Client-centricity: an aspiration or a reality?
We live in a time of transformation driven mainly by a digital revolution that empowers the individual like never before and changes social, political and economic behavior. Business models must adapt to a society where:
- People have access to more information and options than ever before;
- Competition increases globally and without geographic or industry boundaries;
- There is a race to recruit the best talent to help companies face the above challenges;
- Companies seek to be relevant to get their audience’s attention in an infoxicated world of products, services and content;
- The political and regulatory environment is more complex;
- Promptness is demanded;
- The customer is king, which compels companies to put them in the center of their philosophies, operations or business ideas.
However, this transformation is not easy for companies used to putting the product at the center of their businesses, now forced to change their vision and way of operating at a rapid pace while continuing to deliver results.
According to the Harvard Business Review study Closing the Customer Experience Gap, which included 680 executives, 73 percent of business leaders believe improving the consumer experience (CX) is critical for their business, but only 15 percent of them are completely satisfied with their strategy. There is a growing trend, but its full potential has not yet been achieved: expectations and reality rarely coincide; storytelling and storydoing do not always go hand-in-hand. According to this study, there are several reasons why, with the four most prominent being:
- The creation of a client-centric culture
- Leadership and management
- Understanding the consumer experience
- Communication of the strategy
This situation is challenging for LLORENTE & CUENCA because of two reasons. On one hand, like many other companies, it is forced to adapt and compete in this new context. On the other hand, it is an inherent challenge to the very nature and mission of our profession: to be communication consultants who help their customers achieve their goals, for which it is essential to become an advisor and promoter of a client-centric culture to organizations, thereby helping and encouraging them to embrace digital transformation.
73 percent of business leaders believe improving the consumer experience (CX) is critical for their business, but only 15 percent of them are completely satisfied with their strategy
Promoters of the client-centric culture
As the Harvard Business Review study points out, culture, leadership, understanding and communication are the barriers to overcome when introducing a client-centric vision to an organization. These barriers are intrinsically linked to reputation—in other words, our line of work, which requires a focus on at least the following five areas:
Culture, leadership, understanding and communication are the barriers to overcome when introducing a client-centric vision to an organization
- Intelligence, to understand how customers’ perceive brands, products, companies and leaders. Although using Big Data is part of the strategy, it is necessary to understand customers’ journeys and the impact each contact has on customers’ perception of the brand beyond the end-to-end purchasing process. Keep in mind, a customer’s direct experience with the company is very valuable, but it is complemented by their indirect relationship with the product, company or brand through media, advertising, publications, events, search engines, social media and third-party advocates. Both relationships must satisfy customers’ expectations and generate trust and empathy for a company to gain a good reputation. Intelligence must be present throughout the organization, starting with the CEO, so it directly impacts the company’s vision. It is also vital to implement new tech platforms that will help monitor and understand the vision; it is equally important to inspire a culture of data and understanding within the organization, but in an orderly manner.
- Leadership, because great changes require strong, empowered leaders. These leaders help drive innovation and inspire others to go against traditional structures to solve customers’ needs regardless of segment, brand, geography and functional area. This is, therefore, the Chief Operation Officer’s challenge, as they are usually responsible for transforming the workplace, eliminating operational silos, putting the customer at the center of the business and having clear accountability. The strategy must be tangible, with clear leaders and milestones.
- Processes, because client-centricity must be a part of the entire organization. It is essential to empower and inspire each employee through grassroots strategies in order to solve customers’ needs. In this particular objective, remember to define the following strategies:
- a) Competencies and skills training throughout the organization (which will increasingly be horizontal and autonomous).
- b) Recognitions and incentives that are not just monetary, but also help to form a common culture. In this strategy, it is crucial to establish talent engagement strategies that foster change.
- Comprehensive communications plan, because any great change needs its own narrative, its own brand with a strong purpose, milestones and a hero who can overcome various obstacles and offer results that inspire the whole organization through stories and, of course, numbers. To be client-centric, we must first seem client-centric and then internalize this way of thinking in order to get the entire organization on board. Remember, the communications plan must involve the entire company in the change.
- Metrics, key for transformation milestones, must have a purpose and tangible goals and be available to all employees… and even customers, who should be aware of your company’s progress. The client-centric approach must help achieve greater customer loyalty. satisfaction and willingness to recommend or return to us. This is precisely how Disney measures the outcome of its strategy. However, the metrics must also translate into productivity improvements, cost reduction and employee satisfaction; after all, employees see value in being more involved and having an in-depth perspective of the customer journey. Client-centricity has to come from an ambition shared by the whole organization, and the metrics must show the success achieved by everyone in the company.
Make customers the hero of your story
Professional services’ company
As a professional services firm, LLORENTE & CUENCA launched its 2017-19 Strategic Plan with a client-centric vision. Last year, we began reinventing our business through different programs whereby colleagues across our 18 offices incorporate customers in the vision-defining process. This will help take concrete actions and form goals to be excellent in what we do. Apart from the large investment and vast resources required, we are applying internally the same vision we offer customers; this makes our advice more credible because it is consistent across the board. By 2019, LLORENTE & CUENCA will have platforms and processes to better understand our customers. Given the greater tech support, we will structure the company with new positions that will make it easier for us to work with our customers’ to address their unique and ever-changing needs. New talent will help us innovate further and remain at the forefront of communications, reputation and public affairs in the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world, keeping in mind, as prestigious Marketing Specialist Ann Handley said, to “make customers the hero of [our] story.”