Whether you’re a B2B or B2C business, putting your customer at the center of your business is more important than ever. Becoming customer-centric is critical because customers today have the power to share their opinions through review sites, learn about your products or services simply by going online and explore their options.
The empowered customer poses a significant challenge for business. Missing the mark can cost you sales, impact your reputation and damage customer trust. On the other hand, when you engage your customers in each aspect of your business, the rewards can be tremendous.
According to digital analyst and best-selling author Brian Solis, it’s imperative that companies adopt a “culture of putting the customer at the center of everything you do.” Keeping customers happy should inform a company’s culture as well as your products and services.
Here are four examples—all from the technology industry—that show how you can do that and put your customers first.
Commit to a customer-centric culture.
Two years ago, Amazon, as a business that runs 24/7 in five continents, told the world about its bold goal to become Earth’s most customer-centric company. Since then, the company has revolutionized the way that it manages customer concerns from a business-first approach to a customer-first approach, enabling customers to have requests handled in an efficient and personalized manner. Amazon enables customers to decide how and when you want to be contacted through email, phone or instant messages.
In an interview regarding customer-centricity in the online payment space, Patrick Gautier, VP of external payments at Amazon, said recently that most payments and commerce companies don’t have a customer-first mentality yet. He explained:
“Everybody will always say we start with the customer, etc., but then you hear it in the language. They use the lingo of the industry – the language of the insiders, not the lingo the consumer would use. The consumer doesn’t understand the lingo. The customer gets lost in that.”
Gautier says the solution starts with customer insight. It begins with talking to the right people about the right topics. “We need to think a little less about payments and a little more about the people who are transacting,” he added.
So far, Amazon’s strategy of instilling a customer-centric culture seems to be paying off. The company’s stock price has doubled in the past 12 months, and investors continue to love this exceptional company.
On a smaller scale (for now!), the online clothing retailer Everlane is revolutionizing the way U.S. shoppers purchase wardrobe staples. By offering “radical transparency” to their customers, the company is opening up its doors—and the doors of the factories and partners that work for them—to give customers an inside look at how their products are created and priced. In addition to this customer-centric approach to pricing and communication, the company is piloting Everlane Now, a same-day delivery program in markets like San Francisco and New York City. Yet again, their customers get to hold the reins and direct the business into a model that suits them perfectly.
Enable agility through experimentation and partnerships.
TripAdvisor is a tech company that has won countless awards over the last nine years for its unique approach to hospitality, tourism and travel. A three-year winner of the “people’s voice” Webby Award, TripAdvisor routinely improves, iterates and innovates its product to meet the needs of customers, reviewers and business partners.
In mid-October, TripAdvisor announced a new partnership with leading reservation-technology company Booking.com which provides a much wider range of accommodations for their customers through Tripadvisor’s Instant Booking platform.
Investors are optimistic about TripAdvisor’s future, in no small part because of customer-centric innovations like Instant Booking.
Deliver better products—with the help of your customers.
In an interview with Adweek, Lisa Utzscheider, Yahoo’s new chief revenue officer, says improving its products for its customers is a priority.
“I'd like to focus on our customers and try to be as customer-centric as we can,” she says. “Customers, for my organization, are advertisers and agencies. [My first priority is] to instill an approach that we can really try to listen to what the advertiser needs and deliver great ad products and great experiences for them so that they're able to make great connections with Yahoo's consumers.”
Utzschneider says analytics is a critical piece of this approach, as she aims to use “80 percent data and 20 percent gut” when making business decisions.
Yahoo is in the midst of a turnaround, but some of its recent announcements show that listening to customers is already having an impact. The company recently announced a slew of new innovative features for advertisers, giving its customers more visibility into ad viewability and ad fraud.
Each of these examples has showcased the lengths companies will go to in order to win the trust of customers. As they demonstrate, putting your customers at the center of what you do and creating a customer-centric environment is a formula for business success.
Photo credit: Sportsfile (Web Summit) via Flickr (cropped)