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Phil Wickenden: The client has to be placed at the centre of the story

Phil WickendenWe asked consumers approaching retirement how important a whole host of things were when thinking about planning income – from access to capital to preservation of funds, flexible income levels to cast iron guarantees. Do you know what people valued most? Being actively involved.

This got me thinking about client engagement, where there is a fascinating industry pre-disposition for self-delusion.

There are parallels with corporate proclamations of client love: client focus, client-centricity, client obsession. Badge it however you like but, put bluntly, there are two flavours of client-centricity: genuine client-centricity and sham
client-centricity. And the sham may not be a conscious sham. Which is a shame.

Thanks to the vast quantities of information available, the client now has the ability to make smart choices with speed and agility anytime and anywhere they want. Not only are they in charge and in full control but they are also moving faster than most brands. They do not differentiate between channels and touch points.

But while the client has become omni-channel, and always on, brands and marketers still operate and think in a multi-channel model. Brands are still channel obsessed, imagining the message orbits around the channel. But it does not. It orbits around the client.

This fundamental shift from thinking channels to thinking clients is not easy; it requires a change in the entire operating model. So, what are the key shifts that brands and marketers need to create a truly client-centric operating model?

First, it is a shift to lifetime value. Brands need to stop thinking about (and measuring) solely time on the phone spent with clients or cost per hour of support people – sales at a given point of time. Instead, they should start focusing on “lifetime, all the time”, thinking about client relationships as an “always on” engagement rather than a point in time interaction.

Second is the evolution from story-telling to story-building, which moves from creating universal stories to delivering ways of placing the client at the centre of the story, reassigning clients from the role of audience to the role of a protagonist. It is their journey that matters.

Phil Wickenden is managing director of Cicero Research

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