LEADERSHIP INSIGHTS

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Titus Wouda-Kuipers

Titus Wouda-Kuipers
Criticaleye

Loveday Ryder

Loveday Ryder
DVSA

Esther Duran

Esther Duran
Cognizant

Matthew Blagg

Matthew Blagg
Criticaleye

Almost every organisation reaches a point where there is a disconnect between what they provide and what their customers want. It’s up to the CEO to solve that problem by driving changes that get the training and internal structures right so that products and services are delivered in a way that makes sense for those who are buying them.  
 
In a poll conducted at Criticaleye’s CEO Forum, which was held in partnership with Cognizant, 38 percent of attendees said the biggest barrier to building true customer-centricity was skills and talent, followed by organisational structure (36 percent). 
 
Titus Wouda-Kuipers, Chair of Vilosophy, a start-up FMCG company and former CEO of Fontem Ventures, a consumer goods business set up as a subsidiary of Imperial Brands, comments that robust communication is vital in an organisation that wants to keep the customer at the heart of what it does. “You have to create a culture where you can share your thoughts in a critical way, and that you can be transparent about the mistakes that you have made, and the mistakes that others have made in a way that people do not feel offended,” said Titus, who is also a Board Mentor at Criticaleye.  
 
He continued: “Customer centricity sits in the ballpark of looking at business longevity. How do you create this on the one hand while creating an entrepreneurial mindset on the other? You have to consider who your customer actually is, both your current customer, and maybe a desired new customer.” 
 
Loveday Ryder, CEO of the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), outlined how her team is working towards being more customer centric, so that both the public and everyone throughout the organisation really align with this shift in mindset. “We've begun to do customer journey mapping for our key services. We're looking at the customer experience end-to-end,” she explained.   
 
This process included identifying pain points and areas for improvement along each stage of the customer journey, implementing strategies to streamline the experience, reduce friction and deliver a personalised approach. “The other part we’re sharpening is objectives and accountabilities, making each of the directors who are running the services accountable,” she said. 
 
In some ways, it’s part of a shift in mindset across the organisation. Loveday said: “I've made sure I've invested time in every single new joiner to the organisation, just making sure they understand customer principles.” 
 
Esther Duran, Chief Design and Product Officer at Zone, which was acquired by Cognizant, said: “Customer experience is nothing without employee experience. At the end of the day, your employees are your brand ambassadors, so you need to upskill them and make them part of this journey as well." 
 
If organisations are to improve how they connect and engage with customers, then effective analytics will be a key part of that process. Esther explained: “You may have a lot of data, but it's not about the quantity, it is about the quality of the data and how you digest it. This is how you really get to know your products and services; it’ll enable you to develop and evolve with changing customer behaviours.” 
 
In Criticaleye’s recently published Growth Company Research 2023, the number one priority for senior executive and non-executive directors over the next 12 months was greater customer focus. They also identified customers as the most challenging external stakeholders.  
 
Matthew Blagg, CEO of Criticaleye, commented: “One of the inescapable truths for businesses in a tough economic environment is that you have to stay close to your customer. Unfortunately, what some senior leadership teams and Boards are finding is that maybe they aren’t quite where they thought they were with their customers, and so a lot of work is now going into rebuilding that connectivity and trust which are so essential.” 
 
It comes back to having robust conversations at the top levels of the business. As Titus said: “In a digital environment, I look at how a Board is challenging definitions of performance and the KPIs of consumer centricity. It can’t just be from a theoretical perspective. The Board also needs to know what the product is and what the services are that you deliver to your customer.” 
 
In many ways, it comes back to the oldest of truths – there’s no substitute for talking to your customers and asking them what they think.  
 
The trick is to build an organisation that knows how to listen.  

Bridgette Hall, Senior Editor, Criticaleye & Arya Ghassemi, Content Intern, Criticaleye 

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