Companies in all industries are ditching traditional business-driven and product-driven strategies as they're starting to embrace the idea of customer centricity. Although being company-driven, product-driven or sales-driven is natural, no longer can brands afford to think only about what’s good for the company without considering the impact on the customer.
Customer centricity is often seen as a catch-all for ideas like customer satisfaction, customer experience
So, what’s it all about?
Above all, customer centricity means putting the customer at the core of your business.
Decades ago, customers had fewer choices. This meant brands could get away with offering mediocre service and customer experience. But now, the customer is in the driver’s seat. We are in the midst of a revolution – in the age of the empowered customer.
Whether you’re in retail, tech, media and entertainment, finance, health care or literally any other industry, customer centricity must be at the center of your business strategy if you’re going to drive profit and gain a competitive edge. Stay ahead in your industry with this definitive guide for a customer-centric model.
“Though many companies claim to be customer-centric, the majority are not.”
These companies may have good intentions and care about their customers but they often operate based on a misunderstanding of what it truly means to be customer-centric. For many, being customer focused and being customer-centric are one and the same. The two terms are often used interchangeably. This is often where companies make a misstep on their journey to becoming customer-centric. Knowing the key differences between the two can help.
Customer-focused companies look at the customer to determine what to sell them. On the other hand, customer-centric companies think like the customer. They try to see the world from their point of view. For example, a customer-focused approach may use A/B testing to see what ads resonate most with customers. A customer-centric approach would seek out their ideal customers, talk to them and co-create ads with them instead.
Customer-centric companies think like the customer.
If you’re customer focused, you’ll listen to what customers want and try to deliver the products they’re interested in. If you’re a customer-centric company, you’ll try to understand what the customer truly needs, focus on solving problems and determine how to deliver the most value.
Using a customer-focused approach, you would try to identify which of your products or services would best match the wants of your customers. On the other hand, using a customer-centric approach, you would instead create a solution to the customer’s needs to deliver a positive long-term experience. Marketing maverick, Seth Godin, said it best, “Don't find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”
We’ve discussed some of the common misconceptions surrounding customer centricity and the common mistakes companies make when trying to become customer-centric. We know it’s not just about keeping customers happy or offering great customer service. Now let’s switch gears and discuss what it really means to be customer-centric.
But remember: you can't achieve customer centricity without understanding your customers’ needs, pain points
"It takes just two bad experiences to make Americans stop shopping with your brand."
"Unless you have 100% customer satisfaction, you must improve." – Horst Schulze, Former President, The Ritz Carlton Hotels
Being customer first is critical to keeping customers engaged, satisfied, and loyal. Research shows a strong emotional connection with a brand is a stronger loyalty driver than factors such as ease and effectiveness. If you want to keep your customers from cheating on you, it’s important to understand the importance of customer centricity before it’s too late.
Although having a sales-centric culture may seem more effective, the customer-centric culture is actually more profitable over the long term because it focuses on providing a positive customer experience, solving problems, delivering high-quality products customers need and creating real relationships.
No doubt, there are some pretty scary risks and disadvantages of not becoming customer-centric, as we’ve highlighted. Focusing your company on the customer will help you stay relevant in the modern age and continue to deliver quality products and services your customers love.
There are other benefits that come with being a customer-centric brand too.
Continuously generating customer insights to ensure your company revolves around the customer is a great way to recognize opportunities for growth. You can see trends and opportunities among your customer base that can help you come up with products or solutions that your customers need – which they may not even realize yet. You may be able to expand your line of products to meet a particular need, provide features you never considered offering or even add additional services that fill an unfulfilled customer need.
When you become customer-centric, your leads, prospects and existing customers will notice the difference. This is particularly true if your competitors are behind the times and still use a sales-centric approach.
“In the world of Internet Customer Service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away.”
– Doug Warner, Former C.O.B., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
You’ll answer customer questions more quickly. You’ll provide a more seamless shopping experience. You’ll share marketing and ad campaigns that truly resonate with your audience. You’ll develop products that actually serve a need. And new customers will flock to you and say goodbye to your competitor.
