Podcast image with Debbie Qaqish's headshot and the title, "Episode 27, Season 2 Building a Customer-Centric Approach in B2B" written on it.
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CX Decoded Podcast: Building a Customer-Centric Approach in B2B

34 minute read
Rich Hein avatar
Debbie Qaqish catches up with CX Decoded to discuss B2B marketing best practices and trends.

View all the CX Decoded podcast episodes.

In 2021, 44.5% of organizations worldwide revealed that they perceive customer experience (CX) as a primary competitive differentiator. But are they really customer-centric? Are they building out experiences with that central focus on customers?

Dr. Debbie Qaqish watches these company trends in how they treat customer experience closely. The principal and chief strategy officer with the Pedowitz Group authored the book From Backroom To Boardroom: Earn Your Seat With Strategic Marketing Operations. She helps companies reimagine and rearchitect the role of marketing to drive revenue, growth, customer centricity and digital transformation.

Dr. Qaqish lays claim to the term “revenue marketing” in 2011 and six years ago, she shifted her focus to marketing operations as the enabler for how marketing gains that seat at the table.

CX Decoded Podcast co-hosts Rich Hein, CMSWire editor-in-chief, and Dom Nicastro, CMSWire managing editor, caught up with Dr. Qaqish to discuss customer centricity in the latest edition of CX Decoded.  

Episode Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited for space and clarity.  

Rich Hein: As always, I'm joined by my co-host and colleague, Dom Nicastro, CMSWire's managing editor. How are you doing today Dom?

Dom Nicastro: I'm doing well, Rich, great to be here once again on CX Decoded. And I want to waste no time getting to our guest here.

So let's do our guest rapid fire. What do you think?

Rich: Yeah, I'm in, let's do it.

Dom: All right, cool. So who do we have here today, Rich?

Rich: Today we have with us Debbie Qaqish, principal and chief strategy officer with the Pedowitz Group.

Dom: Wonderful, and why is she here today with us?

Rich: Debbie has a lot of insight to share around customer-centricity and actually building that into your organization's culture. Debbie is going to share with us how brands can actually transform from being product-centric to being a customer-centric, and what the journey looks like.

Dom: Oh Rich, everyone's customer-centric, right? Well, at least everyone says they are.

And isn't that true? Debbie? How're you doing?

Debbie Qaqish: Hey, good. I'm fine. Nice to be with you guys today.

Roots in Marketing Technology

Dom: Excellent. Thanks for joining us here on CX Decoded.

So we'd love to educate our listeners a little bit about you first, versus getting deep into the topic right away. You know, tell us about your team, you know how you arrived there at the Pedowitz Group and what you're doing?

Debbie: Okay, great. I am actually one of the partners at the Pedowitz Group. And, interestingly, I met my business partner, probably around 2004. At that time, I was implementing Eloqua, and also putting in Salesforce. And the very first time I saw that technology, I thought, man, this is going to change marketing for ever. And I was client number 12 for Eloqua, didn't realize that. And from there, we started the company in 2007.

And I always tell people Rich and Dom, I have the best job in the world, because what I get to do as the chief strategy officer is go out and talk to marketers and find out what they're doing. And then I write about it. I publish. I create intellectual property around it. So I'm a student of the ever-changing role of marketing in corporate America.

And as a matter of fact, I got my doctorate degree in 2018. And that was my topic is how the B2B CMO is adopting financial accountability. And again, I've always been a student of what's changing in marketing. And I think there's probably not a better job on the face of the planet right now, if you like change and if you like innovation, than to be in marketing.

Related Article: The New Priorities of Next-Generation B2B Marketing

Where Marketing Is Innovating Right Now

Rich: We're going to talk about customer-centric culture. But you talked about innovation. What are you seeing as the most innovative things going on within marketing right now?

Debbie: You know, it's really interesting, we can take a look at a lot of stats that have come out of how things have changed because of the pandemic. And one of those stats that we see in a lot of different reports is how this focus on digital transformation has just become exacerbated; it's on steroids.

