Gini Dietrich

Customer-Centric and Customer-Centered Organizations: Which Do You Prefer?

By: Gini Dietrich | October 4, 2010 | 

Perhaps it’s because we’re working night and day on the beta version of “Project Jack Bauer” (stay tuned for information on that!) or perhaps it’s because we’ve always been in a client service business and I think a lot about ways to make our process even better, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about customer-centric and customer-centered organizations.

Beth Harte and Anna Barcelos describe the difference best during their #IMCChat a few weeks ago: “In a ‘customer-focused’ organization, they provide products and/or services that customers want but do not drive ALL operations around the customer. For example, Apple.  They build products that customers love, but the customers don’t get a say in the functionality of those products. A customer-centric organization puts the customer at the center of the organization (think of a circle with the customer in the middle, then the next circle surrounding the customer circle is the company. It’s not the top-down management chart we are used to).”

We are at a point that we get to decide which business we want to have: Do we want to master neuromarketing and become a brand customers love? Or do we want to give our customers the ability to decide which products and services we offer and which changes to existing offerings we make?

Neuromarketing is fascinating and I’ve been studying it quite a bit all year (the best book I’ve found on the topic is from Patrick Renvoise called Neuromarketing – that is an affiliate link, BTW). It talks about how to understand how your customers make decisions so you can create and market the products and services they will buy. While you take the customer into the creation and marketing process by understanding who they are and how they buy, they don’t actually have a say in what you provide.

The flip side is bringing your customer into the creation and marketing processes. You can do this through crowdsourcing, through customer experience, through better usability and traction in online experiences, and through improved engagement. One of the companies I think does this the best is 360 Connext because they help you put your customer in the middle of your organization and not only give you the good, the bad, and the ugly, but they do it in a way that is constructive and helps you become customer-centric. If anything, it’s worth reading CEO, Jeannie Walters, blog for really smart tips and tools.

So, which organization would you rather buy from? One that is cutting-edge, cool, and always innovative? Or one that constantly asks you what you want from them? Although it would be nearly impossible to drive ALL operations around our customers, I’m leaning toward the latter. But you tell me! It’s really two questions. Which organization is more appealing to you, as a buyer? And, as a professional, would you rather master neuromarketing or customer engagement?

P.S. You can read the entire blog post about the differences between the two organizations from Beth and Anna here.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • I think the ideal organization depends a lot on the industry.

    Apple has to be a bit ahead of the customers because that’s what the customers frankly expect. Any industry that’s changing rapidly will include a lot of customers who really don’t know just what they want or can have. There’s a place for companies that are out in front.

    Most companies that dispense consumables need to be reliable – a part of the consumer’s life. The Customer Centric model is going to be much more important to them.

    The return is higher when you are able to be out in front, but that’s not always an option.

    Consultants generally have to be a little of both. Innovation often comes from the inspiration given by the customers, which cannot be discounted. But you still have to anticipate their needs and be able to think more strategically than they can while immersed in the daily operation of their business. Customer Centric operation never precludes that, however, so I think this model winds up being the best for most operations.

    It’s what I prefer as a consumer, too. But that’s just me. 🙂

  • John Kosic

    I believe that the Customer-Centric Model is they way of the future, and have to agree with Erik’s comments. Technology has brought upon us an innovation evolution that has placed the customer in the center of the market process. An excellent book to go with Erik’s reading is a book titled “Sensory Marketing” by Aradhna Krisha.

  • Gini – Thanks for the shout out, and thanks for this discussion. The point I think is great is companies even thinking about this at all. I’ve often found a paradox in my work – those companies that hire me for an intense (and often painfully honest) review of their customer experiences are those companies that care about their customers anyway. Loads of companies are happy to stick their heads in the sand, even if their customers are leaving in droves. So while neuromarketing is a really fun, compelling piece of all this, I believe engagement trumps all else. And the irony is those that take a good look at what’s actually happening are the winners – even if the truth hurts.
    Oh, and my favorite piece of content on neuroscience is courtesy of NeuroFocus and Dr. Pradeep – a hip hop video about the study of the brain – it doesn’t get much better!

  • I just finished reading “The Buying Brain” by Dr. A.K. Pradeep – a great book that focuses on how the brain works when making purchasing decisions and what organizations can do to tailor products and services to consumers’ “subconsious minds.” Apple has already got this down. However, I don’t think Apple is customer-centric.

    It takes a true focus for an organization to become customer-centric starting at the top with the customer-centric culture. FedEx and UPS are examples of customer-centric organizations.

    I would opt for customer-centric of course, but the commitment must be there from the top, and it must be translated through the ranks into goals that are relevant to each employee/department. Each individual has a clear understanding of their part in satisfying customers.

  • Rebecca

    As a consumer, I would love for a company to ask what would make me a more loyal or engaged customer. If I felt they followed through on my opinions, I certainly would become a more loyal customer. On the flip side, if I take the time to offer my feedback, and it’s ignored, then my brand view goes down. So a company must have a strategy in place to do something with the content, good and bad, they receive.
    As a marketer, I try to be customer-centric and ask my customers what I can do to better meet their needs. But it’s a dauting task, it’s easier to make generalizations. Plus, I find some put walls up when I ask for their feedback, and I think, I’m asking so I can make your life easier! Why is it, that as consumers, we get closed off when asked for our opinions, even if it’s for our benefit? How can I tailor my approach to get more and better feedback without putting anyone off?

  • Great. I didn’t think writing a blog post would add to my never-ending reading list!

    Erik and John: I agree customer-centric is the wave of the future. It’s MUCH too easy these days to ask our customers what they want…and not in the form of a survey, but by engaging them and making them feel part of the process. To Rebecca’s point, making them feel like they have a say and you do something with it.

    Jeannie: AWESOME video! LOL!! Only you… that guy is a total dweeb too. Freaking awesome!

    Anna: GREAT point about customer-centric organizations starting at the top and drilling into each employee through culture and values.

    Rebecca: It’s funny how people DO shut the door when we ask for feedback, isn’t it?! I remember the first time we did a client satisfaction survey. I had to personally call all of them and explain why we were asking. They all said, “But we’re happy. Why do we have to take the survey?” It was then that I began to figure out a way to get constant feedback.

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  • Juliwilson789

    good that they have been able to provide enough information about the issue.

  • philipshaun

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