• Jun 12 2023

3 Leadership Skills Needed to Drive Customer-Centric Innovation

As change in the business environment accelerates, so too do customer needs and preferences. To continue to deliver value to customers and remain competitive in the marketplace, leaders must have foundational skills to help them understand customer needs and direct ideas, effort, and resources to respond accordingly. 

ExecOnline’s library of on-demand leadership development programs target these skills from a variety of angles to help leaders at every level drive innovation on their teams. We’ve rounded up the top three capabilities needed to lead customer-centric growth. 

Fluency in Customer Data

A customer-centric leader must have a deep understanding of their target customers– their needs, preferences, and pain points. This involves conducting market research, analyzing customer data, and/or actively seeking feedback from customers to gain insights that can drive business decisions.

There are several data sources leaders can use to better understand their customer base. Here are just a few: 

  • Customer surveys allow leaders to collect feedback directly from customers, gaining insights into their preferences, satisfaction levels, and pain points.
  • Customer interviews provide valuable qualitative data and allow leaders to have direct conversations with customers that uncover more nuanced insights, emotions, and specific needs that may not be captured through surveys.
  • Analytics captured through the company website, CRM system, and social media platforms can uncover trends in customer behavior, preferences, and patterns. 
  • Customer journey maps track the touchpoints that customers have with your company and give leaders a birds-eye view of opportunities to improve and/or enhance the customer experience.

To become more fluent in customer data, leaders should first find out what customer information is currently being collected at their company via what methods and by which teams (e.g., marketing, sales, or product may conduct their own customer research).  

Once this information is collected, leaders need to be able to analyze the data, looking for meaningful trends and relationships, and synthesize the findings into a coherent story about what customers want. This data-driven story becomes leaders’ basis for innovating for customer value. 

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Effective communication is vital to building and nurturing customer-centricity among teams and organizations. Leaders must be able to win buy-in from team members and cross-functional teams on their vision of customer-centric innovation. 

This requires telling a compelling story about the customer that stakeholders can understand, both analytically and emotionally. It also requires leaders to communicate a plan for their customer-centric innovation, including measurable goals, tactics, dependencies, timeline, and key performance indicators. 

By laying out a compelling, data-supported vision and strategy for customer-centric innovation, leaders improve their ability to collaborate with cross-functional teams. In order for innovative ideas to become successful initiatives, it usually requires the close collaboration of at least two cross-functional teams. The larger the group of collaborators, the more important it is that the goals and roles of the initiative are clearly communicated, and channels and touch-points for cross-functional communication are established to streamline the flow of information between teams. 

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Foster a Culture of Learning

Customer-centric growth requires a commitment to continuous learning and innovation at every level of the organization. Leaders should encourage a learning mindset within their teams, embrace new ideas, and empower employees to experiment and take calculated risks. They should also foster a culture of innovation and reward data-driven, creative thinking that leads to improved customer experiences.

To encourage a customer-focused learning mindset on their teams, leaders can make customer data accessible and a regular basis for discussion, inviting team members to analyze and identify trends and apply relevant insights to their role. They can also share industry insights, relevant articles, industry newsletters, and competitor content on a regular basis to keep their teams current on trends and to inspire creative thinking. 

Lastly, they can encourage and empower team members to take advantage of learning and development opportunities available to them. From job-related skills training to stay current in their field of expertise to career development and coaching opportunities that helps them shift their mindset and become more strategic, capable leaders, an emphasis on continuous learning fosters a culture of curiosity and innovation on teams. 

Related ExecOnline programs: 

Interested in learning more about ExecOnline’s integrated leadership development platform, which includes an extensive library of on-demand programs, as well as individual and group leadership coaching? 

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