The world is divided into two camps; those that set New Year’s resolutions and those that firmly avoid them!

For me, New Year’s resolution setting is a way to take a bit of time to reflect on the areas I want to develop and focus on over the year, and they don’t just need to be based around the happier and healthier you, better work-life balance etc. I like a good work-related New Year’s resolution as much as a personal one, and high on my list is becoming more customer-centric.

Here are four ways – dare I suggest one per quarter – to turbocharge your customer-centricity.

All four help guide us out of the norm, ensure that we keep up to date and drive the best in innovation and customer-centricity.

1. Doing a Gemba Walk – back to the shop floor

Gemba is linked to the Japanese word ‘Genchi Genbutsu‘, which means go and see. In its most straightforward format, the management will take the time to observe and talk to the people who are doing the job to understand how the work gets done, what processes are followed and the day to day problems experienced by the team.

Gemba walks need to be communicated and planned to prepare the team for a sudden influx of senior stakeholders. The teams need to understand that the purpose isn’t to catch them out but to help improve understanding of how the job gets done at the coal face.

Gemba walks quickly flush out simple improvements and highlight persistent customer pain points. Our customer service agents will have their finger on the pulse of repeated and severe customer feedback, and there is nothing as hard-hitting as listening to our customers directly! They also build trust between the team and senior management, improving transparency and collaboration.

2. Take supplier collaboration to the next level – leverage being the customer of others

Great supplier collaboration offers, at a minimum, the ability to ensure that you and your team can obtain the best possible value from the product or services that you are purchasing. Making the best use of the monthly, quarterly service review meetings to kick start the discussion can pay dividends. Not just in evaluating what you are currently doing but also injecting some different thinking around how you could extend your use of your supplier’s product or services and provide insight into how others are getting the best value.

With the proper engagement and collaboration, you can create mutually beneficial opportunities. New product development and innovation or co-innovation can be long-term outcomes from working closely with suppliers on shared goals. This will require a more active and engaged working relationship where strategic alignment is achieved alongside a shared understanding of the problems and challenges you are looking to resolve. Customer feedback doesn’t have to be only about our customers but also should consider how we can leverage being the customer of others.

3. Review, refresh or reset on customer personas

Customer personas are semi-fictional ‘customer types’ that represent segments of your prospective or existing customers. Designed to be representative, they help give your teams insight into what customers think and do as they purchase your products or access your services.

Customer personas help kick start understanding customer needs and defining product development to meet that need. If embedded in the organisation, they should help cross-team alignment around a customer-centric strategy.

The new year is an excellent time to review your customer personas, understand how well-established they are and whether further work on definition or alignment is required. If customer personas are actively in use, now is the time to review and ensure they fit the purpose. Customer needs or behaviours should be examined to identify if they have changed. A new persona may need to be added to reflect new market segments and growth more accurately.

A review, refresh and reset on customer personas ensures that they remain central to developing and delivering against a customer-centric strategy.

4. Get ahead with customer trend analysis

There’s never been a better time to sync into customer trend analysis; this time last year, we anticipated the vaccine and dared to believe that there could be a return to normal. We know we face a new normal this year, even with a vaccine. Now’s the time to unpack the trend analysis and identify what this means for your customers, products and services.

Trends include:

  • ‘Me over we’ driven by continued disruption to traditional office life.
  • The continued digital evolution march with consumers spending more leisure time gaming than watching TV.
  • Wellness and mental health continue to be a high priority in our lifestyle decisions along with sustainability.
  • Increasing distrust in information from fake news. Consumers decide what they trust and distrust- this spills over into purchase decisions, product choices, and brand trust.

If we are to succeed in our respective sectors, we need to understand how these trends will impact our existing business and what opportunities they create.

Everything I have outlined will help you re-focus on customer centricity. After a challenging couple of years, we must acknowledge that our customers expect even more in terms of service, experience, innovation, personalisation and responsiveness.

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Andrew Salmon