Taking an organization from talking about Customer Centricity to actually being and doing it, is, to say the least, a challenge. I have had the privilege to lead or, as I prefer to say, guide this transformational change journey successfully many times in multiple organizations and industries.
Nowadays I work independently and am grateful that people at board level hire me to be a guide for them and the people in their organization. Having said that, there are not enough hours in a day to serve everybody who wants to work with me. So, I developed an approach, the BIG5 of Customer Centricity™, that gives everybody who has the ambition to transform their organization into a customer centric environment, access to my knowledge and experience in a way that you don’t need me. And that touches upon something else.
You can’t hire consultants to transform your organization into being customer centric; to embed customer centricity in the capillaries of your organization. You run the risk that, as soon as their (often quite substantial) invoices are paid, their assignment finished, out walks your customer centricity. That’s why I work as a guide for the people in an organization, giving them guidance how to embed customer centricity in the capillaries of the organization, and don’t grow my business to be able to do it for them. Because I know, from experience, the only way to make the transformation sustainable, is when the people in the organization do it themselves.
Nicolette is unique in her care for customers and customer service representatives. From day one at Sky, she inspired large audiences to co-create with her a transformational journey towards a vision driven by purpose and consistent with her mantra ‘when you care, people notice’. Her love and attention to detail in crafting the cultural transformation and her ability to relate to frontline employees are unique. She leaves and breathes cultural transformation.
Dr. Sebastian Hauptmann
Chief Sales Officer and COO at valantic
A power lady with a brilliant game changing vision on Customer Intimacy, yet at the same time hands-on in her approach transforming customer operations departments into passionate client focused teams, well aware of the value of their role for the company/brand and its customers.
Global Head of Customer Experience at Kantar (a Bain Capital portfolio company)
Nicolette worked as part of the corporate management for UPC Europe’s Executive team. Her leadership and hard work was key to major efficiencies and improvements in Customer Care across our foot print. Development and establishments of KPI's and advanced measurement and management techniques were deployed during this time.
Nicolette is an inspiring leader and a great team player. She always stays focused on customer experience and human touch.
I have always experienced Nicolette as an engaging and energetic customer service professional with a true passion and heart for developing and blueprinting new and innovative service concepts and strategies. Her motto “when you care people notice” still holds true today. I have experienced and valued her management style as open, direct and focused on developing the people she manages and works with.
COO at ODIGEO
The BIG5 OF CUSTOMER CENTRICITY™
The BIG5 of Customer Centricity™ buys you the time you need to substantiate the business case. So you can harvest the results, or, to be more precise, your colleagues, your customers, and yes, also your shareholders.
The BIG5 of Customer Centricity™ consists of 5 jigsaw puzzle pieces:
1. Strong, Shared Sense of Purpose
2. Brilliant Basics
Together the 5 jigsaw puzzle pieces create a heart, the heart of Customer Centricity, where you touch people their hearts, both employees’ and customers’. That’s really at the core of customer centricity. When you touch people in their hearts, they ‘fall in love’ with you. They stay, come back for more, are cheaper to maintain, become your ambassadors, new (employees and) customers find their way to you, increasing your autonomous growth. The latter is what I call Customer Advocacy (often measured using the KPI Net Promoter Score (NPS)).
When you CARE, people notice.
1. Strong, Shared Sense of Purpose
Your organization undoubtedly has a vision, a mission and core values. Many people in your organization may also be able to recite these. But… are they meaningful to your employees? What “story” do they tell their family and friends about the company they work for? If you put all the stories on top of each other, is there a common thread?
Customer centricity is a container term that in itself...
…is meaningless. Similarly, a vision, a mission and core values are often meaningless for employees. They don’t have a story of their own. There are few companies where a mission is experienced by employees as something that gives them safety and courage. A SAFE & BRAVE SPACE to make the decision, in the moment, to do for a customer, what feels relevant to that customer in that moment (and therefore ends up feeling personal and unique to the customer).
And that is exactly where you make the difference, where you create (employee and) customer loyalty and customer ambassadorship.
Customer centricity requires a strong, internalized sense of purpose, a dream shared by everyone. An ambition that goes beyond words. Mission, vision and values made tangible and translated into a shared dream, and a shared language.
A strong, shared sense of purpose isn’t a catchy one-liner. It lies in an internalized ‘why are we here’. A WHY that offers your people the safety and space to take responsibility, and show ownership. Therein lies the essence. Of being able – willing – daring – to co-create in a playful way in the process, in a dialogue, in co-creation with each other, and with customers. This breeds involvement, ownership, responsibility and connection. It increases the execution and realization power of your organization.
Contagious enthusiasm develops. People develop behaviour that fits the shared goal. Flow arises. It introduces openness and honesty, a sense of meaning and autonomy, assertiveness and self-direction, vulnerability, freedom to be (as a human being, not ‘dehumanized robots’), room for play, and commitment.