The more you know about your customers on a granular level, the better you’ll understand the customer journey – before, during and after the sale. One of the core concepts of customer centricity is to understand how customers move in and out of relationships and understand why and how they buy. This will help you deliver better services and products to the right people, in the right place and at the right time.
Some business owners still erroneously believe that focusing on sales is what will, well, increase sales. But as we’ve already seen, focusing on the customer will deliver more positive long-term results in terms of sales and profits.
When you support customers throughout their journey, you help them become more informed, consider their options and make the right decision. At the end of the day, this makes the customer more confident in their decision to purchase, which makes it easier to make the sale. Of course, it also helps when you’re co-creating your new products with the customer, so you can be sure they’ll love it. After all, it’s difficult to make sales when the customers don’t like or need what you’re selling.
“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.”
– Kevin Stirtz, Author of More Loyal Customers: 21 Real World Lessons To Keep Your Customers Coming Back
While some executives see complaints and bad reviews as negative, customer-centric brands see these as opportunities to learn how to improve. What’s more, customer-centric companies often go one step further to gain feedback from ex-customers to better understand why they left and what they can do in the future to improve.
This helps them refine the customer experience for future prospects and customers, which can lead to greater satisfaction and loyalty.
These are just some of the many benefits brands realize once they transform their companies and put the customer at the core of everything they do.
“Offer consistency to ensure a seamless omnichannel experience across all interactions, channels and devices."
The seven pillars of customer centricity can be used as a framework for action. The key is to analyze customers’ perceptions against these seven core areas of your company to ensure your business strategy is truly customer-centric and borne of data-driven customer science.
1. Customer experience
The customer experience must be convenient, easy, enjoyable and seamless.
Recognizing customers and rewarding them in a way that is meaningful to them can go a long way to keeping them happy.
Highly communicative companies tend to have more engaged and loyal customers. They take the time to talk to their customers, listen to their needs and personalize their communications to show they care
While you don’t need to have the largest selection of products, the assortment you have should meet your customers’ needs.
Successful promotion programs promote the products that are most appealing to customers.
With customer feedback, you can ensure your prices are in line with what your customers are willing to pay for the value you offer.
Prioritizing customer feedback will enable you to create a strong emotional connection with your customers.
Tossing around buzzwords about customer centricity won’t lead to true growth. Analyze your effectiveness in these seven core areas to ensure you really understand your customers, their behaviors and their needs, so you can center your business around them.
By better understanding your customer on a granular level, you can ultimately make more intelligent business decisions.
Gathering customer intelligence is only one piece of the puzzle. Intelligence isn’t useful if it isn’t actionable. That’s why market researchers need to be able to turn intelligence into customer insight. This is how you get to the “Why.”
“There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it."
- Charles F. Kettering, Former Head of Research, General Motors
Bulky reports and pie charts need to be transformed into actionable recommendations. The data you generate tells a story – you just need to determine what it’s telling you. Only then can you turn intelligence into your competitive advantage. Look beyond data, use customer intelligence and arrive at actionable customer insight that can inform your business decisions.
If you’re throwing traditional market research methods out the window, you need a new way to generate customer intelligence.
You need new tools that will enable you to:
The customer intelligence platform is critical to a successful customer intelligence program. It gives you a way to speak directly to a group of opted-in and carefully profiled customers to get real-time, honest feedback from the people who buy your services or products.
To get the most out of customer intelligence – to ensure it drives great decision making – you need to make sure your customer intelligence program is effective. These three questions can help you determine the value of your current program.
Generating consumer insight is all well and good, but it’s essentially pointless if you’re not using that insight to improve your business. Consider what happens to the customer intelligence you gather. Is it being used to improve existing business programs? Which ones? Your marketing campaigns, sales, customer service and customer experience can all benefit from the voice of the customer. Consider which programs, departments and processes could be improved by these insights.
While it’s important to use customer intelligence to improve internal processes, you shouldn’t stop there. Your customer intelligence program will be more powerful when it improves your brand’s relationships with your customers.
Today’s empowered customers expect brands to listen to their opinions, suggestions and complaints. A customer intelligence platform enables you to do just that. But you need to show them that you’re doing more than just listening. Make sure you share exactly how you are including the customer in your business decision making. When you do this, customers will feel as though they really matter to your company, which will increase engagement and loyalty.
