Don't Want Your Business to Stagnate? Keep Your Customer At the Centre Your culture needs to be customer-first, but more importantly, it needs to be action oriented

By Gero Decker

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Most people who keep an eye on digital trends have heard all the familiar stories about businesses that refused to disrupt themselves.

Blockbuster could have bought Netflix back in the 1990s. Kodak came up with a digital camera technology well before everyone started abandoning film. The failure of these businesses to predict the future is often portrayed as an innovation or technological problem.

Yet the real problem is that these businesses didn't keep the customer at the centre of what they were doing.

It's easy to suggest Blockbuster, Kodak and countless other businesses should adopt a forward-thinking approach. Embrace innovation, work on new ideas, etc. That's all and good, but all the new technology in the world will fail if you don't keep the customer at the centre. How many digital camera companies failed?

The Focus Area

Instead, any business needs to adopt a process that keeps customer centricity as its most treasured principle. Part of that is being agile, yes—businesses should keep equipping workers and their teams to remain autonomous and focus on the overarching business goals.

But what does customer centricity actually mean?

It means at every stage of your business, everything you do revolves around what the customer needs, wants, and has problems with.

How does this present itself in a day-to-day environment?

Strong Customer-centric Processes

It's easy to think businesses will become more agile by working in sprints, or with Scrum masters and so on. These are just tools to tinker around the edges. Real customer-centric processes ask specific questions, like "What does this feature do for the customer"; "Are you improving outcomes (their outcomes, not your internal business outcomes)"; and "Are you making things easy for them to find". Every single process should be judged on whether it is bringing value to the customer.

This is often where customer journey mapping comes into play. You can document every single touch point you have with your customer, and see where the pain points are. Those are areas where your processes should be changed.

Keep Every Element of Your Business Connected

And keep them working by the same values, too.

One of the reasons technology that would benefit customers never often comes to light is that different business units see the opportunity in different ways. Often those visions contradict each other.

Becoming a truly customer-centric organization means business divisions must work alongside each other. Processes should encourage collaboration across different business units, rely on autonomous membership, and develop strong multidisciplinary ties.

Often, different business divisions see different pieces of customer experience. The more disciplines you have represented in your various projects, the fuller picture of the customer you'll inevitably help create.

Again, this is exactly why documented business processes play a huge part in any customer-centric organization. Trying to develop customer-first technology and teams means knowing how people interact with each other across silos.

How can you expect to get a full picture of the customer if you can't identify who the right people are in the first place? That's what your processes should help you find out.

Change your Culture to a Customer-first Mindset

It's one thing to know a piece of technology, or a new business process will disrupt you. It's another to actually experiment with that process and disrupt yourself from the inside.

Customer-centric organizations continually ask, "How would this new technology benefit the customer?" They are quick to recognize trends like streaming services, and bank on those instead of denying them. Understanding where the market moves are not just about knowledge, it's about using and implementing that knowledge to drive internal change.

Your culture needs to be customer-first, but more importantly, it needs to be action oriented. Everyone should be expected to experiment and prototype new knowledge and trends. The learning will come in executing on new technology, not just understanding it.

Create New Processes to Succeed

You might survive without a customer-centric process, but you'll never create as much value if your internal processes are aligned with structures that put those customers first.

If your individual processes are customer aligned, the rest will take care of itself.

Gero Decker

Co-founder and CEO, Signavio

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