When you hear that buzzword, what is it that you think of? I bet you, you feel that it means that customer is KING. Yes, you are right but wait, HOW do you define KING?
If you are of the mindset that customer is king and you must jump when he says so and ask "how high?" I am sorry my friend but you are on the wrong track. This doesn't set up a beneficial collaborative relationship between you and your clients. It just set up the environment for disaster.
When I hear customer-centric, it reminds me of what Joshua Spodek stated in his article How to Pivot Like a Pro.
Joshua says: "... People don't buy products and services because you think they solve their problems. They pay for things because they think you'll solve their problems."
And that is what customer-centricity is all about. Making sure that you are listening to your customer/client and hearing what it is that they really need and positioning yourself to deliver the solution. Let me add, in a manner that is honest and true to yourself and to the client.
That last statement reminds me of a conversation I had with a client awhile back. I asked him, to the consternation of client services, to tell me what he wanted to hear and that is what I would tell him. These were his options:
A. I would tell him what he wanted to hear (launch everything on their list by x date) and he can smile now and cry later (when we could not deliver because the ask was too much,
B. I would tell him what the reality was on what we could deliver and how and he could be miffed now and really happy later when what we had promised is exactly what we delivered, bug-free and ON TIME; continuing to back-fill the rest of the content through phases 2 and 3.
With a sigh, he said to me, "Trish, tell me how this needs to proceed."
So, I told him in no uncertain terms what we would deliver and when and how we were going to move through the phases of his projects. All out in the open and just plain honest. I wanted to deliver quality work that would meet his highest priority objectives. He agreed We delivered. On time. Like I outlined. He was over the moon. Home run for our team.
Had I not positioned it as us solving his immediate issues and continuing to deliver ON TIME on the rest of the work in a fashion that would not kill our teams or have us deliver subpar work, this client partnership would have broken down and future business would not have been possible.
I understand that for many this is a change in mindset, a stepping out of your "comfort zone" if I may use that overused term. This 180 degree change from "YES-ING" a client's every whim to talking to them like adults; expecting them to react like adults creates collaboration beyond what you think is even possible. All it really takes is honesty, integrity, and maturity (Is that too much to ask? I think not). It might mean you practice some courage but you’ll get there.
The next time you go to talk to a client, listen very carefully to what they are saying, provide a prioritized solution that works for both of you, and move in the direction of creating TRUE customer-centric relationships not “bratty, whiny, agency will eventually fire client” ones. See this possibility, create the environment that will nurture this mindset. Trust you can do it and you will.
If you feel you need some support on creating this change in the way you think about client relationships or you feel your team needs assistance with this, don't hesitate to reach out. I am always glad to help (info at invivoclarity.com).