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It's Time for Radical Customer Centricity

For too long organizations have been paying lip service to customer centricity. Everyone knows it. But the old guard is getting old. Customers are no longer making every purchase decision merely on cost or ease of access, though many still are. Increasingly, purchase decisions are being made on whether a company is socially responsible, for the reputation of how they treat their workers and for the experiences they deliver.

The time has come for radical customer centricity. It is not only something that will enable companies to remain competitive, it is now required for those that want to remain relevant. Radical customer centricity will require an investment in the #ReOrg of company governance, structure and operational processes. As I’ve previously written, the #NewWayToWork requires new mindsets, methods and measures in order to not only survive, but to thrive. This sort of transformation requires vision and courage. The sort of courage Ford showed by investing in transforming itself prior to the economic downturn. The sort of vision and courage IBM has shown over the last several years in re-imagining and restructuring its entire business to be Future Strong. That sort of long term thinking is still missing across large swaths of our economy. Which is actually a great thing, because it represents an extraordinary, once-in-a-business-cycle opportunity.

As we begin to more closely understand the market dynamics of a connected society and its impact on the people within it, the most drastic shift comes in how we perceive, create and measure value. In this emergent, “collaborative economy” (or whatever you want to call it), the values of the company and the way it values people are two of the greatest competitive differentiators. Today we have new mechanisms for making visible previously intangible value on the balance sheets. As I posted in The Engagement Curve, companies should be looking beyond financial returns, to understand the additional value they receive from customer labor, data and the legends people share about their products and services.

It is my belief that the first companies to properly execute on this strategic #Reorg of their companies to embrace radical customer centricity will win not only in the short term, but over the long term. We are already seeing that a company which has real empathy for stakeholders, that designs great experiences and consistently delivers them, creates a level of customer loyalty that was previously unimaginable.

Why? Because the switching cost of what I call REAL Relationships are exponentially higher than transactional ones. “REAL” not only means genuine, but stands for Reciprocal, Empathetic, Authentic and Long lasting.

A zeitgeist moment for Customer Experience Design

The time has long past for CX Design to be the primary mechanism through which we understand, design and optimize a series of signature moments for marketing engagement to create a sense of REAL Relationships across an omni-channel customer journey. To transcend the idea of feeling successful after creating a sale through interruptive advertising techniques. Do you know anyone who enjoys being interrupted? Of course, we still do it, we have to – after all spam is still here because it works, at a sufficient, justifiable cost scale whereas it still generates reasonable or sometime exponential profit. But that doesn’t make it right, nor does it mean past success will continue to equal future success.

CX has actually been around a long time, decades it seems. It existed long before I thought I had first discovered it when I was Chief of eBusiness at the U.S. Mint. Back then, I called it the customer experience lifecycle and it was predicated on insights I learned from Patty Seybold, Joseph Pine and being a regular reader of Fast Company magazine. So when I developed the engagement matrix in 2001 to support a broader framework beyond what we now call journey mapping, I had presumed it would only be a matter of years before someone enabled it via an integrated marketing platform. It had become pretty clear then that every organization needed tools to establish the context for delivering the right content at the right time to remove friction from the customer experience. But over a decade later, I continued to be disappointed.

At least I was – until May of this year when I saw the future the product team behind IBM Journey Designer had envisioned and seemingly built. Once again, I had hope that what we finally needed to do the right things in the right ways was finally in reach. Olivier Blanchard wrote the following at its public debut during IBM Amplify in May of 2015, in Did IBM Just Build the Marketing Management Solution We Have All Dreamed about?  

For myself personally, with the IBM Journey Designer I saw a new platform that would enable a truly holistic business strategy—a mindset and an approach for integrating all channels of customer communications, all touchpoints, managing an intentionally designed and optimized customer experience to differentiate the brand value in the mind and heart of the customer. To do that using knowledge, empathy and an emphasis on creating shared value. Wow. Finally.

This is why I believe more and more companies are already embracing the idea of radical customer centricity without actually calling it that. Not only do we have new products to make the process simpler like Journey Designer and We also have books like Brian Solis’ X – The Experience When Business Meets Design. Right now we are experiencing a zeitgeist moment. More and more organizations are applying design thinking to all aspects of their business. We have more companies investing more dollars in post-sales communications with customers than ever before.

Certainly, as we have continuously advanced in my Blab series #CXDNow, the time for Customer Experience Design is now! So get to it. Figure out what radical customer centricity means for you, embrace greater empathy, intentionally design your customer’s journey and find the way to continuously improve it through a never ending customer feedback loop.

I hope you are able to join us on this journey. Not only for your benefit, but for the benefit of all your stakeholders and the market at large.

Meet IBM Journey Designer: Design and refine your marketing across channels to give your customers the experiences they deserve at no cost. This IBM Marketing Cloud innovation enables teams to collaboratively visualize journeys, set shared marketing goals, and create and refine tailored experiences for dozens of priority segments. Sign up today at

Also follow #NewWayToEngage on Twitter to hear more from Chris Heuer @chrisheuer and other influencers as we tackle the future of commerce together.


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