25 October 2021
Topics in this article
  • People
  • Risk & Resilience
  • Strategy & Planning

moving to a customer-centric mindset

In today’s extremely competitive and fast-changing environment, the customer experience is a critical part of every business. This is especially true for procurement as a customer-centric mindset can lead to positive business outcomes like increased revenue and cost savings. Procurement leaders will need to evaluate interactions with both internal and external customers as they move up the value chain and face more demanding projects.  

Proxima recently hosted a virtual event, “Procurement From The Outside-in: Moving to a Customer-Centric Mindset” and welcomed Kerry Bodine, CEO of the customer experience consulting firm, Bodine & Co., and co-author of Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business. Below, we highlight some of the key insights for procurement experts on the importance of a customer-centric model.

How can procurement build a brand and convert customers?

There are three keys to success:

  1. Go out and find your true external customers experiences,
  2. Understand where your internal customers experiences are,
  3. And then understand what the vendor and partner experiences are and what will help them actually be more effective in helping your organization.

It is more than just listening; it is about taking actions based on what you learn. You might find that a part of the procurement process is overwhelming for your marketing team or that vendors struggle to understand your onboarding communications. You can immediately identify what is broken and make changes.

The customer experience involves themes as well. Listen for commonalities in the things that your customers are really looking for from your procurement function. Then think about a set of adjectives (like ‘transparent’ or ‘easy’) or phrases (like ‘We are true partners with our vendors’) that can act as north star for what your team is trying to deliver to your customers and vendors.

Once you have the vision, next ask yourself ‘how do we actually make easy experiences happen?’ or ‘what do we need to change about how we work to be transparent?’ or ‘What would it look like to vendors if we truly partnered with them each step of the way?’ Use this as an internal guide for your procurement department. Once you have made the changes and feel confident that you have realigned the way in how you work, take those promises to your customers.

Will automation in procurement make the function less customer-focused?

Automation is an asset and many real-world organizations have demonstrated technology’s effectiveness in creating a better customer experience. Companies like Amazon and Uber have automated nearly everything by listening to their customer’s needs.

If you are designing technology and processes, design them based on how your customers or vendors think about the tasks they need to accomplish — not just on your own internal needs and processes. Consider doing testing with customers and vendors throughout that design and implementation process to make sure that what you intended to create for them is actually what you are creating.

Can you get too immersed in the customer experience?

For too long in organizations, the scales were tipped towards the bottom line and what was good for the business. Many ignored the customer experience unless it happened to be good for the business.

But trying to delight 100% of your customers 100% of the time will quickly run your organization into the ground and out of business. And setting out with a mission to understand each and every customer’s pain points and objectives would be exhausting.

There needs to be a balance. Customer centricity is really an exercise of asking: Which of these customer needs can we meet? In what ways will those customer-centric solutions support the business?

Is there any difference in how we should think about internal and external customers?

In procurement focus first on the needs of your internal customers (those who are looking to select and work with vendors or supplies). Next, you need to consider the needs and experiences of your vendors or suppliers. You do not need to spend an enormous amount of your time on your organization’s external customer experience other than to take the time to understand any existing customer feedback and how your internal customers are working to deliver the experience today.

Keep in mind that there is an entire ecosystem around the customer experience function and you can be a part of driving it forward. Once you understand what your internal customers and vendors need to be more effective partners to your organization, provide feedback to the software companies where you purchased your procurement systems. This will iterate those processes to be more customer-centric across the ecosystem.


If we are going to be successful and design the functions of the future, we have to start thinking of the customer journey. Everyone in an organization is connected in some way to the customer — even if they never speak directly to them. If we desire to build functions that are more customer-centric, understanding our customers, business, and external markets should be our guiding principles.

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