In this fast-changing world of smart, increasingly demanding and dis-loyal customers and the ubiquitous digital devices they and we all enjoy, one thing is clear – the entire relationship between customers and the companies that wish to serve them has changed.
It used to be that when bad experiences happened, customers would give you some leeway. Not anymore; now they’ll just walk away – and do so in ever increasing numbers. Today, the vast majority of customers say they’ll dump a brand after a single bad experience.
This is a key reason why so many organizations are considering a shift to a more “customer centric” strategy. Because they know that in this world, the ability to effectively deliver a great customer experience trumps almost everything else.
“Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.”
Attributed to (among others) advertising great Jerry Della Femina, the sentiment of this statement has never been truer. The difference? Today, it’s not just your product that’s at risk of being killed. It’s your company.
Which is how I ended up discussing customer experience and customer centricity with the ELT of a mid-size insurance company a couple weeks ago. Interested in shifting to a more customer centric business strategy they asked me to summarize the implications of this shift.
Since I’ve had variations on this discussion with the leadership of literally dozens of companies, I thought you might find a few of these takeaways useful. These are not all, nor necessarily the most important for your situation. But consider them, you should…
- This is a fundamental change – it won’t happen overnight. For even the most successful and focused companies we’re worked with, it takes at least three years to make this shift. It’s hard work that will likely change every aspect of your business. From governance, culture and customer listening to how you make decisions, this is a “long haul” decision. The good news is, it’s also the best decision you can make. If you truly succeed, you’ll create massive shareholder value and a business that will dominate your market.
- You need to define, and align, your strategies. The linkage between what customers expect from your brand and the experiences they actually get is unbreakable. Whether you compete on value, innovation or customer intimacy, your business, brand and customer experience strategies must be aligned. Put another way – if you do this right – your experience strategy will ultimately become your business strategy, driving your economic engine.
- Don’t let past success be a barrier to a customer-centric future. We don’t see many companies coming to us because they’re in big trouble. (This will change). We’re early enough in the adoption curve that most of our clients are still those who have been extremely successful in their markets – and have the leadership to make sure they stay there. Yet past success can be hard to break free from, particularly with more entrenched people who see no reason to change. As hard as this is to do, it’s critical to recognize and address.
- Re-organize your business. Most businesses are organized into silos such as marketing, sales, operations and IT, each optimized to perform their functions exceedingly well. But the problem is, customers don’t see (or care about) these internal groupings. As they move faster and faster across your org, not only do your processes, systems and technology need to seamlessly enable them to jump siloes, each group needs to share a common view of the customer. For many companies, this means re-thinking basic organizational structure.
- Embrace emotion. Ask yourself: Do customers love you? If they do, you’re already beating your competition every day. When customers come into contact with your brand, they “feel” a certain way as a result. Using tools such as customer listening and personas, you can better empathize with and serve them. By being systematic in your efforts to make your customers truly enjoy – dare I say “love”? – your brand, you’ll create connections your competitors can’t begin to match.
- Listen (and respond) to your customers. Listening to, analyzing and taking action on customer feedback is a core capability of customer centric leaders. By using your Voice-of-the-Customer (VoC) program to actually understand your customers (vs. just focusing on metric like CSAT or NPS) you can quickly identify issues and get at the causes – and monitor how well you’re doing at delivering the experiences your customers actually want.
- Use the lens of customer centricity to prioritize your activities. By using your customer strategy as a “north star” for your business, it gets easier to make decisions. When it comes to everything from high-level budgeting resource allocation to on-the-ground and in-the-moment decision making, when everyone in your organization knows exactly what you’re trying to deliver to your customers, it makes it way easier for everyone to figure out how.
The bottom line is that to be customer centric, you need to put your customer at the center of your business (hence the name: “customer centric”). What’s best for them should drive your strategies and decision making, as well as the ways your people and your systems are designed, organized and managed.
Which is why, when it comes to delivering on the promise of customer centricity, knowing how your customers actually experience your brand means you’ll be able to better see what works and what doesn’t, and where those interactions most positively or negatively affect their perceptions.
And, of course, to help you see where to take action as a result…