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Not so long ago, a HBR article caught my eye - Customer-Centric Org Charts Aren’t Right for Every Company. It discussed how companies such as Intel, IBM and American Express had recently restructured themselves to become much more customer centric, but at what risk?

The article suggested that the companies would experience an initial decline in revenue for a couple of years, but end up coming back stronger than ever. That is, if they were meeting the right customer needs and differentiating themselves.

This got me thinking...

If we all knew of this apparent risk, would we start a process knowing it was going to cause our business problems in the first two years of its life?

Surely this would play right into the hands of the luddites who exist in many organisations?

I would argue that they will have missed the point of some of the fundamental truths of business that we experience today:

  1. Change and improvement is never easy, but the irony remains that change is the only constant thing in the environments our brands live in.

  2. Ensuring the brand is doing the right things for its customers gives it a fighting chance of being sustainable in the long term.

  3. It is a truism that the insides of the business are in a permanent state of leakage to the outside world – just ask VW and Audi about that one...

  4. You have a customer experience whether you like it or not; it’s up to you whether you manage it or leave it for others to do it for you.

  5. The brand loyalty model was reversed some time ago – a brand now needs to be loyal to customers and not the other way round.

With this in mind, why wouldn’t you start bring the customer into your business and begin to build experiences that deliver your brand promise consistently?

Change isn’t always a long term thing

In some cases, putting the customer at the centre of your experience won’t lead to a couple of problematic years…

There are great examples of how amazing customer experiences have been built, and have in fact delivered returns rapidly. This includes Ladies Day at Aintree, The Grand National Festival.

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Following a number of years of almost imperceptible erosion in terms of attendance numbers, profit, and brand positioning, the brand rebranded and realigned their whole customer experience.

They listened to customers and brand influencers, created a clear and inspiring brand vision, and mapped a new and aligned customer experience. And delivered by a passionate, cross functional team with clear accountabilities and great leadership, these steps helped to truly transform the event.

The results of such efforts were visible, even after year one…

  • Decline in attendance not only arrested, but grew by 5%

  • Income across all revenue generating aspects of the experience increased

  • Social and traditional media coverage improved, and was now much more positive

  • Volume of pre-booked tickets for year two increased by 15%

That is not to say it was easy. But by creating a vision all the team understood, and developing a well-defined plan to deliver a realigned customer experience, they certainly made the process easier.   

Doing nothing can be more work than doing something

This stuff isn’t always easy, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Doing nothing, whilst always an option, won’t help you deliver anything special.

Aintree were frightened of getting started, as most brands are, but they clearly understood the pressure for change from their customers.

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