Customer at the Heart

Can a business leader learn anything about customer centricity from 15 senior executives who have “been there, done that”?


Find out the secret to becoming customer-centric. CUSTOMER AT THE HEART explores how to lead a customer centricity transformation, develop the strategy, tactics and execution of a customer centricity programme and how to change the culture. The results for companies who have followed this guidance are truly remarkable.


Foreword by Gavin Patterson

This book is important!

A lot of words have been written about putting the ‘customer at the heart’ but in my experience, it’s much harder for business leaders in B2B companies to achieve that you might think, and it certainly takes longer than most people expect.

Early in my career, I spent nine years at Procter & Gamble and that was the starting point for my focus on the ‘customer at the heart’ because that was fundamental to the way P&G ran its business. In most FMCG companies like Procter, it’s intuitive. When I joined the telecommunications industry in the late 1990s, I found very few people who had any real interest in the customer at all. It was all about technology – the product was all important. That’s where the power in the value chain was.

Even today, our industry is still playing catch-up. While it’s much better than it was 20 years ago, most B2B companies are still not as intuitively customer-centric as they need to be. That’s why a book that combines a framework for thinking about customer centricity coupled with the practical experiences of CEOs and business leaders is so useful. A practitioners’ guide like this is welcome.

If we as business leaders don’t show an interest in customers, nobody else will. It’s GE’s Jack Welch who said that if you haven’t got a customer, you haven’t got a job. That’s a very powerful mindset to drive through the organisation so that everybody, both customer-facing and back office, understands that their job is to improve the lives of customers. If they’re not looking at their work on a day to day basis through that customer lens, then they’re probably not doing the right thing.

I’m a big believer that, as business leaders, we need to start by asking the right questions within our organisations so when our people think about the answers, they start with the customer and end with the customer. As business leaders we also need to supplement our questions with the ability to tell customer stories, to celebrate success, to find the heroes. All these things help set the tone the tempo for putting the customer at the heart. They give people a sense of priority – a priority for the customer.

Why is priority important? No system is perfect for every situation so we need our people to be able to fall back on a core set of beliefs. When there isn’t a system or procedure to follow, they know that if a customer has an issue, they have the authority to fix it. That where a sense of priority for the customer comes in.

Finally, we need to have patience because putting the customer at the heart takes time – typically years rather than months. The CEO, CFO and Chief People Officer in any company need to keep the faith even when sometimes it feels progress is slow.

Our own journey towards a more customer-centric BT has been a challenging and ultimately rewarding one. I wish you the best in your own journey towards customer centricity.

Gavin Patterson
Chief Executive, BT Group plc (2013-19)



Customer at the Heart is based on interviews with the following 15 senior business executives:

Peter Acheson – CEO, PeopleBank, Australia
Bob Brown – CIO, Manchester City Council, UK
Christine Corbett – Chief Customer Officer, Australia Post
Sue de Wit – Head of Customer Experience, Atos UK & Ireland
Joe Edwards – Senior Vice President, Atos UK & Ireland
Eamonn Galvin – CEO,, Ireland; previously with Accenture, GE and eBay
Lindsay McCaughey – Chief Technology Officer, Galliford Try, UK
Mick McCarthy – CEO, Business and Corporate Banking, Santander Poland
Mairead McSweeney – Head of Business Operations, BT Ireland
Colm O’Neill – Chief Executive, BT Major & Public Sector, UK
Shane O’Neill – Previously Divisional Director, Toll Group, Australia
Gavin Patterson – Chief Executive, BT Group plc, UK
David Thodey – Chairman, CSIRO Australia; previously CEO, Telstra, Australia
Kathryn Whitehouse – Head of Customer Experience, BT Major & Public Sector, UK
Audrey Zibelman – CEO, Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)


John O’Connor

John is the CEO of the European B2B customer experience company Deep-Insight and has been with the company since it was founded in 2000. John has 30 years of experience in customer management. Prior to joining Deep-Insight, John was an Associate Partner with Accenture in London and led its CRM practice in Dublin. John holds an engineering degree from Trinity College Dublin and an MBA from the London Business School. John O’Connor is based in Ireland and travels to Australia twice every year. Deep-Insight’s clients include Atos, BT, Fujitsu, QBE, Toll Group, Serco, Suncorp and VISA.

Peter Whitelaw

Peter is an Australian consultant who provides a range of customer-related support services. Peter has a background in engineering, sales and general management with Hewlett Packard, Tektronix and Optus. For 11 years he was CEO of project management training company Rational Management, training thousands of managers across the world. In recent years he has been lead consultant on numerous change management and customer centricity projects for both commercial and government organisations.