You know, statistics, prior to the pandemic, executives were saying digital transformation was important. Post-pandemic, it's the way you survive in the business world. And if you think about digital transformation in its purest form, marketing has been doing that before it was cool. Really, when marketing began to deploy sophisticated marketing automation systems, and began to track and look at and respond to customer behavior in a digital world, that was extraordinarily innovative.

And I just see that marketing continues to be on that cutting edge in innovation. And nowhere is it more important than how they interact with the customer. That is where we're seeing the best and most important, innovation is changing company business models. And marketing is at the forefront of that.

Related Article: Marketing in a Time of Crisis

Marketing Team Was Ready for Digital Onslaught

Dom: Yeah, Debbie, I wonder if you have any examples of some clients, obviously, you don't have to mention names if they didn't know give the stamp on giving a public story, but just in general, like, you know, one or two clients that really had to accelerate that digital full-speed ahead, March 2020. April, 2020. March 2020 was like what's happening again? In April and May, it's like, oh, OK, this is for real. We need to transform and transform yesterday. So any particular examples there?

Debbie: Absolutely. I was working with a pharmaceutical supply-chain technology company in Boston, in March of 2020. When we we were there for like 45 days. And so we were living up in Boston, because we had some rapid fire things that we needed to help transform in this company.

And we walked into the office, and they shut it down. And you know, we had to work remote for that client from there. But a very, very interesting example of how digital transformation and marketing leading is this company. This company had been very comfortable selling one product for a very long time. The sales team knew how to sell it, the marketing team knew how to market, and they had a lock in this one area of the market.

Well the CEO and their shareholders knew that this company could not grow. They could not grow exponentially with being a one-trick pony. So they decided to go to market with some new solutions; they had a very innovative framework that they were bringing to market. And this was pointed at new personas.

Well, the product team who was creating these new products, really did not have a good handle on who this new customer was. But because the marketing organization had a really sophisticated marketing automation system, they had a marketing ops organization that they put into play, they were able to do rapid testing, using LinkedIn ads, to test what messages resonated with these brand new stakeholders.

And within four months, it was the marketing team who know more about this new persona than any other part of the company. And now they began to inform the product team around what were the key messages, and what did these new personas in light of these new solutions really want? What were their pains and what were their challenges? So that's just one example.

Dom: Yeah, that's crazy how they had that model in place that worked. You know, it just simply worked. And then March 2020, came in and said, Okay, we have to make adjustments.

Debbie: Yeah, well, they were building that model as this happened. They had a new CMO who was brought on board to transform marketing in that organization. And so they were building that model, and they were able to use that model at just the right time in that organization.

Related Article: How COVID-19 Changed Marketing

Marketing's Top Priority: Working Relationship With Sales

Rich: So you talked about increased digital adoption. I'm curious to know what other marketing challenges that you saw your clients face over the past, what is it 25/26 months now?

Debbie: You know, one of the things that continuously just befuddles me, I just don't get it, is the No. 1 predictor of marketing success in being a critical member of the revenue team, and having credibility and helping an organization grow and contribute to shareholder value, is their working relationship with sales.

Guys, I never thought I'd be sitting here in 2022, and we still have the chasm as wide and as deep as ever, between the sales and marketing organization. And this is really important, because one of the things that we see when we come in to work with a client, sometimes we'll see marketing is trying to push an agenda around understanding the customer and the customer journey, but they're not bringing anybody else in the company along on that journey. And this really is a company challenge, not a marketing or a sales or a customer service challenge; it's the challenge that they all have.

And yet that chasm between sales and marketing, it really does a lot of damage into the progress that a marketing team can make to really help the company become customer-centric. So that is a big problem, even today.

When RevOps Comes Into the Picture

Rich: I mean, we talked about silos all the time, like you said, we've been talking about for seems like decades, how do we get to a place where we break down these silos and connect the dots between departments. I think that's really a large part of having a customer-centric culture, is really connecting all the departments to the value that they are able to deliver to the customer. And I just think that's so common.

Debbie: Yeah, and you cannot do that from a silo. This has to be executive level down.

So if your CEO, and if your board does not understand the value of having that one view of the customer across their entire journey, it is very difficult to try to get that infused across an organization from marketing or from sales.

