Customer Centricity – What is it and how do you attain it?

Martin Newman
November 15, 2021
10 min read
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The true meaning of Customer Centricity

My name is Martin Newman and I’m the Consumer Champion.

I have walked the walk on all thing’s customer centricity for my entire career.
From starting on the shop floor of my late Father’s retail opticians in Glasgow, where I gained my instinct for the importance of customer experience, to today where I do my very best to help consumers have a better experience with the brands they want to engage with and where I help the brands understand how to serve customers more effectively. My reason for being is to drive positive change for both consumers and brands.

I have done this throughout my 40 years of working including when I ran e-commerce, direct mail and instore solutions for Harrods, Burberry, Pentland Brands and Ted Baker.

I have been on multiple boards and consulted with and advised household name brands around the world on what they need to do to become customer-centric as well as helping them to understand the commercial impact of doing so.

Customer-centricity is one of the industry buzz words a little like digital transformation and omnichannel, if you ask 100 people in 100 different businesses what it means, you’ll get 10,000 different answers!

When anyone talks about being customer-centric or customer first, there is clearly an intent to focus on delivering great customer experience and customer service. However, I believe that there is a significant gap in understanding what it really means and even more importantly how you transform a business to be completely customer-centric.
That is why I have written two books about it, the former being ‘100 practical ways to improve customer experience’ and the latter is ‘The Power of Customer Experience – How to use customer centricity to drive sales and profitability.’

It is also why I created the mini MBA in customer centricity with my partners at the Oxford College of Leadership and Management and Oxford College of Marketing. I am doing my level best to define what it is and how to achieve it.

If I could sum up in a few sentence’s what customer centricity is it would be this:

  • Customer centricity is the means by which a consumer-facing brand seeks to turn customers into fans. It does so by demonstrating that it has a purpose and values consumers empathise and identify with.
  • It takes the requirement to be a diverse and inclusive business seriously not by what it says but by what it does. Recognising that being diverse and inclusive is both a moral and a commercial imperative.
  • It understands its role in ensuring it does all it can to reduce its impact upon climate change and to communicate openly with customers at all times as to where it is on this journey.
  • It behaves in a socially responsible manner for all its communities.
  • It puts its own people first and creates an environment and culture that empowers and develops all employees, enabling them to thrive.
  • It leverages technology to empower its customers to engage with the brand however and whenever they choose, recognising that due to the proliferation of choice that consumers have across all categories, that the customer is in control and they hold the balance of power. They also do so by ensuring they turn up where customers need them to be.
  • It creates an organisational structure that is centred around the customer, ensuring that they can have a consistent experience across all channels and touchpoints.
  • Finally, it takes decisions based on actionable insight that are gleaned through a focus on the inputs such as customer satisfaction, NPS, ratings and reviews and customer service calls as opposed to the outputs, which are the KPIs we spend too much time obsessing about such as conversion rates, average order values and so on.

Despite the stated intent to be customer-centric, in 2021, most consumer-facing businesses still look at ‘the cost to serve customers’ rather than the benefit.

This can be evidenced by the disproportionate sums that are spent on acquiring customers compared to retaining them, with almost no focus on customer lifetime value or driving loyalty.

Consumer-facing brands need to realise that loyalty can be driven both by transactional behaviour as well as emotional engagement and empathy. The latter is arguably far more important and is very much achieved through customer centricity.

It is the guarantee of long-term business success.

Learn more about customer centricity in this video:

Martin Newman