As firms cannot succeed without worrying about the real needs of their client, they have become customer-centric organizations [1
]. Throughout this century, the marketing literature has had a special focus on presenting vast evidence of the organizational economic benefits of focusing on the customer—or, as it has been referred to more recently, customer centricity. Customer centricity is a business strategy that emphasizes placing customers at the center of all the organization activities and that their needs must be understood and properly satisfied [2
At the same time, and during the past 30 years, companies have been under growing pressure to be completely sustainable [3
]. That is, to pay more attention to the social and environmental consequences of activities they deploy. The idea is that the organizations become on sustainable companies, which means that all the collaborators of the companies have the culture to act always in a sustainable way [4
]. At the same time, it is necessary that corporate governance includes indicators that measure the environmental, social, and financial sustainability [5
In this context, it seems natural to integrate customer centricity and sustainability in order to guarantee the long-term existence of organizations. Within that perspective, firms should care about the environment, society, and money through different strategies as innovation [6
], customization of products [8
], productivity improvements [9
], mindful consumption [10
], and considering greater product life cycles [11
]. However, to effectively accomplish these strategies, it is necessary for the companies to obtain and analyze the right information at the right time [12
] and be coherent with corporate purpose [13
After analyzing the existing literature, no paper was found that studied the relationship between customer centricity and sustainability from the bibliometric point of view. These bibliometric studies have become a valuable tool in the scientific literature, motivated by access to bibliographic information [14
]. As research entities explicitly demand it [15
], the objective of this document is to fill this gap and to provide relevant information, without being totalizing, on the state of the art in the literature regarding that relationship [16
The main contributions of this article are the following: (1) document some relationship between the customer-centric perspective and sustainability from 1990 to July 2020; (2) provide a detailed bibliometric analysis of the above was performed using both the Web of Science and Scopus databases and the VOSviewer software; (3) the most common parameters were used, such as the most prolific authors, the papers with the most influence, the countries where they were published the most, trends, etc.; (4) the conceptualization of all of the above was done using the most common keywords in the subject; and (5) offer suggestions for practitioners in order to be more sustainable and obtain a customer-centric perspective.
The reminder of this paper is organized as follows. The related research is reviewed in Section 2
. The proposed methodology is presented in Section 3
. Section 4
shows the analysis of the most relevant papers from a bibliometric perspective. Finally, the main conclusions of this study and opportunities for further research are presented in Section 5
Bibliometric studies are used as a research technique that studies bibliographic material from a quantitative perspective [15
]. These analyzes are based on reliable data such as indexed publications. In any case, these analyzes are based on a solid source of knowledge and not on the opinion of different experts [44
]. This methodology has been used in research in the world of administration and helps to improve and understand the theory behind various related areas such as information systems in management, international management, logistics, etc. [45
Within this methodology it is necessary that all the published material of customer centricity and sustainability can be used in such a way that the different researchers can find the latest advances and trends in these areas [46
]. It is very interesting to see how, with the latest advances in technology, the development of bibliometric investigations has been facilitated in a very clear way, which has made them increasingly popular [47
Taking into account all the databases available, it was decided to carry out the bibliometric study using the two most important scientific databases, i.e., Web of Science and Scopus. Web of Science (www.webofknowledge.com
) is “the world’s most trusted publisher-independent global citation database” [48
], while Scopus (www.scopus.com
) is the “largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature: scientific journals, books, and conference proceedings” which indexes thousands of publications and conference papers in the Management area [49
]. Table 1
contains a summary of the methodology used in this research.
To build the Equation presented in Table 1
, multiple queries were made in the Web of Science and Scopus search engine, combining all the relationships of customer centricity on the one hand, and, on the other, combining all the relationships of sustainability, having to take into account the article title, the abstract, and the keywords. Those results were filtered, using the same Web of Science and Scopus tools, by relevance, number of times they have been cited, year of publication, and keywords. In the same way, a text mining software called VOSviewer, developed by the University of Leiden [50
], was used, which served to detect repeated non-relevant terms and to organize the relationships between the common terms found.
The referred search found a total of 218 publications between 1990 and 31 July 2020. From the 218 publications, 146 are indexed in Scopus only, 5 are indexed in Web of Science solely, and 67 are indexed in both databases. The Results and Discussion will be presented in the next section.
