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Going Customer-Centric: The 4 Toughest Challenges to Confront

Everyone believes their business is customer-centric, but more often than not, people within an organization are looking at the same customer through different prisms. Learn how your company structure is harming your marketing goals

Sometimes our perception of our business is completely different from how we are perceived by others. According to Capgemini, 75% of businesses believe they are customer-centric, whereas only 30% of consumers agree this is the case. This huge gap proves that many companies focus on changing the reflection in the mirror, when the problem lies with the face. Can you gauge whether your organization is more product- or customer-centric? Let’s start off by explaining the difference between product- and customer-centric and why it is so important to encompass the latter.

Being product-centric basically means you structure your teams around each product. For example, if you’re a gaming company, you have a dedicated team for casino, sport betting, “general gaming” etc. The CRM teams are divided according to products, and they have an amazing understanding of what goes on on their turf, but much less understanding of other aspects within the company. A customer might be treated as churned because he/she quit playing casino, when in fact said customer is on the verge of becoming a VIP in the sport betting vertical of the very same company. Being customer-centric means you look at the customer from above on a cross-company level, and asses his/her behavior from the minute that customer sets foot in it until he/she churns altogether.

In many cases, people within the organization look at the same customer through different prisms:

  • Managing different product verticals
  • Communicating with customers on different channels
  • Dedicated CRM teams for each territory and/or market
  • Dedicating one CRM team for target visitors and one CRM team for target clients
  • Separating mobile from web users
  • Separating VIP teams from regular CRM team

If you are doing one of these things, ask yourself: How is my organization structure harming customer-centricity? How can we overcome the challenge of looking at the customer as a whole, while many internal teams are “responsible” for the same customer? Let’s examine how you should address this very question by tackling the four biggest challenges.

Challenge #1: Multi-products

It’s rare to find an organization that only offers one product. Think Microsoft, with its Xbox, Skype and Office, or a small insurance company that offers car, home and personal insurance. In most cases, you offer a few products and your clients consume a few of your products. Now here’s the question you need to ask yourself – are your products so inherently different from one another? The answer may very well be ‘yes,’ but if ‘no’ is the answer, is it logical that different CRM teams will contact your clients, each team with its own strategy?

Let’s review an example from one of Optimove’s clients, a large gaming company. In this example, the two products are sport and casino, who weren’t sure how to target multi-players. The main goal, of course, was to keep customers as multi-players.

Following an internal discussion, the company’s managers decided that since their Casino product is more valuable to the business, the Casino team will be in charge of their marketing plan. But this is only with a collaboration with the Sports team. Once there is an important sport event, the Sport team will send the multi-players campaigns with higher priority. The challenge here is to make sure both teams are aligned regarding the marketing plan, and to avoid one team sending out campaigns regardless of the other team’s need/knowledge.

So how can you ensure proper knowledge flow between the teams? Conduct weekly meetings with all the relevant stakeholders to share and align different strategies. It is also possible to dedicate one employee to lead the multi-players marketing plan and tie all the loose ends that might exist between the different team members. In this company’s case, Optimove recommended making one CRM team (of the product that was perceived as the most important) in charge of the other team, while facilitating the communication flow between them.

Solution summaryChoose the most valuable product and put its CRM team in charge of all the other product teams.

Challenge #2: Multi-regions

Let’s move to more complex examples, like Coca-Cola. The company’s organizational structure is built across the different regions. Each region has its own CRM team, and each CRM team has its own Head of CRM. The question is, whether the difference between the regions justifies the existence of so many teams. Is there enough business value to dedicate a regional team? Yes, there is, because every multi-national corporation knows, that whereas there are always differences between countries, the differences between East-Asian and European countries, for example, will be much larger than the differences between different countries within each of these regions.

There’s always a trade-off. By dividing your teams on a purely-geographic basis, you can make sure each region receives suitable attention. And by dividing the teams on a global level, you can ensure your strategy is consistent and streamlined. So, what do you choose? In some cases, a more hybrid approach is needed.  For example, in Coca Cola’s case, we would recommend assigning a “center of excellence” to each region that oversees all regions and is in charge of consistency, guideline sharing and best practices. Additionally, adding a CRM manager to each region will act as the link between the center of excellence and the different regional teams.

Solution summaryMaintain the geographic division, but put one CRM team leader above all regions. If needed, put one CRM team leader per each region or put one location manager who oversees all regions and reports to the cross-region manager.

Challenge #3: Multi-channel

Many companies divide their CRM teams according to channels – organic vs. paid, social vs. website, mobile vs. desktop etc. In such a case, you might be targeting users on different channels, instead of harnessing each channel’s strengths and weaknesses to a larger strategy. How should you do it?

Solution summarySubordinate all channels to one CRM team. The team will create the strategy, and each professional team member will execute that strategy on their turfThis way, you can create a smart funnel, where a user is targeted via the different channels in a structured manner.

Challenge #4: Measuring performance

Let’s assume you’ve implemented many of these solutions. Now you want to assess whether – and to what extent – they affected your bottom line. This brings us to last and final challenge on your way to becoming more customer-centric: measuring the performance of the changes you’ve conducted. Just like in a scientific experiment where you don’t really know whether a certain variable caused the chain reaction, measuring performance of structural changes takes time and effort.

Let’s start with the time factor. If you expect to see bottom line changes immediately after major structural changes – forget it. If anything, due to organizational restructuring, you might even experience a decline in your short-term revenues. After at least two quarters, it’s time to start gauging your revenues and examine whether there’s a rise that correlates to the changes in strategy. If you completed the changes properly, you are bound to see an improvement in your bottom line. How much improvement? That depends on many other factors.

Remember, organizational changes impact your team. Talk to them. Survey them. See if they experience better cooperation between them. Check to see if they feel like their efforts bear more fruit than before, or if their communication streams with colleagues helped them perform better. And remember, the impact of the change might only improve a good while after the transition.

Solution summaryWait at least two quarters before expecting to see a positive change in your bottom line, while constantly maintaining direct communication with your employees to gauge their perception of the process.

Contributor: Erez Romas. This article was first published on

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Shauli Rozen

Shauli Rozen is a tech and data expert, consultant and business leader, specializing in creating business value through data-driven marketing and monetization strategies. His previous positions include Director of Strategy at Amdocs and Management Consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, where he advised senior management of Fortune 500 companies. Shauli holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and an MBA from the Wharton Business School in the University of Pennsylvania.