Kea & Partners - Partners for transformation
Christine Durroux, Senior Partner, Kea & Partners

Customer Relationship: Can you keep up?
Challenges and practices from European organizations 

For the first time, The Transformation Alliance conducted a pan-European study and interviewed 50 Customer Relationship practitioners from a broad range of industries, each of whom is directly involved in CR, in Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Sweden.

Insight from the Customer Relationship Transformation study, see below for the full report

With shrinking markets and changing consumer behavior fuelled by digital technology, CR has become a crucial differentiator and growth lever. That is a big change in status from something that has long been seen as a necessary evil or add on. Based on 50 interviews with CR executives in five European countries, this study provides an insightful examination of the issues affecting CR. It also gives a practical view of the strategic, organizational and people challenges raised.

In essence, three main dilemmas that affect CR emerged from this study.

Digitalization of CR versus human interaction. Nearly all companies interviewed have embraced the digital transformation and identify tremendous opportunities to build loyalty and accelerate business. However, they also caution that one-to-one interactions will always be essential and that brands need to find right balance between both. Their main concern is to ensure consistency across channels.

Customer knowledge versus customer fatigue. Digital undoubtedly makes it much easier to gather customer data. But some interviewees see a growing danger in overdoing it and inducing fatigue. Companies are still finding their way around this and adapting their interactions to bring more value and relevance for customers.

Standardization versus customization of CR. CR is also affected by the global-local tradeoff that other business functions face. Each market requires a different approach and cultural adjustments. Defining frameworks centrally with leeway to adapt them locally is seen as a powerful way to maintain brand consistency while empowering local players.

While 75 % of interviewees claim that CR is clearly a top-management priority there is still much to do to optimize the function. Six fundamentals to successfully transform CR were identified.

  • Clarify the CR function so its scope and function are clearly organized. Creating a dedicated role with direct reporting to the CEO is a growing trend.
  • Improve the internal perception by gaining visible and constant support from top management. The interviewees highlighted levers such as revalorizing compensation and creating career development opportunities.
  • Break the silos. As a cornerstone of various departments, CR requires closer and transversal cooperation. Removing organizational barriers is a priority.
  • Rethink performance assessments and indicators. Many interviewees found that the change is not truly embedded as long as KPIs are not aligned with the CR strategy.
  • Instill a new management culture. Management has to lead the way by demonstrating their full support for CR, valuing new attitudes and developing pride around CR.
  • Take a long-term view of CR investments. Although there is still some way to go to change the general mindset about CR the interviewees have seen great progress during the last years, fuelled by a new management generation.

Download the full 40-page report



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