Findings from a recent McKinsey report show that CEOs are placing the customer and customer-centric programs at the core of their strategies. While this may seem intuitive, enabling a customer-centric approach is a significant challenge, particularly for well established companies that are more brand-centric. To shift to a truly client-centric focus requires significant internal and behavioral change.
There are mechanisms and tools that can help bring C-level executives closer to their customers to drive this type of transformation. Based on our work with CEOs, CFOs, CIOs and CMOs here are some ways to consider engaging with clients:
- Have the right intelligence on customers and markets. Knowing how to work with business partners and other ecosystem players is a requirement for leaders today. Hold yourself and your executive peers responsible for developing relationships with top customers and understanding their needs and business goals beyond those that connect to your strategy. Create a program that requires your executives to partner with top clients and mandates a cadence of meetings to ensure meaningful connections are made.
- Use the customer voice to earn a seat at the strategy table. Too often in strategy discussions we begin to shape our thinking from our perspective of the marketplace with little to no direct input from customers. Bring customers together in a strategy advisory board or executive forum to vet the relevant business issues before setting your strategy in stone. Done well, these can serve as very effective tools to help build your strategy in the short and long term.
- Build relevance to the business. We hear most frequently from CFOs and CIOs that they need to find ways to bring their analysis to internal discussions in a business context. This is often challenging for this group of leaders because of the technical nature of the work they lead. By engaging with business partners around challenges the end customer has, CIOs and CFOs will win respect.
Not only is a client-centric strategy critical to the future success of most businesses, it is also a requirement for C-level executives who may not naturally have a way or reason to connect with the customer. Developing different tools—like advisory boards and customer surveys—will provide you with the powerful stories and foundation to have a voice at the table.