Your business lives and dies by the customer experience. Its culture, assets, structure, marketing, and sales all need to work together to deliver satisfactory outcomes. While focusing on the product and trying to sell as much of it as possible is natural, no longer can you afford to ignore the importance of implementing a customer-centric strategy across the board.
On its face, customer-centricity may seem like a catch-all for strategies that bring out the best in your customer service team, but being truly customer-centric has a lot more to it. It requires a lot more than just promptly answering your customers’ queries. And it’s not enough to assume that your product or service will help people achieve their goals.
So, what’s a customer-centric approach all about? Also, what are some examples of customer-centric companies that are outperforming their competitors? This post has all the answers. Below, we will run through everything you need to know to create a customer-centric strategy for your business – including real-world examples.
- What Is Customer-Centricity?
- Why Is Customer-Centricity Important?
- Being Product-Centric vs. Customer-Centric
- Best Practices for Creating an Effective Customer-Centric Strategy
- Examples of Customer-Centricity
- Want to Learn More?
What Is Customer-Centricity?
Being customer- or client-centric simply means pleasing customers at every interaction across their path to purchase. This means every touchpoint in your customer journey – from the Google search that helps customers discover your business to their final purchase, and every moment in between – is an opportunity to provide an exceptional customer experience. Truly customer-centric organizations collect data from multiple channels and sources and delight their customers with relevant communications at the right time.
For a customer who has developed a relationship with a company, this could mean seeing personalized recommendations as they scroll through the company’s website, and then receiving a promotional email the next day offering a discounted deal. Companies that survive and thrive are those keen on meeting every need of the modern consumer across every channel, in every way.
Why Is Customer-Centricity Important?
Simply put, there are several benefits to becoming a customer-centric company. The biggest of these comes in the form of increased profitability – customer-centric brands are 60 percent more profitable than brands that don’t focus on their customers.
Much of this happens due to more referrals and repeat sales. After all, customers don’t mind staying loyal to companies that treat them well, and they’ll even refer their products and services to friends and family on social media and offline outlets.
Other benefits of customer-centricity include:
- Better understanding of your customers’ pain points, thoughts and needs before, during and after purchase
- Ability to improve services and products, as well as the channels through which they’re promoted based on customer feedback
- Increased employee happiness due to the presence of a customer-centric culture throughout the company
Being Product-Centric vs. Customer-Centric
Product-centric businesses operate under the assumption that developing great products will bring great customers. All of their functions are geared towards the product – its features, capabilities, design, and subsequent manufacturing processes.
Customer-centric businesses go out and collect information about their customers, and subsequently create a product or service based on the insights gathered. Below is a snapshot that highlights the key differences between the two approaches.
Most successful businesses are both product- and consumer-centric. Their owners believe that if they’re focused on what their target audiences are asking for and desire, they’re likely to create successful, market-leading products, as well.
Best Practices for Creating an Effective Customer-Centric Strategy
To embrace customer-centricity in your business, you’ll need to create a strategy that enables you to collect meaningful information about your customers, as well as address their needs throughout the customer journey. Here are the key steps to take:
1. Get Everyone Involved
Culture is the foundation of success in most customer-centric companies, and it all starts with helping everyone understand what the customer really wants. This includes your engineering and product development teams, your sales and general managers, and the other key decision makers at your company.
You could ask your marketing team to share ideal customer profiles with the team, but this approach won’t necessarily help employees gain a sense of enthusiasm for customers. A better approach is to have each team member engage in a one-on-one conversation with the client.
This can be done by rotating your support schedule each week, with every department having a week dedicated to interacting with your customers. For example, live chat software company Olark has a process called “All Hands Support,” which requires every personnel to spend a small portion of their day talking to customers and answering their questions.
As a result, everyone at Olark ends up with much more insight into customers’ preferences, and how their individual efforts influence the customer experience. All of these factors can help employees adopt a customer-first mentality, which can go a long way towards building better products and relationships.
To sum up the point, here’s how Olark benefitted from All Hands Support:
2. Know What Your Customers Want
Another key requirement to becoming a customer-centric organization is to know what your customers want. For the purpose, you’ll need to gather some qualitative feedback that helps you gain a better understanding of their psychographics. Below are some techniques you can leverage to collect qualitative data:
Conduct Voice of Customer Surveys
Voice of Customer or VoC surveys help businesses gather data from website popups and emails. Use a combination of closed- and open-ended questions to gain precise knowledge about expectations and attributions of your customers.
Arrange an event
If your company is incorporated in a physical location or neighborhood, it is a good idea to host an event that will offer an opportunity to engage with customers. Make sure to host it a location that will appeal to your target customers. You may even come across prospective clients who are exploring what you have to offer.
For digital companies, webinars can help the business interact with their customers in real-time. Let the people in attendance introduce themselves and ask questions to understand what they think about your solutions and company as a whole.
Gather Insights from Social Networks
One great thing about social networks is the freedom consumers feel to speak their heart out. As such, most of the comments they leave on companies’ profiles stem from their own motivation to convey what they actually think and feel. This means you can learn a lot about their attitudes and behaviors by observing their statements.
While comments and reviews on Facebook are rather obvious spaces to track, Yelp, Reddit, and Quora are also worth observing, based on the industry your business is in. For instance, a digital analytics solution provider can analyze Q&As on Quora to determine industry-wide gaps that the company may be able to fill in the near future.
