How to Thrive in a Customer-Centric Economy


Who owns the customer? This question might sound simple but the answer is really the crux of winning in the information age. Of course, sales will say originators own the customers because they are the front-line interface with consumers and referral sources and deliver the quality of the customer’s experience. On the other hand, marketing will say they own the customer because they generated the lead in the first place. If you ask other departments, they will say they own the customer because they close and service the transaction. The problem is that none of these groups owns the customer anymore. Why? Because we are living in an age where it truly is a customer-centric economy where consumers are demanding control over their information and relationships.

This new scenario is precarious because it means that customer loyalty can no longer be assumed. Just because a customer may have done business with an originator or their company before doesn’t mean they will continue to do so. This is a game-changer for everyone in mortgage banking. It also means that guarantees based on an originator’s past business volume are a very risky strategy since the likelihood of doing business with the customer again can change in a heartbeat. The research has shown that when originators leave their current lender, less than 50 percent of customers and referral sources will follow. So if the new lender is expecting an originator to generate $15 million in annual volume and paid for it, they are really getting $7.5 million. Obviously, the current branch buying strategy doesn’t make much sense with less than a 50 percent chance for success. Las Vegas would not take that bet!

What does make sense? It is clear today that sales and marketing alone do not own the customer anymore. According to Robert Tas in a recent Forbes magazine article, customers “want data, workflow and business processes across the enterprise—from digital marketing tools on the front-end to the customer device and operating core of the back-end of an enterprise— to be an end-to-end perfect experience.”

How do you deliver a more perfect customer experience? Tas recommends four strategies:

  • Customer ownership starts at the top. The strategy of customer experience can’t be one department’s responsibility. All employees must be measured by specific customer relationship metrics. This strategy drives everything from who is hired to how they contribute to a perfect customer experience. This is top management’s responsibility.
  • Think first customer, not customer first. The concept might seem nuanced but it centers on treating the customer as if they were your company’s first customer. This is a very high standard of service delivery. This level of service requires a customer advocate who can keep the company honest.
  • Step outside of your own walls. All of the world’s best companies allow outside ideas to be part of their company strategy. Good consultants can be a management team’s best investment. One of the best companies at implementing this is General Electric who literally had the third floor in their executive building filled with consultants. GE is a master of measuring performance and revising and adapting to current market conditions with new ideas. I love their new Gen X marketing ads that make it cool to work for an industrial company. Banking should borrow a page from GE.
  • Listen to your own customers. The best companies require their senior managers (better yet all managers) to listen to customer calls each month. It might sound crazy but what customers are saying is invaluable and better than big data information alone. It seems so basic but how many corporate management teams require that monthly?

Are you ready for the challenges of 2016 especially regarding improving your customer experience? Call me to discuss how to generate the best possible results in the year ahead.