Digital acceleration has significantly increased customer and citizen expectations, and governments and businesses alike are trying to keep pace. While organizations in Canada identify improving the customer and citizen experience as a top priority (2023 CGI Voice of Our Clients), engaging clients and citizens is much more than implementing isolated initiatives like updating a digital interface, conducting some user testing, or journey mapping. It requires a comprehensive approach that prioritizes customers' needs, preferences, and satisfaction throughout all aspects of the business or government service.
In other words, organizations and governments need to become customer-centric. But why do so many companies struggle to get customer centricity right?
A burning issue
Customer centricity is a hot topic right now: 77% of businesses understand that the customer experience (CX) is a key competitive differentiator and want to get on board. But many still don’t appreciate that improving the customer and citizen experience involves a fundamental change in the way they operate their businesses or services. Indeed, creating customer-centric interfaces or citizen services is more complicated and takes more time and effort than some may expect.
The five essentials
Establishing a customer-centric focus in an organization happens from the ground up and involves employees, processes, tools, culture, and clients. Here are five critical steps to achieving tangible results.
- Governance and alignment
Creating a customer-centric culture concerns everyone in the organization. The first step is to assemble a CX group of colleagues and new hires who understand the project and the principles of customer centricity. This CX team is the incubator for the strong internal governance group who will be critical to moving things forward and setting up the governance structure that will oversee and evaluate the ongoing progress of new initiatives.
For example, the work we did to transform the client journey for a large provincial health agency started with onboarding members from existing teams in client-facing roles. This group soon evolved into a structured Innovation and Customer Culture department, helping define mission goals, guiding the transformation, and encouraging participation from across the organization.
- Change and culture
Changing the mindset in an organization is always challenging. Updating and replacing well-worn processes and procedures can impact all areas of a business or government service. A critical part of the transformation process—maybe the most critical—involves helping colleagues transition away from old processes and adjust to new ones.
The goal is also to create a sense of mission and meaning across the organization around the new changes. Any cultural shift can be complex and delicate, and we often underestimate the work and effort required to make it happen. Service and experience design leaders must remember that in every organization, there will be people who will be resistant and even upset enough to jump ship. Big changes will incur a cost, and ultimately, organizations must be comfortable with that possibility.
The work of transforming into a customer-centric organization involves everyone in the business or government service. Therefore, cross-functional collaboration and communication are critically important.
Finding partners from different departments and areas of expertise helps ensure that customer centricity is embedded into the fabric of the organizational change. In addition to sponsorship by the organization's leaders, essential roles are played by the technical specialists creating services and by those who might not see themselves as directly implicated in shaping the customer journey. When it comes to highly-regulated sectors such as banking or government, getting buy-in from a legal department that oversees privacy and regulatory mandates can make or break a project. Regulatory concerns will often play an important role in shaping any design-related solutions.
- Seeking help
There are many moving parts to creating a citizen- or customer-centric culture and user experience. The challenges are technical, organizational, and cultural, and they are typically too complex to be dealt with by internal teams. An outside perspective puts a fresh set of eyes on a new set of challenges. Our work with the City of Lethbridge is an excellent example. The City was seeking guidance on how to best leverage technology and innovation to reinvent how they operate, deliver their services, and achieve their objectives. CGI served as a partner, helping reshape the City’s digital offerings to deliver effective citizen-centric services to the community.
Do your research and learn from the work of others. Explore what competitors or other communities are doing to address customer or citizen needs and improve end-user engagement. Instead of reinventing the wheel, explore tested and readily available solutions.
Implementing a customer-centric culture can feel daunting. The goals are often complex, and like other kinds of organizational change, many moving parts and stakeholders must align. Your chances of overcoming these challenges improve when you can clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of a new approach. That is why we often recommend that customer-centric teams start by tackling more straightforward projects where they can demonstrate the power and strength of key principles. Start by targeting small, singular, achievable goals, then work your way from there.
In conclusion, fostering a customer-centric mindset is an ongoing process that needs to become an integral part of an organization’s DNA to be effective. By carefully managing expectations, defining a CX strategy, and prioritizing solutions, a customer-centric culture and a meaningful end-user experience can positively transform the relationship between organizations and their clients. However, it’s important to remember that improving the service experience is never just a design problem: it is something that must be embedded throughout all parts of an organization.
Our Experience and Service Design expertise
Across industries, we have applied our experience and service design expertise to bring a more customer-focused approach to the clients we work with. Our human-centric approach puts people first and focuses on everything around them. We focus on designing the experience but also the service, thinking about what will have to be implemented to reach an optimal experience, whether the main actor is a customer, a citizen, or an employee.