This is actually one of the reasons we see the rise of the RevOps organization, and I wrote a lot about RevOps in my most recent book From Backroom to Boardroom. And the reason RevOps organizations get created, and again, a pure RevOps organization is when you take marketing ops, sales ops and customer success ops, they become a single organization, reporting to the CRO, or the COO, when they would prefer to report to the COO, because they feel like their data is more like Switzerland, and it brings more credibility.

But every organization I have ever met, who has a RevOps organization, we're driven, first and foremost, by the need for the company, the entire organization, to have one view of the customer journey. And then to understand everybody's role, and how together, they optimized, every touch that that customer had with the organization. And it's this whole notion of RevOps that breaks down those silos.

And I'm with you guys, companies are trying to do new business models, but yet, they still have legacy structures, legacy thinking and legacy processes. They have built their company to run a certain way until they rebuild or re-imagine everything about their company, it's going to be very hard for them to do that digital transformation, and lead with customer-centricity.

Dom: Yeah, that RevOps is really coming into play. We actually had a column out late in March, March 22, by our freelancer, Chitra Iyer, and she talks about the lead gen approach, you know, which depends on bloated pipelines, it tends to have a quarter-to-quarter focus on lead quantity, and even more damaging outcome with the lead generation these days, like strategic opportunities for growth and expansion go to waste within an existing customers, they're overlooked or lost. So as she talks about the move to revenue marketing, that kind of thing, so you're seeing that too?

Debbie: Oh, absolutely. You know, marketing's role in revenue has been around for a long time. So when I was writing my dissertation, you know, when you write a dissertation, you have to have a problem and there has to be a gap in the literature that you have to solve.

So my gap was 80% of CMOs who were feeling pressure to show financial results, and only about a third report any financial results. I was so scared that while I was writing my dissertation, that gap would close, and that was from like, 2015 to 2018. Well we're in 2022, and that gap still has not closed, even though marketing is drowning in enabling technology.

And so when we look at organizations, and part of the reason they're still struggling with this are these silos, again, companies have been organized based on old business models, not based on new business models. And so having these silos so heavily structured and so heavily in place, is just not good enough anymore, you will not compete and win in the digital economy using old business models.

Related Article: Are Lead Generation Days Over for B2B Marketers?

We're Not More Customer Obsessed Today Than 5 Years Ago?

Rich: I was reading up on the topic all during the week to get ready for this. And one of the things I came across in October, Forrester Research found that companies are no more customer obsessed, quote, unquote, than they were five years ago. And I'm just curious to know why you think that is? Or even if you think that's true, I mean, I just I was pretty surprised to hear that because especially after the pandemic, customer-centricity, customer focus, I really think have been pushed in the spotlight harder than they ever have been before. But that number really struck me.

Debbie: I don't think that's true. What I do think is true is that just because you want to have it happen, doesn't mean you're ready to have it happen.

So picture this: if you think about a typical customer journey, and we represent it in a loop, right? So the entire customer journey, the customer lifecycle, right? So if you walked into a group of people where you're going to start a company today, and you said, here's the customer lifecycle, here's our customer. Now, we're going to create our organization around the customer, because that is what gives us business.

So you would say to yourself, oh my gosh, that makes so much sense. If you were to show that same customer lifecycle, and if you were to get everybody in the organization together today, the barriers to implementing that are legend, right?

And again, it has to do with culture. It has to do with politics. It has to do with power. It has to do with fiefdoms. So that's why we see and we were talking about RevOps a few minutes ago, it's the smaller, more agile companies who were being successful with RevOps, because they're not having to bust down these dynasties in order to create that.

I think the appetite is there for it, I think it is still a challenge, because so much has to be unwound or re-imagined and accompany for that to happen.

And I'll give you one more example. So I'm about to publish a bunch of stuff about RevOps, I talk about it in my book, but I've got a white paper, a playbook, I've got all kinds of stuff that's coming out about RevOps. One I see sales and marketing doing today is what I call casual collaboration, and that's where they try to be on the same revenue team. And they try to have a focus on the customer. But as we know, that is still challenging, again, because of silos.

So what I'm suggesting is, there's a step between casual collaboration and having a complete RevOps organization, because most companies are not going to do that level of reorganization, they're just not going to do it right now for all kinds of reasons.

