between the provider and the consumer. And as John Radcliffe highlighted, bad news travels faster and further with prevalent use of social media platforms.

One of the best ways to implement customer-centricity inside the management systems of an organisation is with CRM, because the purpose behind its creation was to provide a 360-degree view of the customer. Used to its full potential, it helps brands to design their chosen myriad of customer journeys using powerful technology services and data sets.

In a second-part blog on this subject, I’ll talk about how to gather and apply data, how to interpret consumer and customer needs, their preferences and behaviours, using CRM solutions to help make better business decisions.

By Martyna Marciniak

CRM Consultant