4. Results and Discussion
A study of these characteristics combines science mapping, performance analysis as main procedures [51
]. The science mapping procedure shows in a graphic representation how different scientific actors relate to each other [52
], for example, the co-occurrence of keywords [46
], the evolution of concepts over time, and heat maps of the most used terms. The performance analysis procedure descriptively shows academic assets (e.g., research centers, main research countries, etc.) based on citation indexes [44
]. Finally, we also propose a case study analysis in order to quantify real-life implementations, overview the most studied industries, list the most frequent research methodologies implemented, and propose some managerial insights regarding Customer Centricity and Sustainable Organizations. This mapping research will be presented in detail next.
4.1. Annual Citation and Most Cited Papers
In Figure 1
it can be seen how the first paper that speaks about customer-centric experience and “sustainability” was published in 1990, showing the relationship with the life cycle of products [53
]. Papers on the subject are not published until 2001 when 1onedocument researching the subject of this investigation was given light.
In 2001, it begins to see a slight growth in publications that show the relationship between the customer-centric perspective and sustainability, with a gap in 2003 and 2004. This continued growth reaches its maximum expression in 2019 with the Publication of 45 documents and continues with the same trend in 2020, where 32 publications had already been reported in the first seven months of the year. Regarding the number of citations, there is no clear upward trend before 2010. However, after the publication of the most cited paper (see Table 2
), the number of citations has grown exponentially to nearly 911 until the end of 2019.
As shown in Table 2
, “Mindful Consumption: A customer-centric approach to sustainability” [10
] during the research period it has 381 citations, and therefore the number of references will impact the analyzes that will be made later. This paper develops the concept of Customer Centricity Sustainability and suggests that the best way to live it is to make customers aware of mindful consumption, which means that customers must be aware of themselves, the community, and the environment.
Continuing with some changes in the trend explained above, in 2015 a paper developed some metrics that help measure customer experience from an environment-centered perspective [54
], reaching 102 citations. Where it is shown that when customer participation in the creation of products is taken into account, a better experience is achieved, and there is a greater possibility of reaching different types of consumers.
During 2016 a paper with 122 citations develops from a broad point of view some characteristics that in the hospitality sector are key for customer engagement and determines sustainability as one of them [55
]. These ideas are produced after a review of the literature. A framework is developed that includes key categories that must always be considered in the co-creating process of products and services.
Avery and Bergsteiner [56
] in “Sustainable leadership practices for enhancing business resilience and performance”, with 65 citations, speaks of sustainability as a factor to achieve higher performance and high value for multiple stakeholders. A model for applying over the business as usual is developed that seeks that the managers of the organizations seek high performance and resilience from the perspective of sustainability.
With 61 citations, the consumer experience is related to the proper management of collaborators [57
]. It is shown that if the above is not taken into account, it will be very difficult for the companies to achieve success. This can be measured with a model that examines the relationship between employees, customers, and the company. The connections between each role are enabling promises, making promises, and keeping promises must be made.
The following papers range from 40 to 53 citations and, refer leveraging information technologies, and IT services to achieve the customer-centric perspective and sustainability [12
]; the need to have Corporate Social Responsibility [59
]; the link between the implementation of the customer-centric green supply chain management and the environmental policy [9
]; and the assessment of customers for environmentally friendly policies as a criterion of loyalty [60
4.2. Keyword and Clusters Analysis
As mentioned before, the co-occurrence of keywords is analyzed through VOSviewer [50
]. In the 218 papers, 1589 keywords were identified, of which 106 were used in the analysis since they fulfilled the requirement of having at least three occurrences. Figure 2
shows the three dominant clusters. The components of each cluster are presented in Table 3
. The first cluster (red) is led by Sustainable Development, Customer-Centric Perspective, and Sales, the second cluster (green) enclose Sustainability and Commerce, and the third cluster (blue) encompasses Customer-Centricity and Sustainability Trends.
