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Creating The Environment For A Customer Strategy

Stephen Ingledew


Customer Strategy

Executing a customer strategy requires the transformation of all business operations, from marketing to servicing to risk, as well as the adoption of the latest creative thinking and new technologies.  

Key to implementing these necessary fundamental changes for a successful customer led transformation is the creation of the right environment within the organisation.

However, creating a customer driven environment cannot be achieved overnight and will require a conscious effort to embrace change, ensure inclusivity and encourage learning.

Embrace Change 

Whatever the specific drivers for customer strategy transformation in a particular organisation, it’s important that everyone understands the purpose of the changes required, irrespective of functional responsibilities.

Embracing customer driven change will require a recognition from everyone that that ‘business as usual’ no longer applies and ‘disruption as usual’ is the new norm.

This is particularly important in organisations that have a strong long-standing heritage with well established legacy thinking, processes and systems. In this situation, embracing change is vital to help overcome corporate stagnation and irrelevance.

However, building the internal momentum for change has to be done in stages and cannot merely be dictated from the very top of the organistion.

Furthermore, getting everybody across the enterprise to embrace change takes an investment of time and persistence, as well as recognition that not everybody will accept change at the same pace, no matter how logical the rationale behind the execution of the customer strategy.

Therefore, initiatives should be broken down to smaller, more agile projects. Limited both in scope and time, to ensure a sense of constant movement and progress.

Although, it’s equally important that these should also be a part of an over-arching framework of positive change to support the ultimate customer strategic vision.

Ensure Inclusivity 

For change to be genuinely embraced across the organisation everyone will need to be a part of the transformation agenda – and believe they can positively contribute to it.

For this reason, change and innovation should be seen as something for everybody, not just a small group of people hidden away in small secret place. Ensuring an inclusive approach will make sure innovative initiatives, on both a small and large scale, can be triggered by any part of the business.

Indeed, it is likely that some of the greatest insights into the changing needs of customers and what needs to be done to execute the customer strategy will be found in the operational parts of the business where there is regular contact with customers.

The inclusive approach to change enables people to further appreciate the value that comes from diversity and in turn fosters a more collaborative environment which is essential in bringing about successful transformation.

This inclusive approach absolutely demands teams adopting co-location of cross-functional skills and experiences.

In other words, ensuring inclusivity creates an environment where teams work together, live together and manage together in order to make collaboration work and deliver the customer strategy as one.

Furthermore, ensuring inclusivity generates an understanding and acceptance of the benefits of bringing in outside expertise to the organisation, demonstrating that external parties can bring in positive differences which drive overall progress.

Encourage Learning 

Creating the right customer-driven environment is not straightforward and organisations will need to accept that change of this type is bumpy, with set-backs just as likely as gains.

In other words, if an organisation is being truly customer driven and innovative, failures will happen.

For this reason, accepting failure in some projects and initiatives should be seen as part of the process of learning. If failure is not tolerated, new thinking and ideas will be suffocated at the outset and will get little support to bring them to fruition.

So failure should be celebrated as a learning experience and a key part of the implement – test – learn cycle that is so important for creating genuinely new and innovative ideas that contribute to commercial value and better customer outcomes

For the learning to be encouraged, the change needs to be rolled out in gradual stages and recognised that it is not all about attempting big tranches of effort.

In other words, the programme has to be broken down to smaller initiatives within an overall guiding framework of change, to support the strategic outcomes.

Use Your Data

In addition, as data-driven insight becomes available, and teams collaborate across functions to create ideas and possibilities, they must be given the power to act on their thinking.

Of course, this will need to be founded on insights derived from good data, so controlling how data is acquired, stored and managed is key to empowering teams and encouraging learning.

There is no doubt that in being given the freedom to act, make mistakes and learn from activity, teams will be more engaged and are more likely to make rapid constructive gains.

An effective way to build on this and encourage learning is to make the results and lessons – good and bad – available to the whole organisation.

This shared and pervasive approach to the learning helps create support, endorsement and understanding across the enterprise, including the broader executive.

For example, putting the learnings high on the executive agenda with both quantitative and qualitative results can develop ‘real’ practical conversations at the highest level about the customer and how the business is embracing change to effectively execute the strategy

Environment Enables Change

In summary, there is no ‘silver bullet’ in the process of becoming customer driven and implementing the transformation processes that stem from that. However, creating the right environment is a critical foundation from which change can be built.

Whilst these cannot be seen as a finite activities, embracing change, ensuring inclusivity and encouraging learning should be baked into organisational thinking to ensure that everyone is best placed to drive forward the execution of the customer strategy.

Stephen Ingledew

Former Managing Director, Customers & Marketing - Standard Life

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