As we speak with many eCommerce companies there is a trend — the desire to become a more customer-centric company. And this is a topic usually coming from a level above the eBusiness or Web department.

It’s a topic that can even come from the CEO, as a customer-centric culture affects every division, department and function. However, it is highly influenced by the growth of the Web as customers are interacting every day with a company’s processes via the web site.

I spent a lot of time developing the customer-centric strategy at Dell and consulting with other companies on word of mouth, and there is no magic bullet for ‘becoming’ customer centric. I guess the easiest way to describe the one source of customer centricity — and yet the most challenging to change — is culture. From culture, the bloodflow of a company, everything follows — technology, policy, brand, product development, hiring, etc.

But let’s say you didn’t start customer-centric, and you want to correct, or redirect, the company towards a more customer-centric trajectory. What do you do?

In my experience, the most important thing you can do is to bring the customer closer to your business and brand in an operational way. This could mean a lot of things (such as ratings and reviews on your web site, of course!). But in short, it means that you have put a system or process in place (a company is nothing more than people, processes and systems) that brings the customer closer to the rest of your people, process and systems every day.

  • A research project and presentation is tremendoursly insightful, but we all go back to our day jobs.
  • Attending usability sessions is good, but empathy is short-lived
  • Reading customer comments from the web site is helpful, but forgotten
  • Developing personas helps you understand customers, but then what do you do with them.

Ultimately, it’s the action you take and something that you put in place which is seen every day, so in our day jobs the ecology starts to change. The network and algorithmic effect of bringing the customer closer to what employees live and breathe HAS to change the way they make decisions, because now it’s part of the environment in which they make decisions. It can’t be ignored, forgotten, or dismissed.

Once in place, a customer-centric system adds a positive virus that can multiply inside the company and among your peers. You can’t do it alone, so the best thing you can do is to plant a healthy virus in your company and watch what happens!

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