The Benefits of a Customer-Centric Culture

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I originally wrote today’s post for Customer Contact Week (CCW). It appeared on their site on November 8, 2019.

What does a
customer-centric culture look like, and what are the benefits of designing such
a culture?

Customer-centric companies
put the customer at the center of all they do; they ensure that they make no
decisions without first thinking of the customer and the impact that decision
has on the customer. The customer is infused into everything they do. I like to
say: No discussions, no decisions, no designs without bringing in the customer
and her voice, without asking how it will impact the customer, how it will make
her feel, what problems it will help her to solve, what value it will create
and deliver for her.

I refer to it as putting
the “customer” in customer experience, which means that companies are
taking the time to understand their customers – through listening (e.g.,
surveys), characterizing (i.e., personas), and empathizing (i.e., journey
mapping) – and then using that understanding to design a better experience for
them. Too often, companies believe they know what’s best for the customer and
design an experience based on inside-out thinking, only to end up with customer
frustration and dissatisfaction. Why? Because they really haven’t put the
customer into the experience (design) at all.

Customer-centricity can’t
be solved for with technology. Technology is a tool to facilitate and support
the customer-centric culture you are developing and the experience you are
delivering. But it is not the most-important thing. Customer understanding is; it
is the cornerstone of customer-centricity. Once achieved, that understanding
must then be socialized and operationalized throughout the organization. It’s
woven into the fabric of the organization.

When you think about
companies that are customer-centric or even customer-obsessed, which ones come
to mind? Amazon, Zappos, Salesforce, The Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Southwest
Airlines, Nordstrom, Lego, Emirates, USAA? The usual suspects.

A customer-centric culture
is deliberately designed to be this way, and it requires CEO commitment to do
just that. It becomes a mindset shift, a behavior shift, and a culture shift.

So, what are the benefits
of designing and living a customer-centric culture?

According to Deloitte, customer-centric
businesses are 60% more profitable than their product-focused counterparts.
That sounds pretty compelling!

What else? There are
certainly two sides to every story, and this one is no different: there’s the
business side and the human side. Let’s start with the human side.

When the business is
customer-centric, customers feel it. (Just think about your own interactions
with any of the brand examples I gave earlier.) Customers know they matter to
the business; they know you listen; they see how you solve problems and deliver
value. When you deliver value for customers, you also create value for the
business. When this happens – when they know you listen and in turn deliver
value –  you are on the road to building
longer-term relationships with your customers.

But customer-centricity
isn’t just about customers. In order to have a customer-centric culture, you
must put employees more first. As you know, without customers, you have no
business. It’s all about the customer. But you won’t have customers if you
don’t have employees to build, to sell, and to service the things that
customers buy.

In order to have happy,
loyal customers, you have to care for your employees and treat them well.
Without employees, you have no customer experience! At the end of the day, your
business focus has to be on the people who drive your business—both employees
and customers (and vendors, partners, etc.). There can be no customer-centric
culture without focusing on your employees first. Employees reap the benefits,
for sure!

Customer-centric
businesses also value consistency and delivering consistently. Customers always
know what to expect from customer-centric businesses because they have heard
the brand promise and have experienced it. No smoke and mirrors. That
consistency also builds trust, which is a solid foundation for any relationship.

Innovation is another
benefit of customer-centric businesses. This benefit bridges the business and
the human sides of this story. Customers provide feedback. Businesses listen,
co-create, and innovate to solve customer problems.

On the business side of
the story, the benefits of customer-centricity are numerous. A good segue from
innovation is growth; when you innovate to solve for unfulfilled needs and
other problems, you are bound to attract potential/future customers who didn’t
even know they had these problems to solve – or for whom these problems appear
at a later time. New problems solved = new customers = growth.

Customer-centricity
provides a competitive advantage for the business, too, both from an employee
and a customer perspective. Who wouldn’t want to work for – or buy from – a
company that cares about people? Again, think about your own experiences with
the brand examples I provided earlier. If you don’t know anyone who works for
these brands, head over to Glassdoor or to Great Place to Work and read there
what employees are saying.

Other benefits for the
business include:

  • Increased
    retention and CLV: customers want to continue to do business with brands that
    listen to them, care about them, solve their problems, and create value for
    them.
  • Increase
    loyalty: not only do customers stay, but they buy more, spend more, etc.;
    customer-centric organizations focus on journeys, not just on touchpoints,
    which means that they focus on relationships, not transactions.
  • Increased
    referrals: all of that customer love leads to a supplemental marketing and
    sales force (your customers!) that can’t wait to advocate for your brand.
  • Reduced
    costs: when brands listen to customers and use that feedback to make
    improvements, they realize operational efficiencies through process
    improvements and more.
  • Increased
    revenue: it’s easier to sell products when they solve problems for your customers,
    and they solve problems because you took the time to understand customers.

If there’s any doubt in
your mind that customer-centricity is good for employees, good for customers,
and good for the business, these benefits should clear that up.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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