The insight you gather is valuable not only to your company and your customers but to your partners as well. And it can offer you a competitive advantage if you monetize your data. Maybe you have advertisers or sponsors who could benefit from your customer insight. Maybe the retailers who stock your product could benefit from the intelligence you’ve generated.
Customer intelligence can provide even more business value when it’s shared with partners or used to secure new partnerships.
Becoming customer-centric makes good business sense. However, customer intelligence is only valuable when it’s turned into customer insight that drives decision making to enhance the customer experience, customer journey, sales, service and profits.
“The role of the progressive insight professional in a customer-centric strategy cannot be overstated."
For many (if not all) companies, successful innovation and the ability to remain competitive in their industries, hinges on ongoing access to agile customer insight.
The insight professional is more important today than ever before for three key reasons:
1. Companies need insight that will be delivered by progressive insight professionals who can measure their impact beyond traditional research metrics.
2. Brands need market researchers who can bridge data silos and increase the relevancy of the data they generate.
3. Finally, companies need market researchers to make insight accessible across the business in real time
A recent survey from Deloitte found that 51 percent of companies consider embedding analytics into their process a challenge. The same study revealed that 56 percent find optimizing insight equally challenging, and tracking and measuring the output of analytics even more so. These findings are alarming given that, according to research from Forrester, the ability to optimize insights, track and measure outputs and embed analytics into the process are critical competencies.
To be truly insight-driven, businesses require a fundamental transformation in the way people at all levels of the business understand, engage and value the relationship they have with their customers.
Leaders not only have to believe customer-validated insight will result in better products and experiences, but they must also be willing to put people, technology and process in place to make that possible.
Technology that enables insights teams to rapidly collect data and share insight across the company in a programmatic and scalable way has been recognized as a true competitive advantage.
Who’s doing it well? Forrester calls them
According to Forrester, insights-driven businesses create differentiating experiences, products
The process starts with an objective assessment of your own business and your competition. Determining where to focus your effort and financial investments are foundational.
This includes, but is not limited to, several
A closer look at insights-driven businesses reveals that these firms capture more and better data about customers – information that blends direct feedback with transactional data and quantitative knowledge stored in organizational silos. With a powerful set of core competencies supported by sophisticated software platforms, insight professionals in these companies can discover, learn and optimize “digital insights” to create a compelling competitive advantage for their organizations.
According to the 2017 GRIT report, the biggest near-term opportunity for the research industry is technology. By technology, they’re talking about software, applications
“The biggest near-term opportunity for the research industry is technology.”
– GRIT report
Traditionally, gathering customer feedback is seen as poor customer experience. It’s typically disjointed and disconnected from the customer experience. Your customers simply do not want to fill out a random, disruptive survey.
In a customer-centric economy, market researchers should consider research as a branded experience, a customer touch point. Make the process of gathering feedback enjoyable, fun and seamless for the customer.
Big data may still have the potential to drive a significant competitive advantage, but the immediate opportunity for today’s progressive insights professional is to adopt technology that uncovers agile,
The immediate opportunity for today’s progressive insights professional is to adopt technology that uncovers agile, ongoing insight that matches the cadence of the business.
The ability to uncover the “Why” behind customer behavior in a structured, scalable and repeatable way means using new technology to uncover small data. This data is not only relevant to the immediate needs of the stakeholder, but it can be used to help shape and test the hypotheses of data science teams.
One day, machine learning and neural networks may provide new insight into human behavior. But today, the simplest, most direct and vastly more economical route to deeper customer understanding is to simply ask people “why?”
The pressures of time and ever-changing customer expectations have also served to diminish the real-time utility of big data. Honestly, companies have hit a data value plateau where it is exponentially more difficult and expensive to
Here are the facts:
Not surprisingly, the traditional methods of uncovering small data aren’t great. In fact, they’re fraught with difficulties.
Consider these examples:
While there is no magic bullet, the most immediate and impactful opportunity for leaders looking for a way to uncover agile insight is to provide their teams with technology that provides on-demand access to a group of highly engaged, opted-in customers – known customers – who can be engaged at scale.