So what's the middle ground? What if we created a center of excellence for RevOps, that its whole goal for the organization was to increase revenue and growth, through focus on the customer? Think about like a governance group, right? And so these people still report the marketing they still report to sales, they still report to it, whatever group they're in. But there is this group that has a dedicated effort toward making those changes.

I think that is going to be a mid step that a lot of companies are looking for right now. They want to do it, but to unwind the whole thing is just too much. So take a look at an interim step.

What is RevOps?

Rich: I gotta jump in here. You mentioned RevOps a bunch of times, and I would like you just to level-set for our audience. As a good journalist, I want to know the who, the what and the why, who makes up RevOps. And if you can, in just a short two sentences, like what their mission statement is, and how they get that job done.

Debbie: Okay, I think RevOps is, again, you can think of it as a center of excellence where different people from different functions are coming together, or it could be dedicated. But what you want to take a look at is taking marketing ops, sales ops and customer success ups, and putting them together in a single organization, that then creates one view of the customer journey, enabled by data and technology, processes and understanding of how all these disparate parts work together.

So RevOps is beginning to appear in a lot of different places. And the why for it, and the why now, is because of the silo conversation we had. It's not working. More than ever before, especially in the B2B world, we have to create a B2C experience for our customers, and they want a single flawless experience, and they want that experience to add value no matter what part of your organization that they're touching. So that's what it is.

And the why now is because the customer is totally in control. And companies who win the digital economy will be those companies who have figured out how to focus on the customer. So that's what it is. And that's the why, and that's the why now.

Dom: Yeah, with RevOps, it seems like a true team effort. But at the end of the day, someone ends up taking ownership of a process like that, do you see someone or some department kind of taking the lead on that, Debbie?

Debbie: Yeah, I see a couple of things. So I see RevOps, a lot of times what will happen is, like I said, sales and marketing, you've got a CMO, and you've got a CRO, and then you have sales and marketing trying to work together, especially on the ops end, so sales ops and marketing ops. But in that casual collaboration environment, they just don't really do that well, because they get a lot of talk about support, but you know, it really doesn't happen. So I see that starting there first.

And then I think that from an organization perspective, again, it's those smaller organizations that are able to do this and I'll give you guys a great example. I'm sure he won't mind but, Brian Vass at Paycor, he is responsible for RevOps and his organization. And he has a very smart CRO that he's worked with. And his CRO knew that sales and marketing had to come together in order to be successful.

So in the early days, if we do see sales ops and marketing ops coming together as a single organization, we typically see that reporting into a CRO which is the example in Brian's company, and when you've got all three coming together, then they either report to the CRO or they report to the COO, and most RevOps professionals, again will tell you that they'd rather report in to the COO.

So we've got different people working. And we're working with a large credit union right now who is skipping right over, and they're going straight to building a complete and total RevOps team. They want a single team, they want it to be operationally, they want them to own the customer journey, they want them to ensure that the technology is data, and everybody is on the same page on that customer journey.

So it depends on the appetite, it depends on the size of the company. And then again, early days, we just see sales and marketing ops reporting in to the CRO.

Does that help?

Related Article: What's Next for CMOs? Taking the Reins on Revenue

How Does Revenue Operations Get Started?

Rich: Yeah, absolutely, it does. I'm curious to know, for the people who are listening out there, whether they be in smaller organizations, or maybe larger organizations, and they want to create something like this within their organization seems like it's something that has to start from the top down, I'm just curious to know what your thoughts are, is how you can get this going within your organization, if you're not necessarily the CMO?

Debbie: You're absolutely right. And as a matter of fact, I'm not sure a lot of CMOs, like the idea of RevOps. I've seen some situations where when you take marketing ops away from the CMO, a lot of times it goes over to the CRO, sometimes it goes to the COO, but some CMOs feel like they're losing power when they do that. I'm just, you know, being honest with you.

So if you really want this to happen, it does have to happen from the top down. The least highest executive who can make this happen is the CRO, because CROs have a lot of power in organizations. And if they say that, you know, I need this reporting to me, and here are the reasons why I need this to happen. That is where I see it most frequently.

