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Executives of the Round Table: Focus on Customers, Not Your P&L

If King Arthur were on the scene today, I think he might have the makings of a great CEO. When he gathered his knights around the Round Table, he broke down the divisions between fiefdoms and created an environment where his “executives” unified in a common goal.

That’s what impressed me when the new CMO of a major bank was introduced, and her announcement included comments about breaking up the notion of silos and pulling together business line owners through a shared focus on data, instead of distinct P&Ls. Like Arthur, she recognized the impact of unity of purpose.

So what is the holy grail of the new corporate legend? Today’s organizing principle is focusing on the customer. Customers, not heavily manipulated profit and loss statements (P&Ls), are the common denominator across business lines.

Put more bluntly, your P&L doesn’t matter. Your customers certainly don’t care and won’t like you better for it. When a business spends every day squeezing, managing, tuning and monitoring P&Ls, it puts itself in a bind. You can only massage P&Ls so much to show success if the customers aren’t there. The act of squeezing P&Ls can easily have the real-world consequence of creating customer dissatisfaction and driving customers away. That’s a significant problem because there is no P&L in the absence of the customer.  

At every conference table where executives focus exclusively on their narrow P&L, they are missing the obvious – if they had more clients and understood those clients in a way that made it possible to take the best care of them, there would not be pressure to squeeze the P&L all the time.

P&Ls only represent a given channel’s fleeting interaction with the customer, not the customer’s entire life relevant to the company. If each channel further has its own definition of the customer and considers only its narrow piece of the customer journey, they’re shredding that customer apart into their component pieces. If you place yourself in the shoes of the customer, that experience is likely to feel every bit as bad as it sounds.

Caring about the customer, understanding the customer, and creating a pro-customer environment is an investment in preserving and growing the most fundamental unit of business success. That is why every executive at the round table needs to be attuned to the whole customer, not just their channel-defined slice of the customer’s description. If one considers the customer and the customer’s journey first, it becomes possible for the P&L to tune itself. Unification around the customer, the most significant asset to a company, requires a significant shift in perspective. How do the executives at today’s round table achieve such unity of purpose?

The most common denominator available for coming together is data, which is also the most comprehensive and reliable method of getting at the ultimate truth about what drives the customer. The most valuable person at the round table is not the executive who has brilliant perspective solely within their own channel. It is the executive who has the vision to answer the big questions with a perspective that encompasses all silos. It is this co-joined data that opens our eyes to the benefits of a co-joined executive team where all members of the round table are fighting for one overlapping goal. And if it weren’t for this co-joined data, there would be no vehicle to unify all of these silos into one common ground.

Every executive at the round table now faces a choice. Compete to be the one with the broadest cross-channel perspective or find common cause with your fellow knights working toward a singular goal across all channels.

A company can be competitive by having the Chief Analytics Officer or EVP of Omni-channel be the power at the table, but ultimately their success lies in the aggregation of every journey, regardless of channel, toward a shared set of KPIs. Each executive has targets in the process of securing that goal, but they all exist within the context of the higher, shared objective.

This method allows an executive of the round table to see how what they do in their channel impacts what’s going on in others. When every executive has the same objective, the customer rather than the P&L, together they can make rational decisions that improve the overall customer journey. By always seeing the customer as a single, cohesive entity rather than something that is divided into small pieces, executives at the round table can keep the company moving toward its goal.

channels, P&L, silo

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