The ten habits of customer-centric digital organisations

Published on the 04/09/2017 | Written by Olive Huang

Technology innovation offers organisations new opportunities to engage with customers as they build a digital business, writes Olive Huang…

Poor customer experiences will destroy 30 percent of digital business projects by 2020. Success hangs on an organisation’s ability to adapt to customer demands and circumstances in real-time and react quickly to unexpected business events.

Application leaders are under pressure to deliver a modern technology portfolio to support a customer-centric business strategy. This is the ability of organisations to understand the unique problems and expectations of their customers; to understand the context of those needs; and to consistently deliver products/services that meet those expectations.

Here are the ten common behaviours exuded by organisations known for advanced levels of customer service.

  1. Continuously listen

Listening is the first step to building a customer-centric culture. Customers are actively and passively giving businesses information that can be used to drive a successful customer experience (CX). Many companies employ a combined social media, web and app analytics-driven approach to data collection on digital channels. External community software can also be used to bring customers together to generate new ideas, insights and additional customer data for future interactions.

  1. Consistently follow up for feedback

Understanding that the customer relationship is about reciprocal value, customer-centric organisations realise that customer feedback is voluntary and customers will stop talking if they don’t feel their feedback is being heard. A two-way dialogue is key to the process. Develop a way to enable continuous, active submission of customer opinions and to ensure the feedback loop works.

  1. Act proactively to anticipate needs

As organisations collect more accurate and relevant information from customers, the data can be used to proactively create a positive CX based on situational needs. It could involve using location awareness, the Internet of Things, wearable computing and a device to create business designs that assemble ‘value on the fly’. It puts people at the centre of all activity and permits customers to get what they need, when, where and how they need it.

  1. Incorporate customer empathy

Customer empathy must be built into processes and policies from the beginning. This focuses on channel convenience; timely response to feedback; deep knowledge of the customer’s problem; proactivity in engagement; being helpful and friendly; fairness and honesty. Although CRM software and processes are critical to success, they’re not by default empathetic toward customers. They must be engineered to increase empathy toward the customer.

  1. Respect customer privacy

Customer-centric organisations make a habit of respecting customer data privacy just as much as they make a habit of using it to anticipate need. Respecting privacy doesn’t just mean being compliant with regulations.

  1. Share knowledge

The best organisations understand that knowledge flows both ways. Knowledge is generated by both organisations and customers and should be shared. Doing so creates a rich knowledge sphere that’s directly available to customers and employees. This improves efficiency, customer satisfaction and revenue growth. Most importantly, customers want information that’s relevant to them.

  1. Motivate employees to stay engaged

High levels of employee engagement contribute to higher levels of customer satisfaction. Engaged employees provide better customer service and brand advocacy. They’re more willing to collaborate and coach and, as a consequence, they help the organisation to be more customer-centric. In many ways, a culture of engaged employees is the essence of a customer-centric organisation.

  1. Act systematically

CX will only improve when an organisation establishes a compelling vision and develops a systematic approach to improvement. In the majority of cases, CX management is an initiative composed of a number of projects. It takes multiple years to get some initiatives right (such as altering compensation plans and corporate metrics), while only a few weeks for others (such as quick fixes to the web-user experience).

  1. Create accountability for improvements

The best CX plan won’t help if nobody is accountable for its execution. Responsibility is often spread among many departments, with marketing, sales, customer service, operations and the strategy and planning department most heavily involved. Choosing a point person for the whole business is the best way to get and keep a plan on track.

  1. Adapt to demands in real-time

More than ever before, digital business means engaging with customers and adapting to demands and circumstances in real-time. It’s important to react quickly to unexpected business events; allow decision makers to instantly understand the state of the business; use unconstrained analytics to make real-time decisions; and use stream analytics to absorb large volumes of data on the move.

Application leaders must be ready to translate these habits of customer centricity into a new set of improved actions to support CRM and customer experience strategies.


Olive Huang is a research vice president at Gartner. Her focus is on technologies, strategies and best practices for customer services and support, contact centres, mobile customer services, CRM and customer experience strategy.


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