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 project and how to change the culture. The results for companies who have followed this guidance are 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 Welsh 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.
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, Daft.ie, 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)