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Winning the VUCA Via Customer Experience

Being focused on customer experience is the only way to survive the VUCA challenge.


More than three decades ago, the US Army coined the term VUCA which expanded to volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. The context was the Cold War and the term was meant to reflect these factors in a multilateral world resulting from military alignments of the time.

However, today the acronym has acquired a business orientation, thanks to the fact that the leadership theories from Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus are back in vogue. Today VUCA finds itself into most discussions around strategic leadership and business readiness, often used to discuss failures, both individual and organizational.

Evolution of disruptive technologies and new business models are compelling organizations to become nimble and customer-focused, a tectonic shift from their earlier siloed approach and bureaucratic practices. In this context, the 18th edition of Infocom organized in Kolkata, with the theme: “Winning in this VUCA World” relooked at the  acronym through the lens of customer centrism.

As Alok Ohrie, President and Managing Director, Dell Technologies says, “In today’s volatile environment and with challenges of digitalization, organizations can no longer hide behind their brands. There is a need for robust processes, common standards and clear ways of working across the companies. The end goal of all these is to consistently charm the customer.”

A recent report by PwC states that 79% of customers rate customer experience as the most important component of the purchasing decision after product quality and price. In order to create amazing customer experiences, companies need to ensure that they have the appropriate bedrock in place to enable brand and culture to be successfully integrated. For example, creating a powerful brand story and having connected values makes it easy to bring in the inquisitive attention of the customer.

“Bringing in a human touch to the brand by really understanding what the customer wants and providing according is said to be a way of easily connecting with the customer,” says, B.S Mishra, Regional Manager, Marketing (Eastern Zone) at Life Insurance Corporation of India.

Personalizing and really listening to customers’ voices and accordingly integrating of technology to suit their needs also is a sure-way of making them feel that they are cared for and building reputation. Once customers feel that a brand is easily accessible and is looking out for them, they will be loyal.

Building Customer-First Culture

Many organizations are realizing that customer centrism is a determining factor that builds a bridge between a business and its customers, thus being one of the major pillars when it comes to creating a successful brand. However, getting it wrong can be very costly. It can ruin your company’s reputation, facilitate customer loss, affect your long-term sales, and, eventually, ruin your business completely, leading to a VUCA situation.

Renowned keynote speaker and expert in customer centricity, Rik Vera, observes, the reason why companies struggle to get customer centricity right is because they lack a customer-centric organizational culture. At most companies the culture remains product-focused or sales-driven, or customer centricity is considered a priority only for certain functions such as marketing.


“To successfully implement a customer-centric strategy and operating model, a company must have a culture that aligns with them — and leaders who deliberately cultivate the necessary mindset and values in their employees,” he says.

Winning Strategies

It is time organizations should work towards bringing clarity and agility in its functioning, says Amitabh Ray, Managing Director – Ericsson India Global Services. He believes, the VUCA world is a huge challenge, most enterprises are struggling to come to terms with it and it is difficult to predict winners. Precisely for this reason, VUCA world is also a huge opportunity.  Enterprises that can to figure out the new rules of the game and transform themselves, stand to win big.

For example, he says, understanding the psyche of the customer and accordingly creating strategies contributes significantly to create better outcomes. A key example of how a brand interacts with its customers online determines its success or failure. Today, most companies take to the social media pages of the brands they are connected to for bringing up any grievances. This makes it very important for companies to respond effectively across channel and find ways to solve the problems head on.

Read more: CEOs Focus On Agility To Thrive In A VUCA World

“Concentrating on making world-class, innovative products, with a customer-obsessed mindset is also an effective way to outlive the VUCA world,” says Seema Ambastha, Senior Executive Vice President, India & Global Sales &Solutions, NTT, Netmagic.

The future will be led by leaders who will have the ability to create innovative solutions primarily in the face of structurally complex or changing situations, believe experts. As Duncan Wardle, Former VP, Innovation and Creativity at Walt Disney, says, “We need leaders who can navigate through the times of uncertainties and ambiguity. We need leaders who have a creative mindset to approach different complexities and risks differently.”

Louis Pasteur who invented the pasteurization once said: “fortune favors the prepared mind.”

Being focused on customer experience is the only way to survive the VUCA challenge.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at