And so I think that, again, just keep it simple, if you were to take a blank sheet of paper, and if you were to say, here's our customer lifecycle, here's how you at a very high level, right? And then to say, now, if we want to optimize every step of that customer journey for our personalization, and if we want to know where they are and what they're doing, and be able to share actionable insights for the person responsible for that portion of the journey, how would we best organize our company? Where would that happen? And the key thing there is to, don't do it on a hope and a prayer, put some kind of structure in place where someone has some accountability for this, because I don't know, Rich, if it was you or Dom, that said, you know, if you don't have accountability, really nothing is going to happen.

Learning Opportunities

So I think that's how you take that first step. And then when you take a look at if we had to reorganize our company around the customer journey, how can we do that in stages, understanding that we can't do the whole thing at one time?

One of the things that we're also seeing is we're seeing chief customer officers. But unfortunately, chief customer officers typically don't have the power for reorganization in a company. And I think what we're going to see in the future, are more savvy CEOs. So that when they go into a board meeting, or they're meeting with their shareholders, they're saying, the No. 1 premise for our go to market is to understand, relate and work with our customers. Based on that, here's how we're organizing our organization. And here are the benefits that we expect.

I mean, I have one PowerPoint that I do when I talk about, I have 38 different statistics around the power of that combined organization, whether it's with leads, revenue, margins, shareholder value, really goes all the way up the line, but for small company, or for any company, keep it simple.

But start with the end in mind, and then figure out what steps you can take along the way. And give somebody accountability for that and get somebody high in your company involved and dedicated to the project.

Related Article: How Can Your Organization Truly Be Customer-Centric?

Hiring for a Customer-Centric Marketing Team

Rich: So if you go into an organization, do you offer the clients thoughts and best practices on how to find the people within your organization who are going to be the stakeholders or the leaders in your organizations? How do you go about organizing that team for RevOps, or even just for day-to-day marketing, how do you hire with that customer-centricity in mind?

Debbie: You guys know more than anybody, the talent wars that are going on right now, you know, between the great resignation and between, you know, if you take a look at digital talent in general, again, that talent gap is not closing. It's actually growing. And it's probably the No. 1 refrain I hear from all of my customers is, oh my gosh, how do we find people right? How do we find people?

And so when it comes to whether you're hiring for marketing ops, or whether you're hiring for RevOps or whether you're hiring for any part of marketing, having someone who is customer-centric ... so for example, I was talking to a pharmaceutical company yesterday, they are a client of mine. They have a reagent that works as part of the vaccine for the Coronavirus. And she's hiring an audience manager so they can really get a better understanding of their personas. And I told her, I said, one of the things I want you to do is when you're looking at an audience manager is also find someone with a sales background.

And probably about 30% of the companies I work with now when I ask the whole marketing organization, what percent of you have a sales background, I get about a third now, which is great. I said, here's why you want somebody as an audience manager to have a sales background, because marketing can't do that alone, right? You have got to find a way to bring sales and at a minimum, customer success would be the best.

And so this customer audience manager really has to look across every customer facing part of the organization, and understand how that customer is interacting with them and get information and data from those different parts of the organization.

We're finding that more and more, it's like you're trying to hire a purple unicorn in any of these jobs. They've got to have digital, they've got to be technical, they've got to be, they have to understand data, they have to understand business, they have to understand the customer. So we're seeing a very high level of sophistication of these hires.

And I'll tell you one more story. I teach at the College of William and Mary, I've done a class there once a year for 11 years. I'm the top rated speaker. I get half a day with the entire MBA Group. And a few years ago, I started bringing in marketing ops professionals with me. And one year I brought with me Dan Brown, who was VP of marketing ops at Verint. And he does this great job talking about this exciting new career, where marketing is taking a look at the technology and the data. And they're helping marketing, you know, do their job using data, getting credibility, driving revenue.

And at the end of his presentation, one enterprising MBA raises his hand and he says, well, Mr. Brown, how do we get a job doing that? And Dan looked at the entire audience, and he said, well, I wouldn't hire any of you. And you could hear a pin drop, but he said it because you don't have the skills, I can't just take anybody in.

