In 2011 a landmark study on high performing workplaces was conducted by the Australian Business School, the University of NSW and the Australian Society for Knowledge Economics (Boedker, C., Vidgen, R.l, Meagher, K., Cogin, J., Mouritsen, J., & Runnalls, J. M. (2011,  Leadership, culture and management practices of high performing workplaces in Australia: The high performing workplaces index).   The study sought to “provide insights into the leadership, culture and management practices that higher performing workplaces deploy and benefit from”.  The study was funded by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace relations and included 77 organisations throughout Australia.

The study found that customer orientation was one of six key characteristics of high performance workplaces.  The study quotes that “HPWs (high performing workplaces) spend significant amounts of time and resources in attempts to understand the needs and desires of their customers. They encourage customers to provide feedback and employ staff who actively listen to them. In other words, HPWs seek dialogue and are curious to learn new things. HPWs also spend resources to transform knowledge about customer needs into new service and product offerings. Customer orientation also requires investment in processes that reveal to the organisation what customers want and need. This requires a committed workforce where employees take the customer seriously and actively participate in coming up with novel ways to better meet customer needs.”

In my experience being client centric goes hand in hand with great leadership.  I have found that great leaders seem to have a strong connection with who the customer or stakeholder is and what is important to that customer.  It is a self-actualising leadership mindset that connects your personal purpose with the greater good around the impact on your customer or stakeholder.  Great leaders have a clear sense of why the organisation exists, why we get out of bed in the morning, and how we make a positive impact on the lives of our customers or stakeholders.

One of the challenges here is not to confuse customer service with being client centric.  Apple is very client centric organisation not because you get great service at the Apple Store, but because Apple products are design to be user friendly and make our life easier.  Apple is customer centric by design.

Many organisations make the mistake of having sales, marketing and service teams who are great at dealing with customers but then they don’t look at their whole organisation design in terms of being client centric.  The analogy here is have you ever signed up for a home-loan. The experience you get from the staff in a branch is very different from the experience you get from a settlements officer at the back end.  Take this one step further and look at the concept of internet banking which actually reduced interaction but improved the overall customer experience by taking into account people were getting busier and didn’t have time to go to a branch.

To be customer centric you need to look at all aspects of your organisation and how it is designed around the experience for the customer.  This includes your organisational structure, systems, processes, technology, leadership, culture, and strategy.  Ask anyone who has dealt with large Government departments as to how bureaucracy impacts on the customer experience.  Ask anyone who has dealt with the Finance department of your organisation chasing up an invoice as to what their experience was.

Building a client centric high performing organisation by design starts with the tone from the top, and is why it’s so critical for leaders to operate in the self-actualising space where they personally connect with their customers and stakeholders.  It then must flow down through everything in the business challenging everything we do and how it contributes constructively to the life of our customers.

Again Customer Centric is not customer service. Customer Centric is being true to your organisations purpose and designing an organisation which contributes to the greater good of your customers and stakeholders lives.