Customer-centric organizations are nothing new. Since the creation of customer relationship management and managing tools (CRMs), the idea that all product decisions should relate back to the customer seems like a no-brainer. And yet, the concept feels as vague and underappreciated as ever, one we all pay lip service to but don’t always succeed in honoring. It’s time to start thinking of customer centricity a goal, rather than a principle. You and your company are always striving to satisfy customer needs; being customer-centric takes action, rather than simply the desire to seem conscientious.
Why Is Customer Centricity So Important?
Buzzwords and business jargon aside, customer-centric metrics make sense in the 21st century. As Bill Macaitis, CMO of multi-billion dollar company Slack, explains, “The voice of the customer has never been stronger with the rise of social...Companies are increasingly understanding the power of word-of mouth marketing, and how that begins and ends with a great experience for their customers.”
How does that translate to the real world? Take this plea from Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti to his employees: “I want to challenge you to put us out of business...Put us out of business because you are so damn generous with what you give the people who walk in this door.” Crying kid? Give them a cup of custard. But more than just free desserts, Garutti’s words reflect a larger effort to empower employees to do whatever it takes to create a stellar customer experience.
And then there’s the big picture when you have a customer-focused company; you create a product and experience that your customer enjoys and will want to repeat again. When you sell more product, your company continues to grow and thrive. Customer-centricity looks at the lifetime value of a customer, reducing churn rate and increasing customer satisfaction over time.
If being customer-centric is so obvious, why is it so challenging? Forrester cites three main challenges in their 2015 Vendor Landscape report:
- Lack of Clarity: Not all employees share the same understanding and definition of the experience their company is supposed to deliver.
- Failure to Affect Company Culture: Without embedding customer-centricity into all parts of an organization, culture can’t and won’t be changed.
- Loss of Interest: Cultural transformation isn’t the end, either; the company and employees need to practice customer-centricity with focus and intention.
The problem is that customer centricity isn’t a single project--it’s an element of everything a company does, from everyday decisions to company-wide initiatives.
Companies aren’t going to hop off the customer-centric bandwagon anytime soon, so what does that mean for consumers and their competitors? More digital marketing (including interactive content like ebooks, blogs, and videos), automated marketing, WOM marketing, and a huge dependence on apps and mobile. And according to Gartner, the CRM market continues to grow.
Creating a Customer-Centric Strategy
So how can you make your business all about the customer and compete in today’s consumer-obsessed market? Check out these best practices:
1. Truly believe that the customer comes first.
You can’t fake caring about your customers, and you need genuine, passionate employees who want to see your business through your customers’ eyes. You need to train, support, and hire these employees according to your customer-centric philosophy; make your company’s core values the center of any onboarding process, and continually reinforce your commitment to these tenets.
Having a physical representation or policy demonstrating how your company is customer centric can go a long way towards promoting your core values statement. For example, employees at the Ritz Carlton carry around “credo-cards” with the company’s philosophy and core beliefs on them while they are at work.
2. Measure the customer experience.
It’s important to measure the success of your customer-centric measures in order to practice what you preach: do customers enjoy buying from and interacting with your business and employees? If you’re not listening to customers, you’re not really a customer-centric company. Identify all the various touches your company makes with customers, from advertisements to customer service calls, and then you can begin to assess your strengths and weaknesses.
It can be difficult to come up with a consistent way to track customer satisfaction: do you use surveys after every interaction? What about overall customer experience vs. the experience of individuals? Is your churn rate the most important metric? Many companies use their Net Promoter Score (NPS) as their baseline. NPS is based on one simple question: would you recommend this company to a relative or friend?
All in all, assessing customer experience takes a multi-pronged approach. This article from Jeff Sauro at MeasuringU discusses 32 ways to measure the customer experience, from customer satisfaction surveys to tracking where customers are clicking on your website.
3. Let feedback drive your improvement.
Now that you’re measuring customer experience and tracking your customers’ ever-changing needs and desires, let that feedback lead to real change in your product and company. At Less Annoying CRM, we are all about continuing to change and improve even our most tried and true processes. For example, we give software demos to customers and free-trial users who are interested in learning more about the product and maximizing the value of their CRM. Demos have always been a hugely successful part of our business model--it’s a win-win for us and customers alike. Customers get to ask us any questions and tailor the product to their specific needs, and we get real-time feedback about our software and the customer experience. What are customers having trouble with? What isn’t clear in our help documentation? What is the best way to explain a concept or feature?
Even though our company has been giving demos for years, we constantly discuss how to tweak best practices: what order we should give the demo in, which features need highlighting, how long to discuss a customer’s needs and business before even showing them the software. We’ve each learned how to tweak our standard demo format on the fly, depending on what the customer needs. While the ability to improvise takes experience and time, it greatly improves our performance during demos and can often lead to team-wide tweaks to improve customer experience.
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