Since the recession, social media engagement has become the forefront of the marketing world. It allows you to communicate with your consumers on a more personal basis, and in return, it will enable your customers to be more vocal with you. So generating excellent customer service has become more critical than ever. Granted, business 101 is “The customer always comes first”, but with the digital world being awake 24/7, how can businesses continuously prioritise their consumers in an organic way? Through implementing a customer-centric culture within their brand.
Customer centricity goes further than just pleasing a one-off customer. It is using metrics that allow you to understand the wants, and needs of your customers, so you can develop a strategy that creates an everlasting holistic experience for every consumer.
A customer’s lifecycle with your company is incredibly valuable and should be forever growing even after they have reached the purchasing stage. In this age of marketing, you need to adhere from seeing the transaction as a full stop in your relationship with a customer. Instead, consider it as an end of a chapter, and begin to find ways to continue a conversation with them. In business terms, drop the metrics that look at infrequent one-time sales, and invest your time in calculating the potential revenue a customer can bring to your business over their lifetime.
You need to stop seeing a transaction as a full stop in your relationship with a customer and consider it the end of a chapter; then find ways to continue the conversation
In this article, we are going to demonstrate the value of a customer-centric business, how to implement it into your marketing strategy, and how to keep building your consumer’s experience with your brand.
What Does it Mean to be Customer Centric?
Firstly, you will need to understand that customer centricity should be a company's ideology, not a detached business action. A successful customer-centric organisation approaches every move with the customer's needs in mind. It builds its core values around creating the perfect customer experience from the first contact, through to purchasing, and finally, post-purchase.
To assure your company’s core values maintain a customer-centric mentality, there needs to be clear and consistent communication across your entire company; from the CEO down to the employee on the shop floor. Successful brands that have established a customer-centric culture have used it to drive the morale of their employees, and in doing so have seen an increased result in customer retention and monetary gain.
Why is Customer Centricity Important?
With any element to a business strategy, an owner will be thinking: how does this benefit me and my company? Cultivating brand values that implicate a customer-centric culture is a fundamental building block to pushing your brand forward, expanding your customer base, and reaping the financial benefits.
Here are four reasons why customer-centricity is essential to improving your company’s revenue:
1. Creating the Perfect Customer Experience
The entire journey of your customer’s interaction with your business needs to be fluent, and effortless. To make this happen, every objective of your business, each employee, and any action needs to consider how it is impacting the client. Even the smallest gesture can help assemble your company’s customer-centric culture. For instance, let's look at Starbucks’ toilet paper decision.
During a recent blog post, Joseph Michelli recalled a previous conversation with a Starbucks financial officer. The discussion focused on the brand’s significant decision to upgrade their customer’s toilet paper from one-ply to two-ply, to help create a luxurious, and nurtured experience for their customer. Although this decision seems irrelevant, and time-consuming, it is the attention to detail that demonstrates Starbucks’ dedication to their customer-centric values.
Companies that are dedicated to customer-centric strategies outperform their competitors, and this trend is predicted to increase
Although this example may seem inconsequential, Starbucks has highlighted the growing importance of focusing on developing the perfect customer experience. Econsultancy’s recent report indicates that customer experience is the vital business opportunity of the year, and also demonstrates companies that are dedicated to customer-centric strategies outperform their competitors. This trend is predicted to increase. According to a Walker study, by 2020 a company’s customer experience will be more important than the price of a product or service.
2. Nurture Your Customer to Reap the Retention Rates
As stated in the introduction, you need to stop looking at single-transaction metrics and start looking at your customer's retention rates. Your customer retention rate is a substantial aspect of valuing a customer’s lifecycle with your brand. The more time you dedicate to keeping a customer, the more value the customer brings to your brand’s revenue with repeat sales.Investing your time nurturing a small number of long-term relationships with customers is far more valuable than generating a significant amount of short-term customer interactions. Allow each customer to feel personally appreciated through their entire experience with your company, to give them the incentive to purchase from you again.
3. Customer Requirements Before Product Desires
The companies with the most successful customer retention rates are the ones that replace a product-centric strategy with a customer-centric culture. If your company has attempted to use a customer-centric approach, and have not seen positive results, you are most likely trying to apply customer centricity tactics through a product-centric lens.
By understanding the distinction between the two, you can gain a better insight into the direction you want to take your business, and convey a more coherent dialogue through your company that will give you more successful results.
Instead of repeat customers, you could be looking at unprofitable investment, as you have produced a product that customers don't want and are less likely to purchase.
