The unconventional action plan to being customer centric
Time and again, we are reminded that being customer centric is great for business. Last year, a study from PwC concluded that customer centric organisations are 60% more profitable than those that are not consistently focusing on the customer. And while this may sound relatively self-evident, the shift from one approach to another can prove to bring quite a challenging mindset change for organisations that are grounded in a more traditional, product-driven world view.
Why is customer centricity better?
If we look at some of the factors behind the increased profitability, we see that many changes are not only about improving the bottom line but actually creating a healthier, more sustainable business with a happier workforce.
By taking these actions, you will establish ways in which your business can continually improve and expand to gain market share and become the provider of choice for your ideal customer.
Action #1: Realise your potential
Every business has the inherent ability to become customer centric. There is a powerful link between review and performance, but it can only be leveraged by opening some genuine, honest communications channels between management, service staff, partners and customers. Start taking stock of what value you bring to your customers, and how that value can be multiplied – then evaluate how much more each client may spend with every improvement you implement. The potential revenue increase may shock you.
Customer centricity not only unlocks transparent feedback from your target audience, but also serves to trigger innovation and development which further improves the customer relationship – boosting customer retention rates.
Action #2: Focus on company culture
Customer centricity is something which should be embedded in every company culture, but in reality it rarely is. And although culture is something very difficult to change quickly, there are various things leadership can do to influence the culture and implore a shift. The most powerful way to do this is to set a practical example. By bringing customer focus into the boardroom, it will gradually cascade down into departmental decision making and operations.
One of the best side effects of having a customer centric company culture is the ability to maintain staff motivation. If your workforce sees the business standing on solid ethical ground with high customer satisfaction, they will no longer experience the discord between promise and delivery that often causes stress and frustration.
Action #3: Fight the customer’s corner in product development
Genuine customer focus begins at the drawing board. By incorporating the voice of the customer into the entire product development process, you will maintain a balance which will help you create and innovate products that are not only technologically advanced but that actually add value to the customer experience.
Find out what your customers are expecting, what they find useful and what they would pay extra to have. Map out their frustrations from competitive products, discover what their dream solution would look like and endeavour to create an alternative that ticks every box – and more.
By creating products and solutions that are aligned to your customers’ expectations, you will be able to supply a sustainable product which brings genuine value to the customer over time – and you will be considered a trusted supplier of useful quality solutions. This is becoming more and more important in the software world, as the marketplace becomes more crowded. Along with many others, IBM recently made some major shifts in how they develop solutions with customers in the spotlight. Remember that innovations that focus on the customer are the best ones!
Action #4: Deliver exceptional customer service
There are no shortcuts to improving customer satisfaction. However, the one place where your business can gain ground the fastest is within your customer service department. There are countless examples of where customers have been successfully placated and as a result rated a provider highly based on their post-purchase service experience – even after having an initially bad experience of the product in question.
Your organisation’s ability to be accountable for any shortcomings, reflected in the skilful handling of complaints and service requests, will often take centre stage in your customer ratings.
By treating each customer in a way that makes them feel like the most important person in the world, your customer service organisation will stand out from the crowd and create a genuine impression of exceptional service. As a result, the customer will not only be happy to spend more money with you but will also likely recommend your business to friends and colleagues.
Action #5: Build brand advocacy
A satisfied customer is the most powerful – and the most under-used – asset in any sales process. The best way to ensure you have the level of customer satisfaction needed for winning influential advocates is to understand your most important audience segments and probe their needs. Social media can be a huge helper here. By mapping social behaviours you will be able to clearly see the patterns of what genuinely matters to your market stakeholders. Bypass the tired concept of competitions and “like-farming” and focus instead on earning advocacy by giving people a genuine insight into what your clients are saying about your products and services.
There are many ways of compensating customers for playing this vital part, such as referral incentives and case study rewards, but often you will find that your strongest advocates will be more than happy to express their views without a defined reward – which of course helps make the message all the more credible!
By building a customer advocacy programme, you will be able to leverage the voice of the customer and create a much more credible and relatable brand. With the help of a needs-based approach to social innovation, you can become a customer magnet, a source of useful information and insight, which in turn is a superb tool for attracting new and expanded audiences.
One brilliant example of a successful advocacy strategy is the SAP Mentor program, where technologists, business people, consultants and others are nominated by the customer community to work with the company, inform SAP strategies and offerings, and offer support and guidance for customers.