Towards the Customer-Centric Organization

There’s exciting thought brewing right now about how user-centered design and customer experience thinking can impacting, not product or website design, but the very building blocks of business, like org charts, process flows, even manufacturing. As companies realize they need open up their marketing mentality, so are a handful applying that thought to other areas of business.

I came across three great ideas which tie together nicely as a process for large companies to transform themselves into Customer-Centric Organizations — plus a fourth step of my own.

Step 1: Restructure your organization through you customers’ eyes
The customer-centric org cuts out silo-thinking, which is an efficient yet dated approach, and focuses on defining business structures by their end state. Adam Richardson has an idea called Org 2.0: “a new business organization – one that is optimized for complex systems of problems and solutions, rather than based on silos focused on specific functions, and which treats user experience as a core organizational axis rather than a meddlesome add-on.

Step 2: Redefine areas of your business to focus on the customer experience first
Zeus Jone’s Adrian Ho takes his idea of marketing-as-a-service and came up with Operations as marketing:

operations as marketing from ZJ

A quick What-if example: What if every Netflix DVD was tagged with an RFID chip, so that Netflix customers could log-in any time and track how many DVDs of a hit title are left to rent, or where their DVDs are in the mail — so they can know exactly when they’ll arrive? Adrian’s idea what to have RFID attached to American Apparel products, and create a social network based around American Apparel’s employees — get to know the people who actually create your clothing — which ties deeply into that companies anti-sweatshop brand.

Step 3: Transforming into a Customer-Centric Org requires an Agent of Change
What’s needed to get there? An executive leader with empowered with full authority and responsible for the customer experience. That’s what Bruce Temkin’s research on the Chief Customer Experience Officer is all about.

chief customer experience officer data from Bruce Temkin

(Bonus) Step 4: Empower each employee to become an owner of the customer experience
Great customer experiences ultimately don’t come from executive leadership or biz processes, but from those employees on the front lines, dealing directly with customers (and earning far less than people who never see a customer’s face — ironic isn’t it?)

Design personas and brand positioning documents — two tools used internally by design teams — can actually be shared across departments to help employees better understand their customer and how to speak with them. What if a call center rep had brand positioning statement that gave them a better sense of what the company they’re portraying stands for. Or what if a business analyst had a design persona, to make process flow decisions based on users, not shareholders. Ultimately, its your customers that effect stock price, not the daily emotional roller-coaster of Wall Street.