A product-centric organisation focuses on the development of a product or service before understanding what their customer requires. Instead of investing their time in customer research, they prioritise their effort on product innovation, efficiency, and keeping the production cost down. Admittingly, this is still an essential stage of a company’s process, brands that focus on product centricity are more inclined to disregard their consumer’s requirements for their services. Instead of implementing their product into their customer’s lifestyle, they will adopt a forceful upselling technique to push their goods. This is not an innovative solution in today’s marketing industry.
Instead of repeat customers, you could be looking at unprofitable investment, as you have produced a product that customers don't want and are less likely to purchase.
If you focus your attention on creating customer centricity, you can develop an in-depth understanding of your consumer’s needs. In doing so, your company will naturally provide a better service or product that will keep your customers returning to you because you have fulfilled their needs and requirements.
4. A Valued Customer is a Loyal Customer
The benefit of generating loyalty in customers can go beyond gaining repeat sales. If you are planning to expand your product range, or explore new services, nothing is more beneficial to trial and error than the opinion of returning customers. To allow your audience to identify your brand as a reliable source of excellent service, you need to build a trustworthy relationship with them. This means they are more inclined to try your new products and promote it through word of mouth engagement.
Before reaping the ‘give and take’ benefits of a customer’s loyalty, you need to demonstrate to your consumer how valuable they are to your company. Simply changing your company’s ethos to tailor a customer-centric culture will naturally increase the value of your relationship for both you and your customer.
How to Build a Customer-Centric Culture
So you understand the benefits of altering your business to a customer-centric culture, you now need to know how to implement it. The first thing to remember is that building a customer-focused culture doesn’t happen overnight.
If you’re a startup or relatively new business, building customer-centricity will be a piece of cake as your audience will have little or no previous impression of your persona, giving you the chance to make a compelling first impression. That doesn’t mean there is no hope for a company who is more mature and more established, it just means you will have to be a little more creative when revising and reshaping the existing business plan that will help you gain a customer-centric culture. Here are seven steps to focusing on your customer:
1. Embed Customer Satisfaction Into Your Brand Ideology
Every profitable business has a strong brand philosophy and values. It allows a company to evolve in new directions successfully, yet still keeping them grounded in the roots of the business ethos. To assure customer centricity is communicated across your organisation, it needs to become ingrained into your company’s values and ideology. Every action, goal, and strategy needs to be responsive to your brand’s current customer satisfaction rate before making any business decision.
2. Build Awareness Across Every Stage of the Hierarchy
Nothing can deteriorate customer-centricity more than the downfall of failed communication. If you include it into your brand values, marketing strategies, and overall business direction, you need to assure you explicitly tell every employee.
For a customer-centric culture to work, you need to advertise, vigorously, how important improving customer satisfaction is to your company's core values. To allow this to work you have to guarantee the majority of your team, or anyone connected to your business believes, in the company’s brand values and is willing to help your move in the most prosperous direction.
3. Sacrifice That Important Meeting to Help Build Customer Satisfaction
Remind yourself and your team that customers pay the salaries. With that mindset, it will be difficult not to be more customer-centric. As a CEO, director, or manager it can be hard to prioritise constant customer satisfaction when your diary is filled with humdrum meetings, revising endless profit margins, and conquering every possible business opportunity. Remember, none of that would be possible without your loyal customer base.
Every employee, including yourself, should consider delaying an important task to gain you a better opportunity to build a stronger relationship with a customer.
4. Build Morale With Rewards
Every element of your business should align with the sole purpose of creating a holistic customer experience. For this to happen, you need a motivated team of employees who are driven to develop a customer-centric approach to company growth. In return, rewarding them for their efforts and making your company and the customer relationship flourish.
5. Get Everyone Involved With the Customers
A customer-centric culture goes beyond the walls of the customer service department. Every employee needs to participate in understanding what the customer wants. Even if their department is not in direct communication with the consumer, they have a particular talent that can help add to your customer-centric culture. It is your job to encourage them to find it, and support them to develop it.
6. Hire Employees That Bring to the Table, and Fire the Ones That Don’t
Just like every customer is valued, every employee is too. That is why when it comes to hiring a new employee, make sure they not only appreciate the customer-focused ethos in your business but are also demonstrating ways they can improve them.
7. Use Your Customer Reviews as a Success Story
As stated in the introduction, a relationship with a customer does not end at the purchasing or delivery stage. You need to find ways to regenerate the conversation and a way to ignite that topic is through celebration. If a customer has a successful delivery, is overly impressed with the service, or is pleased with their purchase and shares it online, then celebrate their success with them. They have found and shared extra value in your business so use that to build onto your story, reward the employees involved, and motivate your team.
By doing this you are acknowledging brand advocacy that can widen audiences, you’re generating potential retention, and you are portraying to your audience that your company is a team. This insinuates you are a friendly, nurturing, and an excellent place to work.
