Customer centricity means that the business revolves around its customers.  They make sure that decisions actually help their customers.  They make sure that customers know what is happening in the business and are part of decisions.  They make sure that the employees (at all levels) always have their eyes on the customers and are not looking over their shoulder to make sure another employee or department is running ahead of them.  In addition to aligning unit and individual goals (as discussed in my last post), it is critical that people work together to achieve corporate goals and objectives. – If not they will be looking sideways instead of forward.

How to learn about different parts of your company

If you are ready to broaden your knowledge about how your company actually works you must immerse yourself in parts of the business that are “outside your comfort zone.”  This means that meeting and talking with executives from other areas will be useful but will not get you to really understand the challenges and issues your peers face.  The two ways that come to my mind are:

  1. Exchange jobs inside your company for at least six straight months
  2. Works intensely with peers on cross-functional teams

Personally, I like the idea of swapping jobs for six months to a year but, if I were your manager, I would have a very hard time supporting the idea.  I know that organizations are skinny and that losing an experienced employee and getting a rookie (in my area) would not sit well.  There would be a big knowledge gap that I would try to fill by reaching out to you and that would defeat the whole idea.  And, of course, I would be fearful that your new boss would have the same issues with the person I gained.

Why cross-functional teams are important

The goal of becoming a customer centric company is to make sure your customers are considered when making all-important decisions. But, since most decisions have to go outside any single silo, if the people making the decision either do not understand the capabilities and limitations of other groups or do not have good contacts in the other groups who can offer guidance, then the decisions will usually be sub-optimal.  Being part of an important cross-functional team solves both problems.

How the team should work

Lets assume that you have been selected to represent your department (customer support) on a cross-functional team being sponsored by the SVP of Sales and headed-up by a marketing director.  The team’s objective is to recommend ways to reduce customer churn, in support of the corporate goal of achieving a 10% year-over-year growth.  When you learn about the objective and sponsor, you say to yourself “OMG, this is really important. Somebody must think highly of me.”  And, of course, you are correct.

As the team starts to bond, you start learning about the other team members, talk about their professional issues, discuss how you can work together after the team disbands, and, in general, form a small networking group.  As you dive into possible ways to reduce churn, you get an opportunity to see the kinds of data that other groups collect and you think about how you can link their data with yours to gain new insights.  And as you prepare your recommendations, you see how other people frame their arguments to be very persuasive.

After the team makes its recommendations

This is where the fun starts.  You share your experience with your colleagues and they start to learn more about the company.  They start looking at problems they are working to solve and say things like “if only I had data about X, I could really come to a great conclusion.”  You then introduce her to one of your new friends and the two start to collaborate on a novel approach.  And the whole thing just keeps replaying.

Also, when you need some serious advice, you can reach out to the SVP Sales or the Marketing Director and when they need some Customer Support insight, they reach out to you.  As this cooperative attitude spreads throughout the company, everyone suddenly finds that cooperation is the rule and not the exception.  And, customer satisfaction scores start trending upwards.
In summary, working on cross-functional teams is an all around winner.  Give it a try!