It’s no secret that organizations today face unprecedented challenges and leaders, including marketing executives, are under pressure to deliver growth and think beyond the confines of their particular function. Jay Weiser from the Weiser Strategy Group, whose career in business strategy consulting has led him to work with top leaders across multiple industries, has seen businesses succeed and fail in their effort to keep pace. “With near-constant change and disruption, leaders and their organizations must recognize that stability is a relic of the past and what differentiated in the past isn’t adequate for the future,” he said. Here are ten concepts to help you think about cross-functional alignment and delivering an exceptional customer experience in your business:
Stability is dead. In a business landscape now characterized by constant change, companies and leaders who “wait for the dust to settle” will be left in that same dust by competitors. "Understanding context is key to change,” Weiser said. “Industries are being disrupted. Customers are now better informed than company salespeople. Competitors are more aggressive."
The future belongs to the nimble. “Companies who are prepared, ready, and able to act have a significant advantage over those who are not,” he noted. “They can bounce back from disruptions faster and pounce on opportunities quicker. Conversely, those who are not, often do not bounce back and miss opportunities.”
Dynamic stability is the key. Weiser calls “dynamic stability” the key to the future. “Flying a helicopter is a great example of dynamic stability,” he proposed. “Helicopter pilots maintain constant awareness of changes in the environment and actively and frequently adjust the controls to hover or fly to where they want.” Leaders and their organizations need the same capabilities to guide and manage their companies. “There is no other way to fly a helicopter successfully and the same goes for leading and managing a business into the future.”
Customer-centricity is now table stakes. "Even before it became trendy to talk about customer experience or customer engagement, many successful companies were already putting those concepts into practice,” observed Weiser. “While it used to be a differentiating choice, now it is a necessary requirement." Customers in the past put up with a lot of cost, inconvenience, and opacity in their buying choices. “Now, power has shifted to the customer,” he continued. “They know more and have more choices. Now it’s imperative that companies quickly resolve these business issues or face, possibly irreversible, consequences to their businesses. “
Your metrics might be holding you back. “A new CEO at a well-known national grocery chain recognized that the chain was not consistently delivering on their long-held and core brand promise of superior customer service,” Weiser recalled. “He quickly realized that one of their main metrics of success, items per labor-hour (a productivity/efficiency measure) disincentivized management from encouraging customer-centric behaviors and investing in customer service like training. De-emphasizing this metric and raising the importance of key customer service metrics helped them pull ahead of competition and achieve better than peer financial results.” It’s time to review how you are measuring your success and ensure that it aligns with the things upon which your customer is measuring your performance.
Tomorrow’s customer might not have a voice in your decision making processes today. “Organizations need to see and consider the need to change earlier, even if it puts some of their present business at risk,” he proposed. “One company I worked with had built a very successful company based on their website.” Salespeople and some leaders were asking for a mobile solution saying that is what customers will want. Management response was that current customers were using and valuing the desktop solution. “Our desktop solution is what makes the company money,” they said. “We don’t know how to do it on a mobile device.” In reality, the customer of the future might not have a seat at the table yet, but should and if they did they certainly don’t care much about how you make money today.
Talk is cheap. Alignment is hard. "Being aligned for or talking about customer-centricity is not enough,” Weiser claimed. “Functions like Marketing, Sales, IT, Finance, and HR need to collaborate and act in an integrated manner to successfully to improve customer experience, increase customer engagement, and drive growth and employee engagement and experience.” To be successful, strategy execution must be a team sport.
Functional excellence is the ball-hogging of business. Weiser recounted that recently too long a CMO at an executive team strategic planning session said his departmental goal is to “build a world-class marketing organization, recognized by the industry.” The CEO pounded the table and said in colorful language that he didn't care about building a world-class department or being recognized by the industry, but rather he wanted to know how the CMO and the marketing department was going to help him grow their business. This is true of any function. Prioritizing functional excellence can undermine overall customer centricity.
C-level leadership needs to coach a new game. "Watching cross-functional leadership mature is like watching children learning to play soccer,” he offered. “At first, they just are amazed at how far the ball goes when kicked. Then they start playing in parallel they all chase the ball.” Which in itself is an early form of alignment. “Then there is some role differentiation and ultimately the most successful teams are the ones that will play as a team, passing the ball and actively assisting each other.” This is accomplished because players learn not only how to play, but more importantly how and why to play together and to keep score. “Not by the number of points they score individually or minutes of playing time, but by how the team performs overall," he concluded.
Change has a cost, but it might be less than you think. "When considering whether to change, organizations need to ask themselves and seriously consider the risk and cost of doing nothing,” Weiser reminded. “Leaders most often over-estimate the cost or risk involved in changing and under-estimate or do not account for the impact of not changing." Whether the change is an adaptation of success metrics, a delegation of decision making, or a strategic pivot, consider the cost of grasping to the illusion of stability.
Achieving dynamic stability provides a chance for your organization to satisfy the customers of today and tomorrow and become the positive disruptor of the customer experience in your industry.
— — —
This article was originally published on Forbes.com.