Who is Accomplishing a Customer-Centric Culture?
The failure of adopting customer centricity can also refer back to a weak corporate culture. Businesses can tend to neglect to focus on developing a robust customer-centric culture, instead, they jump straight into a business sales strategy all about maximising profits. Move with the mentality of “how” we can push profits, and not “why” we should push them. By doing the latter, you are failing to use customer relationships as an economic solution. This will result in a decline in traffic and sales.
Failing to start a strategy with an action that can improve customer satisfaction will not only affect retention rates but also the sustainability and long-term growth of your company. Using customer management tools to oversee your focused efforts on the customer will help maintain successful growth.
Here are three examples of a company’s customer-focused strategy, that have accomplished successful growth:
Consumers have more options for products and services than ever, and Netflix has capitalised on that. This fundamental change in behavioural buying habits is a primary element to the birth of customer-centricity. Research has shown that by 2020 this behaviour will increase by 30%. For businesses to deal with the rapid increase in choice, you need to understand the benefit of customer research, analysing customer reviews, and the impact of a social media conversation. Every interaction you can gain with your customer will allow you to keep on top of the ever-growing option trend, finding innovative ways to develop your services.
The streaming sensation has rapidly flourished because of their resourceful knowledge of their customer base. Before taking any action, Netflix collects an extensive amount of data to devise particular and personal recommendations for every customer. They use that data to help viewers find new favourite shows, raise platforms of a diverse range of shows and have also developed award-winning original content.
Content that has altered the way we watch television, affected political views, and influenced the pop culture behaviour of their Millennial target market.
Netflix continues to use their influence to pioneer a direct relationship with said consumers. For example, in August 2017 two men from Chicago opened up a “Stranger Things” themed pop-up bar without Netflix’s permission. Instead of filing a plagiarism lawsuit like most prominent corporations, Netflix decided to use a humorous letter in tune with the hit TV show, to subtly tell them to stop. This creative tactic allowed them to be perceived as lighthearted, funny, and still an advocate of their fans, an action that reflects the company's youthful and modern customer-centric culture.
Because the digital world has allowed the average consumer to live life with ease, convenience, and the ability to buy anything at any time. This has provoked the dilemma of having too many options. One of the main benefits of using customer-centricity is it allows a company to solve the problems their consumers face continuously. SnapTravel is a perfect example.
79% of travel consumers felt they have wasted time delving through the options on their desktop or mobile to plan a trip. SnapTravel used this data to help improve this problem for their consumers. They designed software using AI to help their consumers plan a vacation using their mobile messenger service. A customer messages the company messenger service describing the type of holiday they want, and SnapTravel replies with a list of options. SnapTravel used customer centricity data to discover their audience’s request to reduce travel search time and resolved it by cutting out the middleman, i.e. search engines and downloading apps.
The final appraisal of SnapTravel use of customer-focused strategies continue beyond the purchase stage Once a customer has booked a hotel through their services, SnapTravel will then contact the hotel to upgrade the customer’s room as a surprise for their arrival; a creative and alluring tactic to assure the relationship continues to evolve.
Amazon was one of the first companies to leverage the power of the internet. Over the last 24 years, Amazon has consistently gained the advantage due to their customer-centric brand values. The online corporation was one of the first to implement customer-centricity and has empowered the strategy throughout their entire existence. Proving this in their brand missions statement, “We seek to become Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Amazon has consistently gained customer satisfaction and assured their focus on their customers continues to grow and stay successful. Here are three of the many tactics they used to put their mission into practice.
Keep your Ear to the Ground
To ensure that the board of directors understand their customers' needs, every two years they spend two days at the customer service desk. This practice encourages the entire employee team to follow in their director's footsteps, and try to understand the customer’s perspective at all times. In doing so, it allows the brand’s customer-centric values to stay strong through every level of employees at the company.
Design With Customer Value
Every product that Amazon develops is designed with the aim of adding value to the customer’s life, such as the Kindle, delivery drones, and prime delivery.
Succeed With Customer-Centric Leadership
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is an advocate for leaders who focus on their customers. When he first formed the company, he would leave an empty chair at the board meetings, to remind the entire board of the most crucial member of the company - the customer.
Establishing customer centricity can seem overwhelming at first, whether you’re a two-person independent business or a multinational corporation. Nevertheless, customer-centric companies have been found to be 60% more profitable compared to product-centric companies. This is because their customer’s satisfaction becomes the responsibility and the goal of every level of employee, not just the sales and customer care department.
Remember, this does not happen overnight. Think cultivation, not automation. Use thorough research and the right tools to understand the client’s needs, instead of aggressively pushing products in the hope for a quick win.