Why leading business in the customer era requires empathy and courage

Dr Melis Senova discusses why leaders need to embrace empathy, vulnerability and courage if they're to lead a customer culture revolution in their organisations

Leaders must embrace empathy, courage and vulnerability if they’re to successfully transition their businesses from the industrial to human era.

That’s the view of Dr Melis Senova, the founder and director of strategy and design at consulting group Huddle, who spoke on the need for businesses to undergo a cultural transformation at the Customer360 Symposium.

While organisations are increasingly recognising they need to focus on the “fluffy”, soft skills within business to achieve a customer-first culture, Dr Senova claimed they are still striving – and wrongly – to then put tangible metrics into play.

In addition, many who claim to be customer centric are stuck in fixed mindsets and seduced by the need for comprehensive solutions to avoid failure. Instead, organisations should be nimble minded, focused on generational thinking, and take new customer insights as a way to open up possibility and opportunity.

“We are deeply uncomfortable with ambiguity and that’s because of risk mitigation and fear,” Dr Senova told attendees. “We have to accept that not all things can be measured. That’s when clear belief and faith coming into play as a leader.

“To create a customer-centric culture, you sometimes need to make decisions without having the evidence. The thing with metrics is that they usually cover something that has happened. But we need to be creating and making new things happen and to do that, you don’t have established metrics.”

According to Dr Senova, one major roadblock on the road to customer centricity is the distinction between what is said as an organisation, and leadership action. Having a clear sense of purpose is one thing, but many organisations neglect the work that needs to be done on a personal level to achieve this.

“As leaders of organisations, we need to believe in our purpose and live it,” Dr Senova said. “Our actions can’t be incongruous with that.

“What you create internally in the organisation is what will manifest in the external world.”

To lead cultural change and be aligned with customers, businesses leaders must embrace empathy, courage and vulnerability, Dr Senova continued. She suggested most businesses are at the ‘exchange’ stage of their customer evolution at present, but have yet to reach the ‘creation’ stage, where they are delivering unexpected value to customers.

The final stage in Dr Senova’s customer journey is ‘transformation’, where organisations are delivering interactions that transform a customer’s life.

“As we progress from the industrial to human era, we have to transform how ‘we be’ as well,” she said. “It’s not just processes and solutions, but us as people and how we need to change.”

Dr Senova also pointed out that while businesses have focused almost solely on the monetary exchanges between a customer and the organisation to date, these are not the primary value exchanges most of us have on any given day.

“Share within your organisation the nature of what value exchange means to your customers,” she advised. “Money shouldn’t be the only thing you talk about.”

More from Customer360 Symposium

- Nadia Cameron travelled to Customer360 Symposium as a guest of Ashton Media.

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