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Retailers regard ‘customer centricity’ as increasingly vital, but haven’t made much progress with implementing it, new survey finds

Retailers regard customer centricity as increasingly vital, but havent made much progress with implementing it, new survey finds


Customer centricity is seen as more and more vital in the battle to win and retain increasingly savvy customers, according to a survey of leading UK retailers.


The survey nonetheless found that, while customer centricity is emerging as a critical differentiator, not many retailers regard themselves as having progressed very far on the route towards a truly customer-centric approach; rather they see themselves as on a journey, in comparatively virgin territory, which is essential if they are to thrive in a digital, multichannel age.


The survey, Customer centricity: the changing dynamics of serving your customers, was conducted by retail market researcher, Martec International on behalf of business and IT consultancy, Charteris, specialist consultants in customer-centric business change.


Putting the customer at the centre


Charteris defines customer centricity as the process of ensuring that every individual and department within an organisation is taking every step feasible to add value to what the organisation does for its customers. And the term is increasingly being widely used to describe this process.


The survey found that, while 100% of respondents regard customer centricity as a vital part of their future strategy, their individual capabilities to deliver it are still only emerging. Only 53% of those surveyed considered their organisation to be customer-centric, while 63% said that their board would not, if asked, produce a single, consistent definition of what customer centricity means.


The survey suggested that in this may lie the paradox of this latest retail concept. The emergence of customer centricity is generating huge interest, but few retailers claim to have developed an effective set of tools and methods for executing it and are still unclear about how best to embrace it as a strategy. For example, a significant proportion of those surveyed (up to one third) had no means of measuring, or do not in fact measure, what added value their key processes in marketing, operations, logistics or buying and merchandising deliver to the end customer.


Re-prioritising decision-making processes


Commenting on the surveys findings, Shaun Wills, finance director at fashion retailer Fat Face, said: Fat Face has always considered itself a customer-focused business, but this report acts as an interesting catalyst, prompting thought and discussion about whether we truly put the customer experience at the centre of every decision we make. It has provoked me to consider how other retail businesses are utilising customer-centric tools to enhance the overall appeal of the retailer to the customer, and how our business should learn from that to influence our evolving strategies.


Based on in-depth interviews with senior executives from 40 major UK retailers the survey covered 38 percent of the UK retail market by turnover and represented the views of companies whose sales exceed 135 billion.


Stephen Hewett, head of customer-centric business change at Charteris, added:

The survey shows that, while retailers are now collectively recognising the crucial importance of a customer-centric approach as opposed to product-centric, which has often been their main focus until now individually they are still developing their understanding and learning of customer centricity. It presents a dilemma to retailers. The very essence of their business has always been customer service, and offering customers what retailers see as the right kind of product ranges at the right prices. But the point is that customer centricity goes far beyond these traditional retailing skills.