If there’s one lesson that the ongoing PPI scandal has hammered home to our colleagues in the banking industry, it’s that product-focused selling doesn’t work. Engineering the sale of something that the customer doesn’t need, and ultimately doesn’t want, is a sure-fire way of damaging both the relationship and the organisation’s reputation.

Customer-centricity is proven to drive longer term sales and one of our largest, most-valued customers have recently restructured their entire organisation to position customers firmly at the heart of what they do. They recognised that, where account managers tasked with selling only their particular service or offering were the primary customer interface, short-term sales wins were soon outweighed by a longer term erosion of the relationship. The “single customer view” – a thorough and detailed understanding of his business, its strategy and its requirements – simply didn’t and couldn’t exist and, without that, the customer-experience suffered.

Their journey inspired us to focus on, and modify our own approach. In doing so we came to realise that rather than just simply an emphasis on service, customer-centricity required a much greater analysis, understanding and fine-tuning of our product portfolio and working practices. Not as easy a shift as we might first have thought!

To assist we looked to the research from Dunnhumby, the leading customer science company. Their work, most notably in retail and including their Customer Centricity Index (CCI), had identified the “Seven Pillars” or seven primary business areas believed to be critical to achieving this customer Nirvana. Adapting these to the financial services market in which we operate gave us the following markers and goals:-

  • Experience – making the customer experience an overwhelmingly positive one
  • Loyalty – recognising returning customers and rewarding them in a consistent and meaningful way
  • Communications – providing tailored, personalised and relevant communications based on their preferences
  • Assortment – having a portfolio of products and services that meet their needs Promotions – promoting those which are applicable and of value, if and when they are appropriate
  • Price – focusing on fair pricing and good value
  • Feedback – asking for feedback and engaging in a 2-way conversation with customers

We may not be wholly there yet but our goal is set and simple. Keeping the customer as our axis drives all of our business decisions and means that profit becomes a natural consequence, rather than the primary driving force, behind what we do.

Mark Picken, Managing Director, Shire Leasing PLC