In Cluster 1, 48 concepts are related to “Sustainable Development”, the “Customer-Centric” perspective, “Customer Satisfaction” and “Sales”. The “Sustainable Development” is understood as the set of practices to achieve sustainability [56
], the “Customer-Centric” perspective as emphasizing the service in terms of revolving around the customer, to maintain the relationship with the firm [58
]. Closely related to the above, “Customer Satisfaction” shows that the strategy is adequate so that the client is happy with the company and ultimately that centrality is achieved [61
]. In the same way, it is seen how it is strongly related to the sales of the companies [62
], the design of the goods [63
], decision making [65
], maintaining competitive advantages, and increasing the life cycle of products [66
It is very interesting as in Cluster 2, where “sustainability” is incorporated in the “triple bottom line” perspective where the performance of companies is not only based on economic criteria, but the environmental and social impact must be taken into account [10
]. In this cluster, the relationship between 34 different concepts is shown, among which the use of marketing stands out [16
]; the quality of the service [67
]; and a very interesting topic where the use of Information, Communication Technology, and Big Data is promoted [68
Taking into account the need for information at the right time, the Big Data approach [58
] and the utilization of some Artificial Intelligence techniques [72
] are able to effectively and efficiently manage and analyze the vast amount of customer data [3
]. This will bring as a benefit that customers are increasingly loyal to firms [60
] and communication channels between organizations and customers are more efficient [74
], and therefore a more effective client centrality [75
Additionally, in Cluster 3, which has 24 keywords, the “Customer Experience Trends” and “Sustainability Trends” appears as the predominant concepts, which has a direct relationship with new developments. In this case, the customer centricity and sustainability help ensure that the products generate a sensation that is pleasing to the human senses at the time of consuming it [76
]. Corporate Social Responsibility [26
] plays a very important role and some concepts take relevance, such as Circular Economy [77
], Internet of Thing [78
], Design Thinking [79
], E-Commerce [80
], and Customer Engagement [55
presents a heat map that shows the intertwining between the most frequent keywords (concepts), including the integration between “Customer Centricity” and “Sustainability”.
It is very interesting to see in Figure 4
how the concepts of customer centricity, quality control, and product design are developed first chronologically. In a second stage, concepts such as sustainable development, use of information, and human behavior begin to emerge. To finally get as a new trend (see Cluster 3 in Figure 2
) e-commerce, internet of things, circular economy, and customer experience management.
Finally, it can be seen clearly, as, in one hand, Figure 3
shows the most repeated keywords, and on the other hand, Figure 4
shows the most recent concepts.
4.3. Subject Area
concludes that the discipline that most develops the concepts seen above are “Business, Management and Accounting”, because Marketing, from which everything related to the customer-centric perspective is derived mainly. The second discipline is “Engineering” since it is part of the same area that develops sustainability issues. Along the same lines, the third discipline is “Computer Science” for everything related to information technology and big data. Finally, the fourth discipline is "Social Sciences", as they are part of the common area of management and marketing [82
4.4. Remarkable Authors, Countries’ Participation, and Leading Institutions and Sources
shows the top 11 journals, with the total number of documents, citations, and the average number of citations per paper. The first journal on the list is "Sustainability" with eight documents. They were analyzed taking into account the CiteScore Percentile which assesses the impact of citations in the last 3 years, with 99th being the highest percentile and 0th being the lowest [83
], and the SJR 2018, which assesses the weight of citations taking into account the subject of the journal and its prestige [84
]. Considering the above, it is very interesting how 8 of the 11 journals are in Q1 of the CiteScore Percentile and two of them—“Business Strategy and the Environment” and “Industrial Management and Data Systems”—are even on the 99th CiteScore Percentile. In this specific case, there does not seem to be a direct relationship between the “Average citation per document” and the weight in the CiteScore Percentile, which shows the academic weight of the journals used in this document with objective criteria.
As pointed out by Esfahani [85
], it is also important to evaluate the authors, universities, and countries as those are a valuable reference points in order to map the available customer centricity and sustainability literature. Table 5
shows the authors with more than 53 citations in the research. Table 6
shows the first 10 institutions that produced the most documents, and it is interesting to note that the second in the number of papers is not a university, but an automobile manufacturing company, which shows the relevance in the world of the industry of the relationship between the “custom-centric” perspective and “sustainability”. Table 7
shows the 10 countries with the most papers produced, taking into account that the United States, the first in the list, produced more documents than the sum of the second and third in the list: China and India. It is important to note that no authors and almost no institutions are involved in this topic repeatedly. This is interesting, as researchers and their teams usually specialize in some topics which are repeatedly analyzed and discussed. Therefore, we can conclude that the interest in this topic is very sporadic and/or inconsistent.
