Customer centricity refers to a notion, philosophy, and mindset that should be embedded and ingrained within organizations when designing a product that will be desired and beneficial for the paying customers and related stakeholders.
For example, Amazon, one of the world's biggest companies, explicitly mentions that its goal is to be the most customer-centric company in the world.
As software has an increasingly important role in the automotive industry, it should also learn from other industries on this topic. Despite the seemingly intuitive idea of customer centricity, it is not straightforward for everyone.
Understand the customer journey
It is tempting to build a product with superior advanced applications, but the safest bet is to first understand that humans do not change their behavior easily.
It is important to build a solution that revolves around the customer journey.
Asking questions such as, “What does the customer do now? and How can that be slightly improved?” may yield more value than investing in a solution several steps ahead of customers’ current level of comfort.
The world population has now surpassed 8 billion people with diverse demographics. Understanding targeted customer segments will provide valuable data for the design team to create desirable solutions.
By knowing who the customers are, their behavior can also be understood, and will help to define solutions based on those needs. This increases their willingness to pay for new solutions.
Understand the consumer
Comprehending both interests and situations of the customers is vital. It would be illogical to bring an autonomous vehicle solution to a rural area where the communities are not using widespread technology such as smartphones in full force yet.
As such, the current limitations faced by customers in that area should be understood.
Questions related to infrastructure readiness in certain geographic markets also should be investigated before designing and deploying an automotive software-based product.
Despite being disrupted by COVID-19, overarching user needs for mobility are still the same (i.e., people still need to get around).
It is important to have both short-term iterative cycles that can be altered for various product development tactics as well as a longer-term strategic planning for various conditions.
How can leaders in organizations ensure that their strategic planning is sustainable and that the demands can be met by their employees and supply chains during the whole product life cycle?
Building a one-off prototype is easy but sustaining it and successfully scaling up for mass production is where the real challenges lie.
It is better to start small rather than trying to solve overly complex problems. Perhaps moving too quickly and at too large a scale is the reason why there are so many challenges with some emerging technologies in the industry.
Organizations and individuals should be willing to take the time to understand who the customers are and what products they need, as much as they spend massive amounts of investments on new products.
The key to a successful productization scale-up of emerging technologies in the automotive and mobility industries is to have customer-centricity as the cornerstone in strategic planning.
By understanding what the customer actually wants and the value that will be beneficial to them, companies can avoid developing something that no one wants.
This requires a standardized vision from top to bottom within organizations and the existence of related processes, structure, and leadership.
This will help automotive companies and startups in strategically pinpointing their product differentiators and competitive advantages in the rapidly changing field, therefore facilitating profitability.