Customer Centricity… A Culture or a Process?

by Bill Barnes

An advantage of having years of experience in a business management discipline, such as customer experience, is that you can easily look back, assess the evolution of an initiative, and make an assessment if program implementation has actually improved business results. Organizations, such as ACSI, track if satisfaction scores are improving, and that is one way to validate if our discipline is providing better customer-centric experiences.

It is hard to define if we are improving as a management discipline when the game keeps changing. One interesting aspect of this discipline is the change in terminology and methodology over the last 30 years. The discipline began with a focus to satisfy customers, when pioneers like Ray Kordupleski from AT&T surprised the world when he validated that only highly satisfied customers spent more money. The industry evolved to define and measure customer loyalty with Fred Reichold’s work, where we learned defining intended customer behavior was a step beyond being “highly satisfied.”

At about the same time, Brad Gale exposed us to the customer value approach, where an index was used to define value customers received from their organization versus value they received from competitors as a key metric. Then, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore wrote The Experience Economy. When this was coupled with Starbucks taking the coffee business from a grocery store retail loss leader, to a compelling new and innovative consumer shopping/consuming experience, the CX discipline was off and running about creating a compelling Customer Experience.

Today, a new term is used… Customer Centricity, which focuses on what the organization needs to be versus the desired customer outcome. But to me, there is a more significant question about Customer Centricity: is it a cultural initiative, or is it a defined process that an organization uses to ensure customers have the desired experience?

I love the term “Customer Centricity,” as I believe that as a business management discipline, we have arrived at the ultimate enabler for organizational success. I am excited that the focus is on what the delivering organization must do, as the historical challenge with this business management discipline is that we measure, measure, measure, but fail to act sufficiently on said measures.

I have identified two challenges, and their solutions, for organizations that feel: “We need to be Customer Centric.”  Both must be solved to achieve Customer Centricity.

CHALLENGE #1: Organizations approach Customer Centricity as a nice theme for the day, without a quantification of where they are, why they are there, and what they need to do to improve.


Organizations that take the time to peel back this initiative with internal and external quantification can solve this. One interesting gap to quantify is how customer-centric leadership thinks the organization is, versus how the customer-facing employees rate the same cultural dimensions. Just like any new corporate initiative, words on a strategy document don’t get nearly enough attention. It’s only when leadership is willing to place resources behind the initiative to assess, quantify, and/or improve their culture can the company evolve into a customer-centric culture.

CHALLENGE #2: Organizations fail to understand the critical importance of aligning their disparate data into a real-time actionable information system that accurately predicts customer behavior.


20 years ago, we began the process of aligning disparate data when a leading energy supplier came to us at the end of the year and said “I have $100,000 of unused budget from this year, and to ensure I get the same budget for next year, I need to spend it. Can you take all this relationship data and transactional data and link them all together – statistically – so that I can understand the entire customer perspective of our service delivery?” That work was successful, but also very labor-intensive and not dynamic, as all we could provide was a look back at what had happened with primarily attitudinal data.

With the advancement of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning tools, disparate data can include employee, operational, attitudinal, customer behavior and financial data, which can easily be aligned in a real-time environment. There is still a lot of art and science to disparate data analysis, as models need to be customized to business issues and have pragmatic outcomes that are easily engaged by the organization. One way we have learned if companies can implement customer centricity is by observing how easily the various functional silos housing data can come together at the design table to blueprint their disparate data analysis road map. True organizational customer centricity cannot be achieved until all appropriate disparate customer data is aligned to enable action.

So, in conclusion, yes: Customer Centricity is both a culture and a process.  To implement Customer Centricity, organizations need to have both approaches covered with specific implementation structures.  When both are in place, organizations are set up to establish long-lasting competitive business advantages.

If you are interested in learning more about Customer Centricity and how Burke can help, contact Bill Barnes.     

As Senior Vice President at Burke, Inc., Bill Barnes leverages an extensive background in customer experience to help clients design and implement successful CX programs. With a deep understanding of CX, Bill knows that in order to for a program to be successful, one needs to understand the internal cultural issues that inhibit improvement and measure customer centric culture, which is the foundation of this work.

Interested in reading more? Check out Bill’s other articles:

What Keeps Your CEO Up at Night?

So What… Now What

Overcoming Silos through Customer Centricity

As always, you can follow Burke, Inc. on our LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages.

Sources: Feature Image – ©StratfordProductions –


500 WEST 7TH STREET | CINCINNATI, OH 45203 | 800.688.2674