Dr. Samir Asaf and James Creelman
Few organizations would dare state they were not “customer-centric.” CEOs talk endlessly about “putting the customer first” and “customer engagement.” We can trace the origins back 25+ years when we began using terms (nonsensical in hindsight) such as “the customer is always right” and, even worse, “the customer is King.”
Since then, firms have routinely ensured customer service training, and obsessively monitored quarterly Customer Satisfaction and, more recently, Net Promoter Scores.
Today, service design, customer journey mapping, and real-time customer engagement platforms are leveraged to accelerate customer-centric strategy-making and execution. We are seeing a plethora of digital capabilities brought to bear on customer touchpoints, moments of truth, self-service processes, and strategies to increase customer loyalty (loyalty scheme abound), retention, and customer-led innovation (whatever that means!).
Customer Loyalty Continues to Fall
So is this feverish focus on the customer delivering expected results. Well, not exactly – at least if customer loyalty is the intended outcome of all this activity. According to Forbes magazine and other recent research, customer loyalty is declining across industries, categories, and brands – and has been for some time.
In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, consultants from McKinsey claimed that the reasons customer loyalty is declining are manifold:
· organizations are not being able to keep up with the rising customer expectations
· competitors are emerging with wider sets of product lines for ever thinner-sliced customer segments
· mass-customisation, powered by 3D printing, is increasingly driving the shift away from standardization
· loyalty programs are failing to increase retention and acquisition revenue but rather leading to lower profit margins
· digitalization and transparency in product and service pricing make customers more likely to switch.
Disengagement is the Norm
While not disagreeing with these observations, we would argue there’s another, and more, profound cause for lack of loyalty, or disengagement. Customers are not disengaging and for one simple reason – increasingly they have never actually been engaged. Most customer-supplier relationships are more transactional in nature now than they ever been. Loyalty doesn’t come into it.
Customers are not disengaging and for one simple reason – increasingly they have neveractually been engaged.
Herein lies a problem, and one that is more mindset that structural. In maintaining the adherence to “silo-based” thinking, organizations habitually compartmentalize stakeholders. We have shareholders, customers, employees, partners, suppliers and even the community.
Each group is viewed through distinct lenses and brought together in a Stakeholder visual map. But more often than not, this is not a stakeholder ecosystem that works together dynamically, but simply a labelling of the different stakeholders who are then provided with their own “engagement” strategy.
So, for example, we have one process for engaging customers and another for engaging employees. And we all know that for more than a decade, according to Gallup and others, employee engagement has remained shockingly and stubbornly low across all industries and sectors – despite untold billions spent on programs to “engage” the employee.
A fundamental failing here is that for customer engagement to rise requires a commensurate rise in employee engagement and also, we would add, partner and supplier engagement. If one part of the system is disengaged the whole value system is weakened and will ultimately fail.
Transition to Stakeholder Engagement
What’s needed to optimise customer experience is to dynamically, and holistically, engage customers, employees and partners, at all stages of the strategy development, execution and refinement cycle.
This dynamic interplay can be achieved by leveraging cutting edge technology, such as Performax360, to capture the, even slight, fluctuations in stakeholder sentiment. Advanced data analytics will then inform management about key areas of focus, and an agile culture comes into play where key customer value decisions are collaboratively taken and flawlessly executed. Stakeholder ecosystem engagement and alignment can be achieved and therefore a greater likelihood of securing the one thing most organization want, and that is proven ephemeral at best – customer loyalty.
Performax360 (www.performax360.com) is a real-time stakeholder engagement and business intelligence software solution that enables organizations to engage key stakeholders on critical customer touchpoints.
Across cross-functional teams, and both vertically and horizontally, it automates stakeholder feedback capture, analytics, reporting, collaborative action planning, and action plan implementation monitoring.
With Performax360’s 3-step digital engagement process (discovery, analysis, and action), organizations can ensure that stakeholders are engaged during the customer strategy development and execution process and have a ‘voice’ on critical issues related to the customer journey. Organizations can ensure ‘continuous touchpoints’ with customer focus groups, partners, and customer-facing employees, so that it can maximise their contribution and participation in the customer strategy development and continuous refinement process.
About the Authors
Dr. Samir Asaf is currently President and CEO of Performax Inc. Formerly, he held positions including Senior Advisor at the World Bank and Financial Director at AT&T Corp. and Group CEO at Rahimafrooz.
Author of ‘Executive Corporate Finance: the business of enhancing shareholder value’ (Financial Times Prentice Hall, London, 2004), he is currently a Board Leadership Fellow at the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), USA; and a Fellow and Chartered Director at the Institute of Directors (IOD), UK.
A graduate from Boston College with a BSc in Business Administration. He completed his Doctorate in Business Administration from SMC University; MSc in Economics from London School of Economics; Advanced Management Programme from Oxford University; Professional Certificate in Data Science and Enterprise Systems Engineering from MIT, and Graduate Certificate in Artificial Intelligence from Stanford University.
He is a Strategic Management Professional (ASP), Certified Customer Experience Professional (CXPA), Project Management Professional (PMI), and Kaplan-Norton BSC Certified Practitioner (Palladium); and Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT (ISACA). He is a Business Excellence Assessor for EFQM and Malcolm Baldrige Frameworks, and a Certified Quality Auditor (ASQ); Certified in Digital Business Transformation from Boston Consulting Group (BCG); He was a research scholar in Finance and Strategy at the Harvard Business School (1998).
James Creelman provides expert guidance in strategy management to commercial and government organizations across the globe. He is a Director of the UK-based Cardinal Management Consulting and the Nigeria-based Straticution.
James’ main focus areas involve guiding leadership teams in the building and implementing of:
· Agile and Adaptive Balanced Scorecard Frameworks
· Integrated Strategy Formulation and Execution Approaches for the Digital Era
· Strategic Risk Management
· Strategy-Aligned Corporate Cultures.
The author of numerous books, articles and blogs, his most recent books include:
· Agile Strategy Management in the Digital Age: how dynamic balanced scorecards transform decision making, speed and effectiveness (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). Co-authored with David Wiraeus.
· Doing More with Less: measuring, analyzing and improving performance in the government and not-for profit sector (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). Co-authored with LinkedIn Influencer Bernard Marr.
· Risk-based Performance Management: integrating strategy and risk management (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Co-authored with Andrew Smart.