Many businesses forget that their true purpose is to solve customer problems and instead continue to think in terms of selling existing products and services. To refocus, transformation experts suggest understanding pain points, mapping the customer journey and harnessing the power of text analytics. 
At Criticaleye’s recent Retreat, 97 percent of HRDs said that their management team was too inward-looking and focused on the day-to-day. One of the consequences of this can be losing touch with customers – a position that no business can afford to be in with agile competitors poised to take your place.
Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer at Webhelp UK, comments: “A good starting point is to identify the drivers of both customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction and then to use this knowledge to transform the operating model within your business and deliver better outcomes,” she says. 
By far the best way to drive customer-centric transformation, according to Helen, is to analyse each customer journey. “By examining every interaction, the customer emotions within that interaction, and the outcomes achieved, you identify trends and patterns that can be used to engineer better results for customers and your business,” she explains. This method is particularly effective for engineering step change improvements in individual processes or customer journeys.
Mark Palmer, Managing Director at OEE Consulting, agrees that businesses need to develop a deeper understanding of the actual customer experience. “If you're onboarding a new client, what many organisations don’t appreciate is the research they will have done before they start to engage with you,” he says. “It is important to spend a lot of time getting to understand the real customer journey, including how they stumbled across your business in the first place.”
Technology can also provide valuable customer insight to act upon. John Farrell, former Group Transformation Director at Tesco, explains that the way they get feedback has changed radically over the past two years: “Text analytics is a big part of the future. Companies are laden with data, from both customers and colleagues, on a weekly basis: feedback on what's working, what's not; what's good and what's bad.”
Quality text analytics can quickly identify trends, for example, timely notice of a widespread problem with product availability, which might otherwise have passed unnoticed beneath the radar. “You can build up a picture of what's working in the business, and what's not, from both a colleague and customer perspective. Text analytics is critical to get that real-time view,” John says.
While technology is certainly changing how businesses interact with customers, Phillippa Crookes, Senior Relationship Manager at Criticaleye, urges caution. “Easy access to quality data on customer needs and behaviours is certainly providing valuable insights and helping organisations to improve their offerings,” she says. 
“However, it’s a mistake to expect tech to solve your customer relationship issues on its own. It can be an enabler, but it should never be your ultimate objective.”

Improving Customer Experience
Identifying pain points is a start, but how should you go about resolving them? For Mike Regnier, CEO at Yorkshire Building Society Group, the solution was to give his sales team a voice. Having recently joined YBS, Mike discovered the net promoter score with their brokers – a key conduit to their clients – was minus 11.
“We had fallen into the classic trap of being far too internally focused and were siloed as well,” he admits. “We had no ownership of the end-to-end customer journey and had stopped listening to what our customers wanted.”
Mike acted urgently, managing the situation as a crisis with weekly meetings and leadership from the top. “We realised our sales team had no voice in the business, and yet they talk to our customers every day and have the most insight into what our customers want. 
“So, we physically moved them into the core of the business and really started to listen to them.”

Mike believes businesses need to change how they are structured to allow a more customer-centric outlook; decision-making and empowerment need to sit where the relevant information is. “The classic business set up, where the people at the bottom of the structure have the real customer insight, and where information passes up and then decisions filter down – that’s in the dark ages now,” he says.
For John, while the customer should always be at the heart of the business, there still needs to be control around the offering. “Not everyone can be responsible for delivering propositions for the customer as then you get anarchy,” he says. “It's critical to develop a process which allows the business to really focus in on the propositions they want to deliver.”
While truly customer-centric businesses always have this smart insight at the centre of their decision making, Mark Palmer recognises that some businesses find it hard to accept the honest criticism that they’ll encounter. “Be prepared to invest time in understanding your customer and for it to be uncomfortable – if it isn't then you're probably not doing it right,” he says.
Emma Riddell, Senior Editor, Criticaleye.
Next week’s Community Update will be a timely and inspirational round up of members’ summer reads.