Skip to Content
Customer Engagement

What Does It Really Mean To Be a Customer-Centric Company?

Many companies describe themselves as "customer-centric" – but are they? Bob Evans of Cloud Wars reveals why they need to be, now more than ever.

Woman using a smartphone to make a credit card purchase with an online customer-centric company
Customer-centric companies make it easy for their customers to engage with them on their preferred channels. [Tirachard Kumtanom/Shutterstock]

It’s not unusual these days to order something online and have it show up the next day — or even the same day. Some companies have gotten so good at making shopping easy, quick, and personalized that it’s hard not to turn to them for every single thing I need. A customer-centric company like this really understands how to create great experiences, but after years of covering enterprise tech businesses as editor in chief of Cloud Wars, it still baffles me how this isn’t common among many organizations.

The great paradox of our data-crammed world is that while many organizations describe themselves as customer-centric companies, consumer research continues to reveal widespread dissatisfaction with how companies treat them. Despite companies having more data about customers than ever before and as they deploy new digital engagement models to keep up with the rising expectations and demands, many of them leave customers wanting more. These subpar experiences are happening at a time when buyers have more choices, more knowledge, and easier access to alternative sellers than ever before. With so much at stake, why aren’t companies doing everything possible to create lifelong loyalty?

The good news, according to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer research study, is that with the help of modern tools that enable 360-degree views of customers and their expectations, companies can build better experiences:

  • 52% of companies fall short of customer expectations, generally because of fragmented service interactions;
  • 91% of respondents say a positive customer service experience makes another purchase not only possible but more likely;
  • 78% say that if the result of a mistake is excellent service focused on solving the problem, all will be forgiven; and
  • 79% say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.

What’s holding companies back from giving customers the experiences they want?

What’s holding companies back from cultivating great experiences? I’ve got a few theories to offer. And while the bad news about these theories is that they’re all deep-seated issues that will only get worse over time if not addressed, the good news is that they can all be fixed. The solutions require a blend of discipline, innovation, culture shock, and modern technology. But above all, they require unwavering leadership from a C-suite that fully understands that reimagining their businesses will be difficult and at times painful, but doing nothing and seeing their customers flock to more future-proofed competitors would be much worse. Based on conversations I’ve had with leaders across every industry, here are some barriers getting in the way of progress:

  • Siloed front, middle, and back offices that thwart end-to-end visibility;
  • Backward-looking business intelligence that can’t help shape the future;
  • Legacy tools that were never intended to handle today’s challenges;
  • Static workflows locked in the past and unable to adapt to the future; and
  • Compliance and regulatory issues that serve as sand in the vaseline.

These obstacles to true customer centricity are remnants of the old ways of doing business and today hold back companies that want to move faster and work smarter. As I look at those challenges and analyze the new approaches companies need to adopt to create their digital futures, I become more convinced that the technology solution is industry clouds.

Industry clouds will power customer-centric companies

From the launch pad of the enterprise cloud, the booster rocket into the digital future will be industry clouds with purpose-built best practices and data models specifically configured for the industries and companies they serve. For all their functional capabilities, perhaps the biggest value industry clouds offer is their role as reimagination machines: helping businesses conceive new business models, revenue models, engagement models, product-development models, and more.

Industry clouds open up new opportunities for businesses to move faster by bringing customers into the product-development process … to refine not only what a company makes but also how it makes it.

The major cloud vendors are responding to these opportunities with an urgency that’s unlike anything I’ve seen across my three decades of analyzing the tech business. That’s because they know that while their customers are willing and eager to move into the world of customer-centric digital business, willing hearts are not enough — they need breakthrough modern technologies like industry clouds that help them understand the wants and needs of not only their customers but also their customers’ customers. And that’s where the magic comes in.

Industry clouds provide new opportunities

Industry clouds open up new opportunities for businesses to move faster by bringing customers more deeply into the product-development process and using the insights those customers share to refine not only what a company makes but also how it makes it, where it makes it, and how the product is sold, serviced, and experienced.

Industry clouds will forever change how business is conducted. Companies will gain the ability to move faster than ever before.

This is the magic that enables industry clouds to help businesses not only accelerate but also unleash customer-centric innovation on an end-to-end basis across every facet of their operations. This is the magic that opens the door to deep and intimate customer relationships essential for compelling customer experiences.

And as these capabilities unfold, businesses move from the developmental phase of digital transformation to the enlightened and customer-centric realm of digital business, enabling digital-first relationships with every part of an organization. Four unique elements make this possible:

  • Artificial intelligence (AI)-driven reimagination to allow companies to move as fast as the world around them;
  • Intelligent digital-first engagement to give customers full control over where and how they engage;
  • Industry insights and data to allow businesses to benchmark their performance; and
  • Embedded values to help companies share and extend their success with their stakeholder communities.

A new way to conduct business

I believe industry clouds will forever change how business is conducted. Companies will gain the ability to move faster than ever before with levels of customer- and market-driven intelligence far beyond what they’ve had in the past. At the same time, customers will have unprecedented opportunities to forge the types of relationships they want with the brands that win their trust, and that can deliver experiences that delight rather than disappoint. That combination, made possible by industry clouds, will rapidly become the defining standard of a truly customer-centric company.

Hear customers share stories about how technology is helping them reimagine their businesses at Salesforce’s Industries Summit.

Related Stories


Get the latest stories from The 360 Blog, every week.

Get the latest stories from The 360 Blog, every week.

Enter a valid e-mail address
Select your Country
Select a state
Please read and agree to the Master Subscription Agreement

Yes, I would like to receive the Salesforce Weekly Brief as well as marketing communications regarding Salesforce products, services, and events. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Salesforce values your privacy. To learn more, visit our Privacy Statement.