Customer Analytics

The Value of Focusing on Customer Centricity

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One competitive factor that is defining our popular products and services today is personalization. Across all elegantly designed consumer device, AI and cloud-based apps fill our screens with top picks across channels based on our preferences. Customer centricity is winning the day.

Discriminant analysis of the largest ever IBM Global C-suite study reveals that one factor, more than any other distinguishes the market leaders – the “re-inventors” – from other organizations, it is the capacity to use data to identify unmet customer needs. Eight out of 10 re-inventors report they’re very effective at uncovering new or unmet customer needs.

As design thinkers, re-inventors are always on the hunt for new clues that reveal customer needs. Over one-quarter of re-inventors turn to artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and cognitive solutions to better understand customers and improve the customer experience.

Personalized experiences that make products or services irresistible come from organizations with an inherent empathy for their customers. But they are also acutely aware of the relationship between their employees’ experience and their customers’ experience.

People Skills Rising

IBM, in cooperation with Oxford Economics, surveyed over 12,800 CxOs on which external forces they think will impact them the most in the next two to three years. Market factors, technological factors and people skills were a very close top three.

A longitudinal analysis of 13 years of C-suite Studies shows the rise and fall of “people skills” as a factor of importance to organizations.

Previously, people skills often focused on skills gaps, especially in technological skills. While this remains important, executives now think about skills gaps in a broader way. Investing in talent and developing the skills of management were recurrent themes. Now more than ever, developing talent by restructuring work and culture in new ways is top of mind to keep retention high.

Open and Agile

One differentiating factor for the re-inventors is their focus on culture and remaining nimble. 70 percent of re-inventors said they have both an open culture and agile operations, leading by a large margin in a few crucial ways. The following characteristics define them.

Open culture:

  • Leaders actively solicit input from employees to develop new ideas and approaches
  • Teams are empowered to decide the best course of action
  • Leadership promotes collaboration and knowledge sharing across the business

Agile operations:

  • Invests in continuous employee skills improvement
  • Has the right network of partners, suppliers and distributors
  • Equally rewards fast failure and successful innovation
  • Has the required people skills and resources to execute the business strategy
  • Business processes are optimized to support the business strategy
  • Has adopted a fluid work structure built on cross-functional teams

It is no coincidence that re-inventors are also better at using data to uncover unmet customer needs, integrating customer feedback into their planning and design processes and are very effective at creating detailed customer journey maps than their peers. This enables them to spot crucial fixes to solve customer pain points and deliver superior experiences to keep customers coming back.

Re-inventors are also good at moving with the times. They actively scan their environment, which includes analyzing partners and even competitors, and think of themselves as constantly evolving machines.

While market factors were key to the C-Suite’s concerns, they pay close attention to people skills and have restructured their organizations, including their cultures, to encourage experimentation and bring new ideas to the fore.

The incumbent’s ability to seize this opportunity—to hold onto a marketplace position, and grow and sustain it for the long term — is wholly dependent on two things. While future leaders’ abilities to harness the exponential access to data is important, transformed internal cultures and capabilities that foster innovation and creative thinking as equally so.



Affiliate Professor of Marketing at INSEAD

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