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Customer centricity - Employees as primary customers. They need to be turned into fans first!

The single employee is the main ingredient to amaze, excite, surprise and wow customers. Customer centricity originates in and sources from employee motivation and engagement. It boils down to the individual who makes a difference – may it be in the hospitality or aerospace industry, at the car dealer, or in retailing.

One could argue, there is not much left to say about #customercentricity these days. This week’s economic forum at the Wirtschaftsclub Düsseldorf proved us wrong: in dynamic -and sometimes controversial- panel discussions and interactive workshops, experts from different industry backgrounds took a closer look at various components of customer centricity.

The experts agreed that customer centricity is mostly about customer proximity: In b2b contexts, this still entails partnering with clients by enabling them to grow. Edgar Geffroy calls this #clienting.

Especially in b2c contexts, customer proximity involves the concept of “segment-of-one”. Acting on one individual customer, tailoring offering to individual needs and suggesting highly individualized solutions. – Before the customer knows he needs them.

Most certainly (and for some worryingly), the foundation for ‘segment-of-one’ marketing is the ability to track and understand behavioral customer data and convert the learning into tailored solutions. Today (and even more so in the future), data capture, collection and interpretation are fundamental requirements for effective marketing initiatives. Multi-device connectivity is the driving element in the ultimate customer- centricity- equation.

Customer-driven data is vital also in b2b customer interactions – as it provides valuable insights to creating wow effects. Customer experience is another buzz word here – not new, but utterly valid. Omnichannel or multi-channel marketing and communication ensure consistency in messaging and experience across on- and offline in b2b and b2c equally.

In times of digitization, instant availability and abundance of choice, complexity and speed easily tend to overwhelm organizations, employees and customers. Hence, the panelists agreed that #simplicity is still en vogue. The recent Henkel success story of “Shampoo ohne Schnickschnack” (a product which does nothing else, but clean our damn hair) proves this vibe and trend. Customers like – maybe even crave – simple products for simple needs.

Yet, no customer will be “wow”ed, no experience will be amazing if the hearts and heads behind the curtain – employees namely – are not motivated to do exactly that: to amaze and wow. In any business, employees should be considered the first customers to excite, convince and engage. They need to be turned into fans first! Hence, a culture of TLC (tender loving care) is the basic ingredient nurturing customer centricity at the core of any organization. As often, it all comes down to the intangible. Corporate culture, but also attitude drive customer centricity.

Thank you, Prof. Dr. Nowak for organizing this forum and for keeping this invigorating format alive across Germany! Huge thanks to all panelists for sharing your views and perspectives passionately and knowledgeably.


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