Customer Focused Agility

Easter is always a good time for reflection on the things that matter most.  Living in North Carolina makes Easter-time extra special with the full bloom and aroma of colorful azaleas, dogwoods, flower beds of irises and of course, fragrant Easter Lilies.  For many, Easter is also filled with special services and reminders of the kind of “operating principles” that help lead meaningful, purpose-driven lives.

One of those reminders comes in the form of a wristband that some wear with the initials … WWJD … “what would Jesus do”?  These wristbands became popular over the years in youth groups and retreats as a guide to help young people facing tough choices of teenage years. The symbolism in those wristbands is as a reminder for a set of core beliefs, mindset and values for shaping a way of life.

Something similar came to mind recently as I was working with a client on how to accelerate the value drivers in his business transformation from being just another "average player" in the industry to the hallowed ground of being the “most customer centric and responsive” player in the industry.  As I waited for him to return to his office, I noticed his white board filled with lists, graphs and mission critical decisions to be made.  For some reason, I pulled out a blank piece of paper and wrote these letters, WWC³D, and placed the paper as a banner atop the white board.

My client came in and sat down at the conference table in his office and noticed something different about his white board.  He looked over to me with a puzzled look as his rapid processor was working through possible solutions to the mystery.  He got the syntax right away but struggled with the C³  meaning … so I broke the code by saying … Customer Centric Company.

The header for the white board begged the question … WHAT WOULD A CUSTOMER CENTRIC COMPANY DO?  As any behavior modification scientist or psychologist would tell you - if you are trying to shape new behaviors, there must be constant awareness of the desired mode and a means of getting real-time feedback, bio-feedback if you will, to reinforce the desired behavior.  The implications for your transformation comes down to CHOICES.

•Are you aspiring to be the MOST customer-centric player in your industry or just an above average CC player?

•Are you planning to partition this behavior and reserve it ONLY for when you are meeting customers at trade shows, or do you mean it for everything your company does  as a regular operating system?

•How do you define customers?  Are they only the external bill paying variety, or do they include your employees, suppliers, investors and resource partners?

•Do these C³ behaviors only apply to the sales team or executive team, or do they apply for everyone?  Who should be wearing the wristband and making a PIVOT in their thinking and acting?

•How will you monitor and learn how your team is doing in this transformation?  Is there a rapid-resolution C³ Genius Bar or GEEK SQUAD to help figure out C³ solutions?

Customer Focused Agility is not an easy level to reach … but the ROA (return on agility) for getting there can be significant in the form of  higher Net Promoter scores from customers, higher win rates on new programs, higher levels of team engagement and retention … ultimately higher growth and mutual profitability rates according to MIT Sloan School business agility study.

As you begin to face your next round of tough strategic choices, what are the key questions that you should ask to help you look through the lens of a Customer Centric Company?  Maybe it will even be worth doing some scenario planning … looking at your normal way of looking at things vs. the Customer Centric Company way of looking at things and making decisions.    Evaluating the differences in outcomes should also make for interesting conversation.

I welcome your feedback and perspective … especially any success stories that can help shed some light on new ideas.