The more you observe customers, the more you’ll learn about their likes and dislikes, which is critical to developing solutions that will exceed their expectations.
3. Build Solutions That Speak to Customers’ Needs
Customer-centric companies are proactive. They waste no time in using the data they collect to create products and services around customers’ needs. Also, they market their offerings as solutions that fulfill certain demands rather than focus on the features of the product. A great example of this is Squarespace, which is a SaaS-based website building and hosting provider.
Open up Squarespace’s website today and you will see the company’s value propositions. What’s fascinating about these statements is that they focus on the customer. Squarespace knows that it’s hard for an average internet user to create beautiful website design via code, so it makes sure to highlight that it has a solution that will make them look like an expert right from the get go. Brilliant stuff.
To ensure that you’re on the right track with solution development, create a minimum viable product first, and then leverage testing techniques to get feedback from real users about their experience with it. In your quest to become a customer-centric company, this can help validate your efforts and guide your projects towards the maximum-value solution.
4. Personalize The Customer Experience
What if a small addition of personalized messaging could increase the lifetime value or retention rates of your customers? It can happen, as 75 percent of consumers revealed they are more likely to purchase from a business that remembers them by their name, is aware of their purchase history, and recommends items based on their previous purchases.
To personalize your customer experience, try categorizing your customers into segments and distributing relevant content. For example, you can place customers into different groups based on the frequency or volume of their purchases, and then send targeted communications to each group. Businesses using a CRM should be able to do this on the fly.
For example, clothing retailer Gap does a great job at personalizing the customer experience. Here’s an example of the emails they send to frequent buyers:
And to those who haven’t shopped in a while, the company sends re-engagement emails that include some sort of an offer in order to motivate them to revisit their store:
You’ll also see personal touches like calling out the customer by their name in some of these emails. This is a great way to build a strong and healthy bond with customers, which should make your journey to becoming a customer-centric business much easier.
5. Evolve with Your Customers
Customer-centricity is an ongoing endeavor. If you genuinely care for the customer, your service or product will evolve over time. Analysis of future trends and post-purchase surveys can help you determine where the market is headed and how the upcoming shifts could impact consumers’ buying decisions.
Even if people aren’t sharing their feedback, you can still evolve with their changing preferences. Software companies do they well because they upgrade their solutions based on patterns of usage. If users are spending a lot of time trying to out a function, for instance, vendors will add a pop-up featuring an explainer video. They’ll also replace the features that are underused with new functions.
Non-technical businesses can also determine shifts in buying patterns by taking advantage of trends reports and industry research. Industry leaders often conduct comprehensive market research and publish their findings in one detailed report. By giving each page a thorough read, you can be sure to find something on changing patterns of consumption.
What all of this means is that customer-centricity has to be a part of your company’s DNA – and it has to be a continuous process than an ad-hoc strategy. Only then you’ll be able to delight customers at every stage of the buying cycle.
Examples of Customer-Centricity
A lot of companies out there claim to put their customers first, but which ones actually practice what they preach? Here are three examples.
Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos knows the importance of being customer-focused. He declared early on that the company doesn’t make money when it sells products. It makes money when it helps customers make buying decisions. This attitude resulted in key changes on the Amazon website, most of which were designed to aid the purchase decisions of potential customers.
For example, reviews are placed directly on product pages, which creates a more transparent environment for the consumer. Sellers can be held accountable for the quality of their items, knowing that people are sharing their real opinions with each other.
Before reviews were a thing, online buyers were essentially relying on guesswork to judge a retailer’s credibility. Amazon pioneered the review system to ensure customers have all the details they need to make purchases with confidence.
Zappos, an online clothing and footwear company that makes billions of dollars in annual profits, isn’t just popular for its awesome products and consumer-friendly prices. It’s also known for its customer-centric approach.
To give an example, the company doesn’t have limits on call times with its customer loyalty team. Zappos reps are encouraged to stay on the call until they address the customer’s problems.
If they were product-focused, they would have followed tight call limits to ensure every query is dealt with as quickly as possible. However, Zappos’ entire focus is on the customer. The company’s present record for the longest call is 10 hours and 51 minutes. Incredible!
Hilton Hotels & Resorts
For several decades, Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. has defined the hospitality sector, excelling at being one of the most customer-centric hotel brands in the world. The company uses a wide range of customer experience management tactics to collect and analyze customer data from various sources, including:
- Social media
- Online review sites
- Guest feedback
- Booking analytics
This ingestion of insights helps Hilton encourage customers to make direct bookings through its site, rather than via third-party travel agencies. To make people aware of potential benefits, the company even launched a campaign named “Stop Clicking Around” which featured multichannel promotions with a direct booking CTA.
Regardless of how people made bookings, Hilton knew it’s their responsibility to educate the customer. And informing them about Hilton’s value is how the company achieved its target of continuously providing an excellent customer experience.
Now that you’re aware of the moving parts of a customer-centric business strategy, it’s time to get started. If you’re already working on removing any friction from the buyer journey and enhancing the customer experience, then you’ve taken a step in the right direction.
If you’re new to the concept, you may need to adjust and modify your approach. By keeping your customers’ needs and preferences in mind as you refine products and execute campaigns, you’ll be able to grow opportunities to foster loyalty and boost your bottom line.
Do you practice customer-centricity in your business? What are you doing to anticipate the future needs of your clients? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.