Without customers, a business doesn’t mean much. Therefore, customer voice and experience need to be front and center in every organization. It’s imperative to have customer experience as a clearly articulated goal across the business and to solicit customer insights that are shared organization-wide to meet that goal. When customer experience is approached as a shared service, both companies and consumers benefit exponentially and you ensure longevity in the market.
The Importance of Prioritizing Customer Experience
In the not-so-distant past, companies placed less value on soliciting customer feedback regarding opinions, beliefs, wants, and needs. Some research was done, but business leaders and marketers often created products and services they thought consumers would want, then saw how their offerings fared in the marketplace and adjusted accordingly.
Companies can no longer assume they know what is best for customers or what customers want and need. Consumers have options, so it’s vital you listen to them. If your company doesn’t have a place for a customer’s voice to be shared, and customers don’t feel like you hear them, they will leave for a company that will listen and respond. Be sure your company is the option they choose.
Even old players in established industries such as healthcare or utilities have had to change because consumers have options beyond traditional verticals. SMUD, a community-owned, not-for-profit electric provider in Sacramento, California, recently created a customer insight community to engage with residential and commercial customers. Community feedback shaped the naming, development, and the successful launch of a new energy-saving program. Both customers and the company benefited through cost savings, greater environmental focus, and more quickly creating a solution that meets consumers’ needs.
In addition, businesses in all industries must pay attention to all their customers, not just the high-value ones. With the advent of social media and the ability to vocalize displeasure, it doesn't matter if a customer spends $20,000 or $2 million. Companies accustomed to only listening to the $2 million customers don’t have that luxury anymore.
You must care about and practice customer centricity or you threaten the longevity of your business. If you are not engaging with customers, listening to them, and instituting organization-wide mechanisms for creating optimal customer experiences, you’re not future-proofing your business.
Getting the C-Level on Board
You may think, “Great. I totally agree! But how do I get my executive board to realize the value of customer centricity as an organizational goal?” Many businesses struggle with getting C-level leaders on board with the importance of engaging with customers. Let’s examine some of the reasons this might be.
- Corporate leaders may have the idea that customer centricity is an option. Nice, but not necessary.
- Executives might feel like they need a compelling event to spur them to be customer centric.
- They might feel like customer centricity is an ephemeral goal and want to focus on more tangible priorities such as GDPR compliance, CRM systems, or operations.
- Information gaps exist because businesses and responsibilities are siloed.
Solution: Customer Experience as a Shared Service
In order to thrive in today’s business environment and succeed moving forward, businesses must adopt a broader philosophy regarding customer experience. It can’t just be the purview of marketing or the customer care team. Listening to the customer voice and creating optimal customer experiences has to be an organization-wide priority with information shared among departments to create a complete view of the customer journey. Virtually everyone in an organization can benefit from a better understanding of the customer.
For some companies, the lack of prioritization or efficacy in implementing customer centricity is not a matter of desire, but rather one of execution. Individual groups are often not powerful or focused enough to make a difference in gathering customer input independently from other parts of the business.
The most successful corporate initiatives are those where customer experience is centralized and set up as a shared service. Rather than using duplicate customer feedback mechanisms in each department, if customer centricity is a corporate initiative like IT or HR, you gain efficiency and utilize economies of scale.
This change to customer experience as a shared service might sound scary for some organizations. It touches on control issues as departments must approach the process being vulnerable and willing to share customer information versus having personalized customer feedback services, sole ownership of data, and individualized methods of reviewing feedback. It might also cause fear for some that their group is at a disadvantage by having to rely on someone else for data.
As Vision Critical CEO Scott Miller explained, companies need to tear down silos to build trust internally. “There is a vacuum of customer data beyond the teams that collect it for their own departmental use. Valuable data are collected, but data and associated insight are inaccessible to critical stakeholders in other divisions or departments. Sometimes silos can remain from a previous organizational structure; but in many cases, these silos are created, intentionally by a department or team, in order to control the data they have collected.”
The reality is that customers are not worried about what goes on behind the scenes with the various parts of an organization. Their concern is that their needs are met and that they had a positive customer experience that builds trust and gives them a reason to continue their relationship with your business. As you work to make the voice of the customer top of mind and accessible to all areas of your company, customers will take note and reward you with loyalty and longevity.
What Do You Think?
What is the current approach to customer centricity and customer experience at your company? Is it a priority or an afterthought? Click the social icons to share this post and your thoughts on how to best implement customer experience as a shared philosophy and service in your organization.