Regarding the citations by country, it is important to note that the sum of the second to the tenth country (661 citations) does not reach the citations of the first in the list, the United States (899 citations), which shows that it is country is at the forefront in the investigation of this subject. Finally, regarding the number of citations, as seen in Table 2
, the 3 most cited papers affect a significant percentage of the total citations.
4.5. Case Studies’ Analysis
Case studies are very valuable for practitioners as this methodology presents not only how and why things happen, but also the differences between what was planned and what actually occurred in contemporary phenomena [86
]. For this reason, we identified, categorize, and analyze all the case-study research on the 218 documents of the bibliometric analysis. Initially, Figure 6
shows all the case studies according to the methodology implemented. From the 41 case studies founded, 27 cases use a qualitative methodology, 9 use a quantitative methodology, and 5 cases use a mixed methodology.
Analyzing in more depth, in Figure 7
, it is seen how a great variety of alternatives are used to develop the research, which gives a good number of options to integrate sustainability and customer-centricity perspective in organizations. In the 41 articles used, the methodologies described are, among others, frameworks, Interviews, Quantitative Models, Surveys, Cluster Correlations, and Simulations.
Along the same lines, in the 41 case studies covered, as seen in Figure 8
, there are a large number of different industries: Hospitality, Healthcare, Logistics, Retail, Fashion, Technology, etc. The foregoing gives a more holistic perspective regarding the results of this research.
Taking into account the results of these 41 papers, the most relevant ones, and with the most citations, were identified in order to be able to make suggestions to practitioners regarding the search for sustainability and customer centricity in their respective firms.
The search for the real purpose for business and develop a business model with a social goal is shown to be essential to achieve the above [10
], without forgetting the stakeholder view [88
], and that profits are not the only thing necessary to create value [89
], be coherent with the corporate purpose [13
]. In addition, it is shown that when looking after the environment is good for profit [90
], and to get the loyalty of customers [60
]. The economic and environmental aspects cannot be differentiated [92
]; it is an intangible experience which consumers perceive [94
Other good suggestions for practitioners are the implementation of a circular business model [95
], the integration of a brand experience that explicitly includes sustainability [74
], and that the use of big data and quick access to information prevents failure in the customer service [96
5. Conclusions and Future Research
This paper shows mapping research of the customer-centric perspective and sustainability in organizations. To carry out the investigation, the Web of Science and Scopus databases were used, and 218 documents were analyzed, 1589 keywords were identified, of which 106 were used in the deep analysis since they fulfilled the requirement of having at least three occurrences. The period ranging was from 1990 to 31 July 2020. For bibliometric analysis, the VOSviewer program, the Web of Science data, and the Scopus information were used.
The research, in the study subjects, grows in an accelerated way, since it went from 5 papers in 2005, 5 in 2010, 17 in 2015, and 45 in 2019.
The year with the highest number of publications was 2019, and the paper with the greatest impact is “Mindful consumption: A customer-centric approach to sustainability” published by Sheth, Sethia, and Sriniva [10
], who are, in turn, the authors with the highest number of citations.
Within the keyword analysis, three clusters were identified: the first focused on “Sustainable Development” and “Customer-Centric Perspective” and its relationship to “Customer Satisfaction”; the second shows the “Sustainability” understood as “Triple Bottom Line”; the third develops trends as in recent years as e-commerce, the internet of things, circular economy, and design thinking.
The dominant disciplines in the documents are “Business, Management, and Accounting”, “Engineering”, and “Computer Science”. Additionally, within these subjects, the most relevant journals are “Journal of Service Management”, “International Journal of Hospitality Management”, “International Journal of Operations and Production Management”, “Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services”, and “Business Strategy and the Environment”. The institutions with the most publications were “Bina Nusantura University”, “General Motors”, “University Teknology MARA”, and “Michigan State University”. The country that is far ahead in these issues is the United States, followed by India, and China.
In addition, based on the case analysis, the industries studied were identified, the main methodologies were shown, and some ideas were suggested to the practitioners. Corporate purpose was also identified as a theme that helps to achieve sustainability and a customer-centric perspective.
This research topic was chosen, to the best of our knowledge, as it has not been previously discussed and is relevant to advance the customer as the center of organizations and at the same time find economic, environmental, and people sustainability in the long term.
Finally, in subsequent investigations, it will be interesting to propose a methodology to fully integrate the corporate purpose together with the sustainability and customer centricity approaches, since in this paper some contributions in this field were highlighted.