Customer-centric means everybody, everywhere

Another classic pitfall of CRM is the lip service paid to "customer centric". There are two ways to perceive customer centricity: having the customer at the centre of the business, or having the customer as the centre of a part of the business.

Management and leadership theory has long recognised the benefits of having an organisation working towards a common purpose. For most companies, this purpose is the delivery of value for their customers or stakeholders - it is how they get paid and thus succeed commercially. As companies have flattened, de-compartmentalised and teams have risen in importance in workplace productivity, more and more staff have the potential to affect customer service and experience, directly or indirectly. CRM can be a great strategic tool for making customers visible to the whole company, and focusing energies around delivering for customers. At Bluescope Steel, formerly BHP Steel, staff at all levels talk about "the customer" almost incessantly, reminding everyone that downtime and strikes affect customers, and thus their whole company, rather than just profitability.

Unfortunately, most CRM initiatives have paid lip-service to real customer-centric behaviour. They've more commonly been used to increase customer visibility in a small part of the business, such as a contact centre of sales team, while continuing to have the rest of their operation run with internally focused priorities.

The licensing behaviour of most CRM software vendors - charging for each user to have access to the customer's information - have been complicit in this customer-centric failing. Customer information - albeit with careful consideration for privacy and data security - should be a central and accessible part of any customer-centric strategy.

The key lesson here is that all users - whether they are in a call centre, on the road as a sales rep, or doing accounts or order fulfillment, all have a customer service role to play, directly or indirectly. A successful CRM solution will be inclusive, and involve all staff, no matter how periphery, as you never know when they'll be in a position to deliver outstanding service to a customer and make the difference.

Lesson 3: Recognise the effort/reward trade off

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