Organizations that know how to incorporate Customer Feedback into their operations are going to be around in the next century. Two events in the recent fortnight caught my attention. IBM’s latest TV Advertisement is focussing on ‘listening to the customer’ and the launch of the Apple iPhone5.
IBM is running a TV campaign as part of ‘Building a Smarter Planet’. They focus on one facet for about a quarter then move on to the next. Currently the Spotlight is on ‘listening to the customer’. In the advertisement, a Fashion Boutique is shown tweaking their line of outfits in real time based on customer feedback. They change the colours, design, fabric etc in quick time. Analytics software is enabling the interpretation, and the feedback is being acted upon.
Coincidentally, around the same time the current IBM episode appeared, Apple launched the iPhone5. Apple is supposed to be the epitome of an organization that is fanatical about customer experience and an organization that listens to the customer feedback. By all accounts the Apple iPhone5 is a runaway success with 5 Million pieces being sold in the very first week. There is euphoria about the numbers and the company valuation has climbed. But, there is an emerging chatter in the media about some shoddy work getting passed on to customers with specific reference to the ‘Maps Software’. The errors seem glaring enough to assume the glitches were known before the release of the product. According to some opinions, Steve Jobs would never have allowed this to happen (Now this is being unfair to the current leadership!).
Be that as it may, while all organizations profess to be ‘Customer Focussed or Customer Centric’ being such an organization is tough. Toyota slipped up soon after becoming the World’s Largest Car Maker. Their Chairman had to face the US Congress. In hindsight they fell short of the first principle of the Toyota Way: Think Long Term- even at the expense of short term financial goals’. Possibly in the quest to reach the top slot in the immediate term, they overlooked a quality issue that proved bigger than expected. So even Principle 5 which should have kicked in automatically was overlooked- ‘build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right’.
Ingraining a ‘Customer Centric’ culture is going to be the cornerstone for organizations that wish to live well into the next century. With information flow becoming so easy thanks to the Social Media, it is a threat as well as an opportunity. So IBM is bang on in their promotions.
How will an organization that is Customer Centric look like? I can only direct you to the photograph shown above. You have the leaf of a plant belonging to the ‘Colocasia’ family. The leaf has a strong Midrib and well defined Veins shooting outwards from it. But look carefully and you will notice that in between the 2 Veins there is another vein with branches shooting out from it back into the veins- IN THE REVERSE DIRECTION. (Click on the Photo for a larger view). This is evidently giving strength to the large leaf area between the veins.
Organizations that are truly customer centric will need to mimic this structure in order to receive and act on the customer voice that is reaching different touch points. With corporate growing in size and complexity, having one way channels for customer feedback is no longer enough. The reverse paths are going to mesh and strengthen the overall system. Each employee needs to be part of the receiving surface and pass on the customer message to be acted upon. Organizations need to train everyone in customer sensitivity and not just depend on technology. This way the Customer feedback can be harnessed and become the part of the lifeblood of the organization.
Your views are welcome!