Customer-Centric or ‘Channel-Centric’: Knowing the Difference

January 13, 20206min

With the ongoing advances in digital media, I often see organisations claiming to be “customer-centric”, when in reality they are being channel-centric.

In the search for giving the best-in-class Customer Experience, do you understand the difference?

With a new decade upon us, it has never been more relevant to invest in a Customer First strategy. The objective is not only to attract more customers, but also to retain them for repeat purchases; we know that retaining existing customers is somewhere between five and 25 times more profitable than new customers (Amy Gallo, The value of keeping the right customers, HBR).

Many organisations are focussing on specific channels, or becoming omnichannel, which is driving their business activity and direction. It is important to remember that whilst these channels are built and designed to make their user interface easy, they may not match the objectives of your own organisation.

Online channels will heavily promote on-line transactions, whereas not every customer wants to interact that way and importantly, not every product can be sold that way. The important thing is to understand what your customer wants and not what the channel wants.

Three things I strongly recommend that you self reflect on are…

1. Get clear on what is the right mix of online and in-person experience for your situation

Having worked in retail now for more than two decades, I know that retail is not dead, despite the headlines.

Yes, it has evolved and now online plays an important part in the transaction. Look at how Argos and Next use their online presence in combination with their retail presence. Online is there to confirm availability or information about their purchase, but often a customer will complete the transaction in store.

Many of their customers are using a combination of channels and considering it a complete experience.

2. Seek out partners for mutual benefit

Consider everything outside of your organisation as a partnership opportunity – this includes the traditional and digital channels that will use.

It is true that many people, myself included, will buy things online from sites like Amazon, so instead of seeing them as a threat, consider what opportunities this can create for you. Next are taking in Costa Coffee shops, whilst Sainsbury’s and Argos are also working together.

They are seeking out partners, where each is sharing their offering and their audience for the mutual benefit of all. You can develop a referral scheme or a package scheme which will benefit your customers as well.

3. Value your customers’ time

If you think about it, every single innovation that has been successful has either been more ‘fun’ or has saved time. Netflix, for example, is not a technology disruptor – it just makes it easier for us to access movies from various devices.

Work out how you can save time for your customers; they did not come to your business to queue up to pay. They came to eat or they came to buy something.

How can you make this part of the transaction quicker and easier? If they buy online, they can select the products for their basket and pay and get on with their day.

So how can you replicate this in your business? This same thinking can be applied to the start of the process – can you propose to me what I usually buy, so I can even save time up front ordering?

This article has been about customer centricity and the message is for you to think about how can you configure your business to make your customers lives easier. As you get into this new year, and new decade, see what changes you can bring to your strategy and delivery in order to reduce the friction your customer feels.

Do this, and you will see a disproportionate increase in your numbers.


Naeem Arif

Naeem Arif

Naeem Arif is a highly experienced customer-centric leader and the founder of NA Consulting.




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