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Elizabeth Glagowski | March 19, 2012

Breaking the Psychological Barriers to Customer Centricity

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It's common knowledge that customer focus leads to revenues. So why don't more companies implement customer strategy? They are knowingly leaving money on the table, yet many continue to do it rather than risk facing the "devil they don't know."

More evidence emerges every day to justify taking a risk on being customer focused. Just last week technology firm Coveo released results of a survey of more than 130 customer service and support professionals. It found that 63 percent of those surveyed said that placing customers in the center of their business ultimately drives revenue. However, 69 percent of respondents listed lack of collaboration among internal departments and siloed information as barriers to achieving customer centricity. Many companies don't have the environment to breed customer centricity.

In their hearts, most executives know that focusing on customers is the right thing to do. We're all consumers, and we all know personally the type of experience we prefer when dealing with customers. And according to Coveo's research, most executives even know what they need to do to improve. So if they know what the problem is, why don't more companies do something about it?

I think psychology plays a large role. Of all the excuses people give about why they don't implement customer-centric programs, almost all can be whittled down to simple fear of failure and humiliation. Do you want to stick your neck out and fail? Do you want to spend an entire budget on something that might not work? Do you want to be known as the person who ran a "boondoggle?" Most people would say no, especially in this uncertain economic climate. But I would argue that the current economic situation demands that leaders do make bold moves. These moves in reality aren't so bold because in the long run, when done correctly and with the customer at the center, there is proof that they almost always pay off.

Instead, many executives play it safe by continuing to do what has worked in the past. But rear-view mirror thinking will never move a company forward, and the past is no indicator of future performance. Most important, customers are growing tired of companies that don't move forward with them.

The time for excuses is over. Customer expectations are rising, technology is available to connect internal silos and share information across the business, and everyone knows what they have to do. Senior leaders need to face their fears and break those psychological barriers that impede forward, customer-centric progress. How to do that is the million dollar question.

This year's crop of Gartner and 1to1 Media CRM Excellence Award winners may serve as the customer-centric catalyst you need to jumpstart initiatives at your company. Who knows, these best practices might be just what the doctor ordered.

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