With Customer Experience (CX) being a dominant area of importance, focus and competitive differentiation for companies, it’s no wonder that marketing organisations are already shifting towards becoming customer-centric.

Gartner’s “Survey Analysis: Know the Organizational Traits of Leading Marketing Teams” (Gartner subscription required) shows that, by 2020, the most common organisational structure for leading marketing teams — those with greater responsibilities such as owning P&L responsibility — will focus on customer experience.

Marketing Organization Structures for Leading Organizations: Today vs. Year-End 2020

The shift from a product-focused culture (where organisations build a product/service and then look for customers), to a customer-centric one (where customer needs and goals are assessed and then a solution is provided) is essential for companies to become competitive or remain successful. At a high level, organisations that are customer-centric:

  • Understand that long term, sustainable success is achieved by understanding and meeting customers goals and expectations;
  • Change their culture, processes and operations to put the customer at the centre of every decision and work towards supporting and improving the customer experience;
  • Redefine what success looks like, balancing short terms goals with the longer term benefits strong customer experiences offer.

Companies often say they embrace the concept and are making moves to change, or claim that they are already customer-centric.

However, many can’t seem to fully commit to enacting the required operational, procedural and behavioural changes needed to be truly customer-first. When I probe to see why this hesitancy exists, I find it is often due to a high-level misconception of what becoming customer-centric means for their company (often stated in the form of a question):

“If we only focus on customer needs and goals, how will we meet our own?”

Being customer-centric, or having a culture of “customer-first” does not mean “customer-only”. It is not at the exclusion of the goals your company or organisation wants or needs to achieve. Instead, being customer-centric is the means by which your company will achieve its goals. We are all responsible for acquiring customers, growing our relationships and driving loyalty and advocacy. Customer experience is a main driver in achieving that acquisition, growth and retention.

The playing field has changed and our prospects and customers have more choice, access and power than ever before. If we, as brands, don’t provide them with the solutions, services and experiences they need to accomplish their goals, they can easily abandon us for those who do. We need only to look at leading organisations such as Starbucks, USAA, Ritz Carlton, Amazon and Zappos to see how putting the customer first aligns with and impels organisational success and why it’s well worth the effort.

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