Embracing a culture of customer centricity

Marketing experts reveal what it takes to put the customer first in a fast-evolving digital environment.

Panel of experts discuss the culture of customer-centricity as moderated by ADMA CEO, Jodie Sangster CEO
Panel of experts discuss the culture of customer-centricity as moderated by ADMA CEO, Jodie Sangster CEO

A customer-first attitude starts with the right marketing culture within an organisation, but industry experts agree that’s easier said than done.

Discussing the significance of customer-centricity at the Association for Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) Customer Experience Town Hall 2016 in Sydney, American Express VP of consumer acquisition and loyalty, Dean Chadwick, said organisations need to embrace the concept culturally from the top down.

“We’ve been focused on customer experience and satisfaction for a very long time,” he said. “At American Express, our mission is to be the world’s most respected service provider, and we see customer satisfaction and experience permeating all through the organisations from the top down. And it’s a great way to empower the frontline staff.”

In his role at American Express, Chadwick said he’s embraced a culture of customer centricity by taking a design-led approach and also creating an innovation lab.

“Rather than focusing on just selling products and services, what we want to do is think about it from the customer,” he explained. “Culturally, I think we are very strong in being customer experience-oriented. And I want my team to be thoughtful, ambitious and courageous in the things they are trying to do to create unparalleled experiences for those end consumers.”

At Optus, a customer-led strategy meant first taking away a lot of the bad and toxic practices then tackling the challenge of create exceptional experiences, head of marketing Tyrone O'Neill, said.

“We’re undergoing a major transformation and this year are a new customer service environment, and we’ve had to adopt a lot of design thinking to move away from just providing a good experience, to become really revolutionary” he said. “Like any organisation, it has been about top down support from the CEO.”

At Facebook, head of tech, entertainment and communications, Jason Juma-Ross, said behavioural data has been vital in improving customer offerings, especially given the breadth of users on the platform.

“One behaviour we noticed was in places like Thailand and Indonesia, people were actually using messenger to complete transactions,” he explained. “They would take a picture of their bank transaction verifying they paid for an item and send it to a vendor, who would then dispatch the goods. As a result, we thought perhaps there is a commerce product opportunity here that we should be enabling, so we built a commerce capability in messenger, which is trialling in the US at the moment.”

But Juma-Ross warned against companies doing too much adhoc activity in an effort to be customer centric, as that could run the risk of becoming too fragmented in your approach.

“When I look at organisations who innovate today, there’s a lot of throwing stuff out there and seeing if it works, but you really need to know what your strategy is, so you can then focus your direction with an informed approach. So that’s a balance you need to strike culturally,” he said.

Director of creative services at tech company Start VR, Angus Stevens, agreed. The former Nova digital content and product director said that while a concept like VR is set to revolutionise customer experience and expectations, it needs to be adopted with customer usage in mind.

“In VR, it’s extraordinary to see what’s happening, and everyone wants the new shiny toy, but the same principles of putting your customer first still abide,” he said. “The companies who are getting it right are the ones who approach VR as essentially just another platform to be able to engage with their customers. These companies are looking at VR as a customer-centric idea, rather than a platform-centric concept.”

The panel discussion was held ahead of the ADMA White Paper on customer experience schedule to be released on 10 June.

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