Signs of a Customer-Centric Leader

Customer satisfaction requires the wholehearted commitment of the organization to the idea of customer-centricity. However, the leader is very crucial in this chain to ensure a successful customer experience.

Being a customer-centric leader requires an understanding of what leadership entails. A leader must mobilize others to believe in and execute a particular strategy and deliver timely results to create value for the customer. From setting the game plan to taking action, it is the behaviour of the leader that ultimately leads to a successful transformation of the company’s vision to its employees.

Here are three things I believe customer-centric leaders excel:

They Provide Direction and Purpose

It is the responsibility of a company’s leader to set the right path and align the organization’s vision for customer-centricity. Behind this vision, there must be a strategy that gives the company different levels of customer insights for the customer’s sake. This strategy must be realistic and adapt to the different changes the organization experiences. It is essential that the organization, through its leader, takes the “reality test” to ensure the company’s plans are appropriate for its customers. In all of this, it is vital that the leader communicates and involves other members of staff while charting a course.

They Deal with Employees like Customers

Creating a clear plan of action for an organization is pretty straightforward. But getting the entire organization to work with towards achieving that vision can be challenging. To achieve this, the organization must believe that the direction they are headed is the right one, and are motivated by the overall goal of customer-centricity. Treating your employees like customers means keeping them engaged, and you can achieve this by identifying your top talent, understanding their goals, and most importantly, listen to their advice. This way, you’d build a team that believes in your vision and strategy.

“By putting the employee first, the customer effectively comes first by default, and in the end, the shareholder comes first by default as well.”

Richard Branson

They Always Talk to Customers

In many cases, senior leaders within a company rarely deal with the customer at all. Those who determine the organization’s strategic direction, in some cases, have never met a customer. Failing to understand your customers’ thoughts about their experience with your company is unacceptable in today’s business world. Meeting and relating with customers should be a significant part of a leader’s to-do. The ability to listen, question, empathize, learn and try out new ideas should be seen as a norm. A customer-centric leader not only talks to the customer but literally ‘walk in their shoes’.

“Products are sold because they solve a problem or fill a need. Understanding problems and needs involves understanding customers and what makes them tick.”

Steve Blank

Moving from the organization’s vision to its expected results flows from top to bottom. While it is the responsibility of a leader to create a direction, team members must believe in this vision for it to function. A customer-centric leader recognizes the importance of the team members, mobilizes and engages them with the vision to result framework. 

Mobilizing your organization to believe in customer centricity creates value, but for every leader, the challenge is getting there.

Recommended readings: 

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Tim Brown

The Four Steps to Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Startups That Win