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Enabling a Customer-Focused Organization
Thought Leadership Summit
on Digital Strategies

September 9, 2003 - South Bend, IN
hosted by Whirlpool Corporation

What does it mean to be customer focused? How do you engender customer-centricity in a corporation?

Press Release
PDF (12K)

PDF (6K)

List of participants
PDF (8K)

Discussion Guide
PDF (14K)


Overview article
PDF (2005K)

With the economy showing new signs of life, growth is again becoming a focus for senior executives. Revenue growth requires expanding the customer base or increasing the revenue generated by each customer. In either case, building customer loyalty is critical. The care and feeding of the customer is therefore of ongoing, indeed increasing, concern for all companies. Meeting this challenge requires a focus on the customer that comes from all areas of the enterprise, and an increased customer intimacy. At the same time, privacy and trust issues regarding customer data are emerging, along with concerns of the impact of any perceived "violations" on brand image, and brand loyalty seems harder than ever to hold.

Understanding what it means to have a customer-focused organization and how to enable that focus was the topic of the fifth Thought Leadership Summit on Digital Strategies, hosted by Whirlpool Corporation in South Bend, IN. CIOs and other senior executives from a number of Fortune 250 companies including Cargill, Cisco Systems, Colgate Palmolive, Eaton, Hewlett-Packard, Lowe's, Owens Corning, Staples, and Whirlpool participated in this roundtable forum, together with a select group of senior academics specializing in the subject matter. Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes, was the moderator and together with his co-moderator, John Marshall of Digitas, wrapped up a successful and interesting day of dialogue.

Much of the discussion revolved around how to create the right environment for fostering customer-centricity. Here are some key learnings from the summit that CIOs and senior executives should keep in mind as they address customer-focus in their own organizations:

  • Having a transactional view of the customer is not enough - organizations must develop the capability to see the customer as a whole, understanding the complete customer lifecycle, with a firm grasp on the actual and potential touch points.
  • In-depth human insights into customer systems are as important as hard customer data - in fact, they are essential to making sense of the large amounts of quantitative data.
  • Customer focus requires a bias for action: quick process wins, customer responsiveness and executive engagement all rooted in clear understanding of the business and the customer at each level.
  • Customer centricity must become part of the DNA of a company, communicated through the vision and passion of the leadership and imbued in the incentives and metrics of each employee - it can't be just another program.
  • Value-chain interactions should be examined through the eyes of the end-customer - this is the point of unification and the driver of sustainable (profitable) customer-centricity for all points in the chain.

To link to the Thought Leadership Summit on Digital Strategies website, click here.