“We are reliable.” ———- “We really care.” ———- “We deserve your trust.”
For decades, brands have relied on broadcasted messages just like those. The equivalent of standing on a raised platform, shouting to an impassive audience. In the modern age, however, it’s not the brand that’s in control of the conversation. As part of CEO Today’s Building Brands series, Carlos Dominguez, President and COO at Sprinklr, expands below.
Consumers no longer just consume. They push. They pull. Doing both with equal, and forceful, power. And what they choose to say – how they apply that force – comes down to their experience: the sum of how they feel across every touchpoint.
Making sense of it all requires a shift in thinking – to look at the world from the perspective of a customer, not a brand. It also requires a shift in how the company operates – moving from brand-first to “customer-first.”
Customer-First Is Still a Daunting Challenge
Within most corporations, “putting the customer first” is a promise easily made. More than 80% of executives strongly agree that delivering a superior experience is important to the organization’s success.
But while “customer first” looks good on paper, it’s a promise difficult to keep. Of those same executives, only 34% agree their organizations are equipped to deliver superior experience.
Quite the opposite, actually.
As Grad Conn, CMO of Microsoft USA said “Here’s the rub: every company is structured 1980s style. For decades, we’ve been building out complex processes and robust silos. But now we’re waking up to a new dawn in business – and we’re all realizing that we need to operate in a non-siloed way.”
Large, global organizations are essentially set up to function like an enterprise. But in an un-enterprise world – one where it matters more what the customer thinks than what the brand says – that setup no longer works. Change is desperately due.
When I speak with business leaders about driving transformation within their respective organizations, their responses follow three core themes. Here’s how forward-thinking executives from the world’s biggest brands are rewiring their organizations to put the customer first.
1. They’re Committing to a New Way of Thinking
Companies cannot transform unless the people in them – and the executives who run them – actively drive the agenda. Unless these executives are passionately dedicated to transformation. That commitment starts with a new way of thinking.
“Classically, in marketing, we’ve told people what we want them to think: ‘My brand is fun. My brand is trustworthy. My brand is friendly.’’ Conn says. “The problem is that customers are no longer buying it. We’ve shifted from a mass broadcast model to a stimulus response model and the onus is on brands to spark a real, positive reaction that results in someone coming to their own conclusion that believing that the brand is fun, trustworthy, friendly.
2. They Know Their Gaps and Problem Areas
Once you personally make the commitment to thinking “Customer-First,” take a long hard look at where you currently stand – and what’s standing in the way of your organization’s ability to become Customer-First.
At LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which consists of a diverse network of businesses, all at different levels of maturity, identifying common gaps and challenges is critical to progress.
“We have a massive wholesale network that looks incredibly different between watches and jewelry, and wine and spirits, and fashion and leather goods. So we need to look across these things, find what the common problems are, and put together deliverables for the specific problems,” LVMH CDO Ian Rogers says. “Part of my job is to be unapologetically customer-centric, which means constantly saying ‘I don’t really care how it used to be done. I don’t really care how hard it is to move IT systems from where they are today to where they need to be. I’m going to make a checklist of what the customer must be able to accomplish, and we’re going to accomplish these things.’”
3. They’re Unifying Customer Data
At IBM, customer data from a wide range of sources is collected and analyzed in near real time to build a dynamic and unified view of the customer.
Net Promoter Scores (NPS®) are used to measure a customer’s willingness to recommend the company, its products, and services to a friend or colleague. Traditional funnel analytics, behavioral analytics, social listening data, and even “dark data” – data that exists, but not used because it’s typically undiscovered, unstructured, and not yet analyzed; examples include video, logs, and social comments – work together to build out the fuller picture.
“Having a thoughtful approach to customer identification and customer profiling is critical,” says IBM CMO Michelle Peluso. “Moving forward, we need to first be thinking about how we continue to unlock insight and data. Second, how can we connect all the things we’re learning back to individual customers to form richer profiles? This is where AI and cognitive learning become super critical, because you can only make connections between number one and number two when you have systems that can cultivate all this information, find the right insights, and turn them into meaningful action.”
The business world is undergoing an unprecedented shift. A revolution that’s forcing every organization, from every industry, across every market to rewire how it operates.
The ability to deliver more human and intuitive experiences, at every touchpoint, for every customer, is the single most strategic investment for the modern enterprise. Companies like IBM, Microsoft, and LVMH are making that commitment.
They’re not alone. Feel free to comment below to share some of your thoughts and strategies for customer-first transformation.