And so whether you're in marketing, marketing ops, or RevOps, you need to have so many different skills. I think what we're going to see is more and more marketing organizations beginning to put together universities of their own, because marketing does not train these professionals, our colleges are not training these professionals.

Literally, the only way you get a job is a you get lucky enough to be hired, or you're working in the company, you get transferred over to another department. There are very few ways to get educated on this, and I've told many a marketer who wanted a career, so well, you just have to go to work for the right company, and you know, hope that you can get in with the right group, and that you can pursue the part of career that you want. It's very challenging these days.

Related Article: Top Marketing Skills and Traits for 2022

What Are They Teaching Prospective Marketers?

Rich: I've been covering tech journalism for over 20 years. And that has been such a recurring theme throughout it all, is most colleges' inability to keep up with the pace of change in marketing and technology.

Debbie: I just recently did a search because I was interested in who was training on RevOps. I have a pretty good sense for who's training on marketing ops, nobody's really training on marketing ops. If you guys don't know, Highway Education, Highway Education is run by Toby Murdoch. And Toby was the founder of Kapost. And then he had another startup before that, and he sold it.

And what Toby is doing now, he has a four-month training program for college graduates, so that they come in and they learn the basics of marketing operations. And he also has them work in Marketo, HubSpot and Eloqua, so as they graduate, they actually have a portfolio where people can interview them, and they can see their portfolio and they can see their work.

And he had his first cohort go through. I think the average starting salary was probably around $67,000. And then he has another cohort who started right now. And these people are hired, they have a job before they graduate, let's just put it that way. It's the only program I know out there like that.

Dom: Yeah, more programs should be like that. Like, OK, welcome to marketing, everybody. Here's your login to Marketo. Let's go to work. That's marketing today.

Debbie: It really is. You know, at the Pedowitz Group, for example, we have to hire great consultants because that's who we are and what we do. We have an 18-month training plan for every person in this company. Not only is it about the technology, but it's about the communication skills is about the business savvy, it's about critical thinking. It's about communication skills. And so it's 18 months, right, to get through all of that, they get access to every part of the company, so they learn about sales, they learn about marketing, they learn about every single part of the company, because we have to put into play well-rounded consultants.

And that is the biggest issue, I think for marketers today. You guys know this, if you talk to any CMO, the minute you start talking about talent, they go to town, it is like the No. 1 issue that they have. So they're having to hire more sophisticated talent that's pushing the budgets up. They're having to reconcile that with other people that they have on their team. They're having to reconcile that through the budgeting process; it's a very challenging place to be right now.

Being Product-Centric vs. Customer-Centric

Dom: It sure is, hey, so looking at the concepts that you talk about a lot, one of them is a company that is product-centric, vs. customer-centric.

So I think if you ask a lot of companies, they'd be like, well, you know, we have our products, but but we're customer-centric, we're customer centric. What's the big difference there, Debbie? Like what do you see that commonly that product-centric companies do vs. what customer-centric companies do?

Debbie: That is a great question. And this is what I call a, bless-your-heart moment for a company. And if you aren't familiar with the phrase, bless-your-heart, in the south, it doesn't really mean bless-your-heart, it means you stupid idiot. That's really what it means, right.

And so I think sometimes what we have to have happen in order for a company to really become customer-centric, is you just have to get a new leader in there. I think a lot of leaders, they're in their 50s, they are accustomed to one way of seeing the world, and change is very, very difficult.

So I think it's going to be a new generation of CEOs, COOs, CROs that are going to truly understand, we can't do business the way we have for years and years, we cannot continue to be so focused on the product.

And here's what's interesting about being a customer-centric company: the research has been out there forever. In the '70s, there was a ton of research that was both done in academia, then also in the '80s, that was done in the professional realms, like you guys remember, like Peppers & Rogers, I mean, they took their consulting organization from like two people to like 200.

It was all about the value of a customer relationship. And books and studies, they all say the same thing. You can compete on product, you can compete on price, or you can compete on operational excellence, or you can compete on the value of a customer relationship. Eventually product can be copied, price can be copied, operational excellence, unless you're Walmart, can be copied, but what cannot be copied is the value of a customer relationships. And the money is there, right? The money is there. And it's been there for a long time.

