10 Characteristics of Customer-Centric Execs

How Many Do You Embody?

July 17, 2014

Customer-centric organizations need a strong leader with a clear customer vision. We present 10 characteristics that this customer-centric executive should demonstrate. They range from having a customer vision, to monitoring what matters most to customers, to giving your staff flexibility in how they prevent and resolve customers’ issues. How well do you stack up?

NETTING IT OUT

There are many things that make a great executive: leadership skills, innovative ideas, good work ethic, charisma, etc. But there are special characteristics that are shared by customer-centric executives:

  • Putting customers first
  • Willingness to be proven wrong when it is in the customer’s best interest
  • Communicating a clear customer vision
  • Getting to know customers and what they want and need
  • Listening to customers and team members
  • Empowering customer-facing employees and trusting their decisions
  • Funding customer research
  • Actively participating in Customer Advisory Boards
  • Monitoring customer success metrics
  • Understanding that an organization’s relationship with a customer has to be mutually beneficial

WHAT MAKES AN EXECUTIVE CUSTOMER-CENTRIC?

Customer CentricWe in business all like to think that we’re customer-centric. We preach to the choir, talk the talk, but do we walk the walk? Here is our take on the top 10 characteristics of customer-centric executives. How well do you stack up?

1. Puts End-Customers First

The first challenge for executives is to understand who your end-customers are. They may not be the people who order your products or service or the people who pay the bills. They are the ones who actually consume your offerings. Even though you might sell to consumers or small businesses through indirect channels (such as distributors or value-added resellers), the people who use your products don’t care—the brand is yours, so they identify your company as their provider. If anyone in the ecosystem doesn’t keep the end-users’ wants and needs front and center, customers will blame you, and it will hurt your brand.

My go-to explanation of the importance of the end-customer is Frito Lay1. Although Frito Lay makes potato chips, the company’s direct customers are the distributors who then ship the chips to the sales outlets, who ultimately sell the product to the consumers. Distributors care about things like how easy it is to transport the snacks. Grocery stores care about things like how well the packages scan at the register. But if the potato chips don’t taste good, no one is going to make any money!

Another tricky example is healthcare. Patients (and their families) are the end-customers. But typically insurers (either commercial or government agencies like Medicare/CMS) pay the bills. Doctors and nurses, pharmacies, physical therapists, medical device providers, all have standards and regulations they must adhere to in order to satisfy the insurers. So putting the end-customer first can be difficult. You get more direct demands and complaints from your partners and resellers. And they are the ones that give you money, so you do have to listen. The key is to always look at...(more)

 

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**footnote**
[1] See “Supporting The Demand (Customer) Chain: Start with the End-Customers, but Make Sure You’re Making It Easy for Every Stakeholder Between You and Them,” by Ronni T. Marshak, Customers.com Press, June 6, 2013.


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