Do the people in your organization have a shared dream?
2. Brilliant Basics
Time for some down to earth basics. Customer Centricity or “putting customers at the heart of everything you do” does put a few demands on your organization. Customer Centricity is a holistic concept that requires a healthy ecosystem where ‘being’ and ‘doing’ are aligned.
Think of a mountain. The ground in which the...
…mountain stands, the foundation, the lower layers of the mountain, and the top of the mountain. Customer centricity is the top of the mountain. How stable do you think the mountain is, if everything below the top is unstable?
Operational Excellence is a prerequisite for Customer Centricity. If your basics aren’t in order (yet), you’re setting yourself, and your employees up for failure. Because nothing is as killing for the motivation, and engagement of your employees (and your customers) as swimming upstream all the time.
Customer centricity places high demands on the quality of your organization and your products and/or services. Can you imagine how customer centric your employees can be, if they have to justify and correct everything that goes wrong all the time?
Activating customer centricity as a sustainable competitive advantage requires that you not only work with the culture of your organization. It requires you to take a critical look at your organizational structure, your processes, your IT architecture, and your governance.
No matter how successful you are in focusing your ‘army’ on one goal (your shared dream; Strong, Shared Sense of Purpose; your WHY), you can’t do it without brilliant basics.
Summarizing, the Brilliant Basics is all about assessing what you need to create realistic expectations among your employees, and your customers. Because you will want to create expectations you can live up to!
An organization that is above all a smooth running ‘factory’, the adagio of operational excellence, is incapable of creating meaning. Its reason for being lies in its ability to run better than any other factory. As soon as another factory runs more efficiently, it has lost its reason for being.
What about the (quality of the) products you...
…produce or services you offer? Could there lie a reason? Perhaps decades ago, but nowadays, where globalized, hyper-competitive markets are awash with interchangeable products and services, the answer is no.
Care is the key word for customer centricity. Care in the sense of a sincere form of genuine involvement with, and commitment to the world in general and people in particular (the three P’s, People, Planet, Profit). With all stakeholders of your organization.
The source of care is authenticity of both the giver and the receiver. You can’t enforce it. Care ensures that (employees and) customers feel heard, recognized, respected and valued as human beings. As a customer once put it: “If only people, well, would just listen to me.”
Care creates an emotional bond that is unique and cannot be copied. That is why it is so valuable (multiple value creation) for all involved, and so hard to copy, which makes it sustainable as a competitive advantage.
Care is all about assessing to what extent the soil, the culture of your organization is fertile for customer centricity, and gives you a feeling how big the challenge is to transform your organization and activate customer centricity as a sustainable competitive advantage.
An ‘organization’ is incapable of creating meaning. Culture is not something you can implement. That’s why you cannot ‘implement’ customer centricity. It’s a co-creation between the people in an organization. And it’s heavily impacted by the example the leaders of an organization set.
Humans are Meaning Makers. Is your organization an environment that allows for sense making and sense giving, where people can create and experience meaning?
When you CARE, people notice.
How consistent are you, are (can) the people in your organization (be), and how consistent and aligned is your organization overall in everything you say and do; in internal, and in external communication; in ‘official’ communication and informal and verbal communication?
Consistency means that people deliver the same...
…quality of work over a longer period of time. Consistency influences the quality of people their work, the speed at which they work, their presence and their communication. Consistency leads to self-discipline. When people are consistent, they have a sense of responsibility and direction that translates into progress. Consistency is a habit you can cultivate over time.
Consistency in the BIG5 of Customer Centricity™, is about creating consistency between who you are (the culture of your organization), who you say you are (marketing communication, PR but also the internal story telling) and who people (employees, customers, consumers, citizens) say you are. Your brand is what others say about you when you’re not in the room!
Reputations are not built overnight, although they can be ruined overnight. It takes time to change ‘who you are’. It takes time to build trust by consistently showing people time and again, and above all give them the feeling that your organization really puts people first, really cares. It takes months to win a customer, but only seconds to lose one. When you consistently deliver a great customer experience, you infuse customer loyalty and intrinsic motivation to talk about those experiences.
The art is to create a healthy ecosystem in which talking and doing are consistent, and in which people are able – willing – daring to operate from a source of care. It is a consistently personal, relevant and unique customer experience and an overall and consistent value perception that keeps customers coming back and recommending your organization to their family and friends.
Interventions must be sustainable; experiences internally and externally consistent; consistency between what is felt, said and done must come to life for it in order to become meaningful (sensemaking and sense giving) and that only happens in interactions between people.
Walking the talk at all levels and across all departments, saying what you do and doing what you say. Taking “Putting our customers at the center of everything we do” from talking about it to actually doing it, and being consistent, every day, requires a community. It cannot be delegated to the frontline of your organization. It’s everyone’s job!
Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally, it comes from what you do consistently.
This last jigsaw piece of the puzzle is about value. Are you thinking about money right now? Value creation is about more than money. Customer centricity means that you transform from profit at the core (everything focused on the bottom line) to value at the core (multiple value creation).
Humans are meaning makers. Only humans are...
…capable of adding value at an emotional level. Their performance can be measured in quantity (output) and quality (impact). The two must be balanced, by not directing people at task level, but at the balance between output and impact. Not only doing things right, but also doing the right things in the perception of people (customers, but the same goes for employees). From shareholder to multiple value creation, stakeholder and people-driven, increasing value for all involved.
What gets measured gets done! Constantly measuring, managing people in old ways (the ‘industrial paradigm’), keeping your eyes on the quantitative KPIs, results in efficiency without a soul, and an organization at risk of being outpaced by competitors who successfully add soul (meaning). If you desire to be customer centric, you have to keep your eyes on the horizon (why, ‘dream’, soul, strong, shared sense of purpose), and at the same time the bottom-line. The ‘trick’ is to combine the two.
With a customer centricity governance framework comes visibility, and accountability, which is why it’s often one of the hardest nuts to crack. It also comes with excellent business analyses capabilities, and, obviously, dependable data sources and a good data warehouse. But you will need it, and once it starts to work, you will see the enthusiasm growing, and become more and more contagious.
People working in operations must be able to see the bigger picture. They must be empowered to connect what they do on a daily basis with the results of the company. Awareness of their (value) contribution to and role in the bigger picture affects people their ability to not only do things right, but also the right things (value in the customer’s perception). People need to learn and grow to do what’s right for the business ánd the customers they serve.
A customer centricity governance framework is a challenging project, and process that will take time to build, and to learn to work with. But it’s the piece of the puzzle where everything comes together, so it’s worth all the effort you undoubtedly will have to put in.
In the end, Customer centricity can only be successful when it’s adopted by each and every department, discipline, and person in your organization.
WHAT CAN BEING DIFFERENT LOOK LIKE?
Explore the future of your company
Every day and with every contact, your employees succeed in giving your customers a relevant, personal and unique experience. An experience that is so unique that they want to come back, come back more often and spontaneously recommend your organization to their family, friends and on online social networks
Your organization's reputation is so unique that customers stay, spend more money, and have so much trust that operating costs go down
Marketing and selling costs go down because 'it' sells itself
New customers come forward because they've heard from people they trust that doing business with your organization is a great pleasure (organic growth increases)
You have succeeded in transforming your organization from a 'well-oiled factory’ into a 'healthy ecosystem' in which things and people, doing and being, quantity and quality, output and impact are structurally, and sustainably balanced
You have managed to put your finger on the beating heart of your employees, your customers and also your organization, and have learned how, together with the people in your organization, you can keep the ecosystem healthy
Nicolette is one of the most authentic and passionate leaders I had the pleasure to work with! She is truly inspiring, building strong people-connections and giving clear strategic directions. Nicolette has an in-depth understanding of all customer-related matters as well as for all the organizational challenges that derives from customer-related activities. Her amazing ability of communicating successfully at all company levels (from the Board of Directors to juniors front-line) make her a truly transformational leader and a effective result-bringer.
Nicolette is one of the most experienced leaders I ever met. Nicolette works with passion and contagious enthusiasm, to create a customer and employee orientated environment. She really cares for both. She knows how to serve the customer, how to steer operations and how to motivate and engage the people in the organization. Always with respect for KPI´s and the economic factors, the economic development of the business.
Director Customer Dialogue & Engagement, Aldi
I worked with Nicolette at N26. She is an amazing executive coach and a super experienced customer service professional. Great personal experience.
Managing Director Techstars Berlin, Board Member German Startups Association
Nicolette is a rare mix of deep operational experience and executive and leadership skills. She also has a rare mix of corporate and startup skills too, thriving in any environment. She makes things happen as well as being able to bring senior leaders along, even if it means telling them things they don't want to hear. She brings both energy and empathy either as a coach, manager or both, and gives 100% every time.
Partner at Boundary Capital
Having the chance to work with Nicolette was a fantastic opportunity to learn from her deep operational design and customer focused experience. Besides being a joy to work with, Nicolette has a ‘get it done’ mindset who is able to present creative solutions to complex problems and communicate the benefits to the company.
Head of Operation Excellence, GetYourGuide
THE BOOK: CUSTOMER ADVOCACY
Foundation of the BIG5 OF CUSTOMER CENTRICITY™
“Great customer service is hard to come by in today’s world of ‘faster, not better.’ In Customer Advocacy, Nicolette Wuring proves great customer service is the key to creating growth through consumer-led promotion, loyalty, and peer-to-peer recommendations. Customer advocacy is high trust in action, increasing speed and lowering costs. Set yourself apart–care!“