Advice from Our Experts: Top Challenges to Customer Centricity & How to Overcome Them

Advice from Our Experts: Top Challenges to Customer Centricity & How to Overcome Them

Filter tag: Culture & Organisational Effectiveness, Customer & Brand, Leadership Capability, Strategies for Growth

Organisations are beginning to put their plans and objectives into action.

From our conversations with our clients, it seems that Covid 19, inflation, talent scarcity, government funding support and policy uncertainties are creating increased challenges to boards.

As a result customer centricity is high up on the strategic agenda for many businesses in 2022.

And it makes sense.

After two challenging years of working to stay afloat, the time has come to build back better and enter the next era of business. Customers are central to the success of these efforts, but their habits and demands have changed along with the market these past few years. They are savvier, choosier, and more digitally-driven than ever before. In order to become truly customer centric, leaders need to tap into what it is that drives customers and influences them to return time and time again.

We asked our experts to share the top challenges they find our clients experiencing when aiming to become more customer centric, and to share their advice for overcoming these hurdles. Here’s what they had to say:


Top Challenges to Customer Centricity

  • Learning to Unlearn: Many top executives got to where they are today through a long and successful career journey. The downside of that is that many reached their post years ago and settled in, sticking to what works. The practices may have historically helped to drive the business forward in challenging periods, but today’s market and customer is like nothing we have ever experienced before. We have never been this digital, this globalised, this actively communicative across various platforms and mediums, or this spoilt for choice with who we do business with. As a result, leaders may find that the practices they previously relied on to evolve their offering may no longer suffice and that they have to unlearn everything they thought they knew about the market, their role in it, and the customers they aim to serve. This can feel uncomfortable and unsettling for some, especially those who have adopted a sort of ‘If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ mentality throughout their tenure. There is no room for stubbornness or ego here. To change the organisation and its practices, its leadership team will need to go within and address the attitudes and actions that are holding them back.
  • Listening In: The best way to learn what your customer wants is to listen to them, but the acts of ‘listening’ and gathering business intelligence have evolved alongside the rest of the market. There are so many different ways to do this and to do it constantly. Your customers are communicating with your sales and service teams, browsing your website, talking about you on social media, reviewing you online, having conversations with their peers, and so on. That generates a lot of potential insight, but also a lot of noise. The challenge then becomes sorting through that intelligence, finding trends, and prioritising. It can be hard to delineate between what you are hearing and what is actually important to your customers. There may be a temptation to want to fix everything all at once, but that is not always possible or practical. The challenge for leaders is to take a moment to assess what they are hearing,
  • Making Sense of Customer Data: All these customer conversations and activities create vast amounts of valuable data for the organisation that helps to paint the picture of what the journey looks like and where it could be improved. Businesses have access to an immense amount of data, but often fail to use it properly. The challenge leaders face is ensuring they have access to the right information and are using it to their advantage. Advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence will be a big help here, but leaders need to get on board with these tools and develop an understanding of them. The pandemic helped push many laggards towards new tech, but most businesses are still in the exploratory phases of their digital transformation journey. Executives need to push past any remaining hesitations towards technology and get to grips with it and soon, otherwise a lot of potential and valuable insights will continue to be missed out on.
  • Generating Buy-In: The previous challenges were concentrated primarily on the leadership team, but true customer centricity flows evenly throughout every area of the business. Yes, leaders may have to unlearn, tune in, and make sense of the market demands, but their staff are the ones putting these lessons into practice. If your own people don’t buy into your vision and what you are trying to accomplish, how do you expect your customers to buy in? Not only do leaders need to be able to access all this data and make sense of it, but they also need to be able to present it to their people in a way that tells a story and brings the customer journey to life in a narrative way. Every member of the team from the board to the interns need to be aligned with the vision. The story told to an organisation’s people is the story that will ultimately be told to its customers. There can be no crossed wires. The sales team shouldn’t be saying one thing while IT says another, marketing says something different, and customer service is on a different page entirely. Every department, whether it is directly customer-facing or not, should know what the customer story is and the role they each play in delivering it. Creating that level of alignment at scale can be a major challenge for leaders, especially if the business has historically been insular across departments.


Top Tips for Overcoming Challenges to Customer Centricity

Thankfully, all of these problems are possible to overcome.

At The Rialto Consultancy, we have worked with leadership teams over the last decade in order to help them unlearn what they know and get their people on board. Here are our experts’ top tips for achieving greater customer centricity moving forward:

  • Embrace Radical Empathy: It’s time for being human to come back into fashion. The pandemic bonded us all through mutual struggle, and as a result we all became a bit more understanding of one another. The pandemic and its challenges may not be over, but even when it eventually does come to an end, we need to remember that we are all just people. We have feelings. We have challenges. Take the time to be a bit more forgiving and understanding, not just of your customer but of your people. Practice patience and work to see things from their perspectives. That way, you can avoid friction and work more collaboratively to tackle problems.
  • Expect Imperfection: Part of being human is making mistakes, learning from them, and continuing to try. The most successful customer centric leaders are those who understand that things won’t always be perfect, and who are accepting of this. What’s important is becoming more fluid and adapting to what comes. With so many different touchpoints and conversations happening all at once, things will inevitably get overlooked or you might feel tempted to try to fix absolutely every complaint brought to your attention. That is not feasible, and leaders need to come to terms with the fact that they might not always have the answers. Instead, be more curious and more tactful about how you address problems and prioritise.
  • Understand the Journey: Do you know what it is like to be your own customer? What does the journey look like? What steps and processes do your customers go through when doing business with you? What is it like to complete a purchase on your website, or file a complaint with your customer service team? Every member of your team, not just leadership, needs to know what the journey looks like firsthand. Recently in the US, news broke that food delivery service DoorDash would be requiring every single one of their employees across all departments, including their CEO, to deliver one order each month. The reactions to this were mixed, with some staff outraged that they would be made to do the ‘lowliest’ job of the organisation, while others praised the initiative’s empathetic benefits. Your organisation may not go to these lengths to create an understanding of the journey, but at the very least your entire team should know what your process looks like from the perspective of your customers. That way, you can identify problems from the inside in order to fix them, and ensure that the people interacting the closest to your customers understand exactly what they are experiencing.
  • Engage More: In order to listen to and understand your customer, you need to interact with them. Often, executive leadership has very little direct contact with the customer and instead are fed by intel from those ‘on the ground’. Their understanding of their customer comes from reports and second-hand news. By increasing their own direct interaction with the customer, leaders can build that all-important empathy and understanding.
  • Trust and Empower Your People: Even if you are more actively engaged with your customers, the majority of the interaction will still fall on your team. Leaders need to trust their staff and find a way to empower those closest to the customer to best advocate for them. This is much easier to achieve if there is alignment across the organisation and a consistent story being told.
  • Advocate on behalf of Your Customer: Advocating for the customer shouldn’t only take place during direct interactions. The customer’s perspective needs to be represented in every conversation, always. Someone should be playing ‘devil’s advocate’ on behalf of your customer in every meeting, strategic conversation, presentation, and so on. Instead of focusing on what’s in it for the business, someone always needs to be asking what’s in it for the customer. The more people you have asking this question, the better. Not only that, but everyone should be able to answer it by the time the conversation is done. Weaving this practice and mindset into absolutely everything helps ensure that the customer is always put first. When the customer is properly catered to, everything else will fall into place.


Becoming customer centric cannot happen overnight. It will take time, patience, experimentation and innovation to get it right. However, the organisations that dedicate the effort to get it right will have an easier time navigating what comes next with greater agility the support of their customers.

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