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Radical customer focus: Afternoon Seminar led by Steven van Belleghem

It is clear that we are becoming increasingly digital in our interactions with one another. In Steven van Belleghem’s view, it could even be described as a sixth sense. During the IG&H Afternoon Seminar on 2 June 2016, on the subject of Radical Customer Focus, Steven van Belleghem showed us what we can expect from now on: from virtual reality glasses to smartwatches, and from smart chips to nanobots in our bloodstream.

The pace of change is fast. It is already no longer ‘digital first’ but ‘mobile first’. Take Zalando, for example, where 56% of the turnover comes from orders placed on mobile devices. The figures for Netflix also show that 40% of users are using mobile streaming. The impact of mobile is huge and growing! Over the next year, said Steven, the offline world will become completely digital. As we speak, we are already in the final phase of the digital cycle and entering a new cycle: artificial intelligence. Because computers can learn very quickly! He briefly showed examples from Amazon Echo and DeepMind. But how can you apply this now in your day-to-day operations? What’s the best way to retain customers in this cyber world and how can you structure your business accordingly? By having a radical customer focus!

To be able to operate with a radical customer focus, the entire organisation needs to be designed around the customer. To do this it is essential that the relationship with both customers and staff is based on trust rather than control. It requires a different way of managing and operating and – in many cases – a new culture. But you can also start small, a radical customer focus often lies in the details. For example, a window cleaning firm in America had its cleaners dress up as superheroes to wash the windows of a large children’s hospital. A small investment in itself, but one which had a huge impact on the customer, and certainly on the patients and visitors.

Steven van Belleghem has identified four ‘building blocks’ which hold the key to ensuring that your future radical customer focus is successful. They are easy to understand and apply, even in your organisation:

1) Angry Bird: which means that the intervention must work quickly, be easy to do and fun. People are no longer attached to ‘brands’ but look for ‘interfaces’.

2) Back office: In reality, it no longer exists. These people also work for the end customer and therefore, in essence, have become front office. Make every member of staff responsible for a radical customer focus and soon you will be hearing great new ideas!

3) Autonomous front office: Give the people working in customer service the freedom to make their own decisions. On average, satisfied customers will become very satisfied customers (and promoters), while employee satisfaction will also grow because staff can make their own decisions.

4) Pay policy: Link it to customer satisfaction. When you reward your staff on the basis of an NPS or customer satisfaction score, they start thinking from the point of view of the customer’s needs and act accordingly. When you concentrate only on rewarding short-term sales results, said Van Belleghem, then you are not really serious about being customer-focused.

With all this fresh in our minds, the group took part in an interactive session. We were generally in agreement with one another on most of Van Belleghem’s points, but the discussion was no less animated for that. The statement that ‘Customer retention is the holy grail of the future’ prompted varying.


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