So fast forward from the '70s and '80s, when all this research was done, and if you were an enterprising CEO, you would have said, I get it, let's go.

Customer's Now in Control. What Should You Do?

Fast forward to today, where we live in a digital world, right? The customer is in control, they're one swipe away from your competitors website. You know, we're hearing customers tell, although I've worked face-to-face with salespeople, prior to the pandemic, I really don't need that. B2B, they want B2C, they want self-service models, they want to take care of themselves. And so these product companies, these companies that continue to be heavily product-centric, are going to lose.

One of the key statistics that we got from the pandemic is that one of the things that B2B buyers want these days is they want authenticity. If you're a product company, how authentic is that? You don't understand me, you don't understand my problems, you don't understand my challenges, right?

It's these companies who will win and who are winning in the digital economy, and where the customer is king. We've always said that, but we've never really met it, but they are in control now.

So I think for these companies that are heavily product focused, and I see it when we go into organizations, marketing will bring us in and they'll say, Debbie, we want to transform from being product-centric, to customer-centric. And the first thing I asked them is okay, but what does your CEO and your board think about this? And that tells me how difficult that is going to be. We can do it maybe in some small way, within marketing, but you really don't have that wide approach.

A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine was working for an organization and she said, Debbie, we really have become customer-centric. And then she explained to me what that meant in her company. It meant things like people's comp was based on that, there was a goal around customer-centricity that went from the CEO down to the lowest level part of the organization. They reorganized their technology around the customer, they reorganized their messaging around the customer, they did a lot of practical things that forced them through formal structures and formal processes and formal accountability, to focus on the customer.

So I just think that companies today, and some companies really struggle with this, you guys know this, and again, they'll talk a lot about being customer-centric, but they really are not, take a look at their homepage, that's the first thing you know, that you can see. So they can do whatever they want to today, but companies will win and die based on their ability to understand the customer because that is the world we live in today.

Building a Customer-Centric Culture from Top Down

Rich: You touched on it right there briefly, but you know, we're getting to the end of the podcast, and I would really like you to drive home your message for our audience. Could you briefly like bullet point, what you think are the big takeaways for building and maintaining a customer-centric culture?

Debbie: Okay, let's say if I'm talking to a CEO, here's what I would say, I would say, you know, Mr. or Ms. CEO, your job is to create shareholder value, and as part of your job, it is your fiduciary responsibility to take a look at all the assets that you have, and to use those assets, optimize those assets, to create shareholder value. You are failing, because you are a product-centric company. And let me share why that is.

You can't just talk about product, you have to talk about your customer, you have to understand your customer. The messages, how you market, how you sell, how you deliver, and how you create ongoing services experience, is based on you focusing on the customer. These customers are savvy, they know they can go to somebody else, they know there's a different way to do business.

Plus, there's like 1,000 studies, there's 1,000 companies, there's probably you know, 25 companies just like yours, who have moved from being product to customer-centric. It  doesn't mean that they don't have a great product roadmap and, and that they are not a great product company. It just means that when it comes to interacting with the customer, they're putting it in terms of needs and pains and wants. And they're showing that customer that they understand their business, and that they can help them grow, they can help them improve.

And then as a result of that, you will have more revenue, you will have more margin, you will have greater shareholder value that you can create.

So it begins with the big idea, and then you take that down into each major customer-facing piece of the organization, you make sure you knit that together across those three organizations. So you have one customer journey, you have one set of customer data that is the truth, and that everybody understands their role indelighting the customer. That's how you do it.

Dom: That's it. That's it sounds easy.

Rich: It sounds easy.

Debbie: Yeah, how hard is that!

Dom: Debbie, you've been an absolute delight. Thank you so much for coming on CX Decoded and sharing your knowledge with our audience I look forward to having you on again.

Before you go, can you please share with the audience where they can connect with you where they can follow you and see what you're up to?

Debbie: Absolutely, my LinkedIn is the best place Debbie Qaqish, LinkedIn, that's the best place to reach me.

Rich: Okay. Debbie Qaqish, principal and chief strategy officer with a Pedowitz Group. Thank you again, Debbie. And thank you to everybody for listening. We'll see you next time.

Debbie: My pleasure. Bye, Bye.

Dom: See ya.