Customer centricity is one of the most in-vogue buzzwords. But more than that, it’s an ideology that more and more companies are gravitating towards in today’s world.
It’s clear that investing in customer-centric frameworks and strategies is how you attract more customers and also retain existing ones. But, the bigger question remains – are companies able to do this?
Unfortunately, no. The CMO Council found out that only 14% of marketers say that customer-centricity is a hallmark of their companies, and only 11% believe their customers would agree with it.
So, why does this gap exist? What’s stopping most companies from becoming truly customer-centric?
What is customer-centricity?
A lot depends on how you understand customer centricity.
Being customer-centric is not just about delighting customers through world-class customer support and assistance. It’s far more encompassing than that.
It’s the foundation to delivering consistently great customer experiences. It’s what determines the way you shape products and services, do marketing and sales, and interact with customers, employees, prospects, and partners.
Customer Experience influencer Annette Franz puts it across in the best possible way. She says, “In its most basic sense, it means to put the customer at the center of all the business does. It’s strategic. It’s proactive. It’s co-creation. It’s long-term. It’s relationships. It’s omnichannel. It’s enterprise wide. And it’s a culture that is deliberately designed to be this way. Customer-centricity flows through the veins of the organization and into everything every employee does—not just if or when a customer is in front of an employee.”
What’s clear from the above exposition is that customer centricity is a way of life. It’s a cultural shift. A change in mindset. A philosophy that needs to be implemented across all levels of the company. And that takes time, effort, and diligent execution. But, not impossible.
Let’s take a look at some key strategies that can help you become customer-centric.
1. Start from the top
Your top management plays the most integral role in driving change across the organization. Everything starts with what they do. They set the tone for how the rest of the company works.
And it’s no different when it comes to implementing a customer-centric culture.
C-level commitment is a must, and it’s something that has been reinforced by many famous customer-centric brands. Take Amazon for instance. Their top management has a very clear vision – to be the earth’s most customer-centric company. Look at Southwest Airlines. Their motto is centered around dedication to the highest quality of customer service.
It’s also the top brass’s responsibility to ensure that this vision is communicated in a uniform and consistent manner across all levels of the company.
Here are some ways to do this:
→ Identify someone at the top management level who’d be responsible for driving customer-centric initiatives.
→ Many companies have a dedicated role for this – Chief Customer Officer (CCO), a position has been gaining popularity in recent years.
→ Define KPIs for measuring customer centricity. It could be NPS, Customer Churn Rate, CSAT (Customer Satisfaction), or other data points. Organize meetups regularly to discuss progress on these KPIs.
→ Design strategies and policies (ones that augment your customer-centric vision) for the rest of the organization to follow. Most importantly, make sure that they are easily understood.
2. Cultivate empathy across the company
You can’t be customer-centric without being empathetic. And this applies to everyone, not just customer-facing employees.
Irrespective of working in marketing, sales, finance, or product, employees must have the capacity to empathize with the customer. And that’s because every single one of them contribute to the customer experience, either directly or indirectly.
Do your employees truly understand what customers want? Are they place to place themselves in the customers’ shoes and relate to their painpoints – be it while crafting a sales pitch or solving a query or writing copy for the website?
Some tips to cultivate empathy across the company:
→ While hiring new employees, ensure that you assess them for their ability to empathize. For support agents in particular, evaluate them against their ability to express empathy over text (email, live chat) as well as while conversing.
→ Encourage employees (especially non-customer facing ones) to spend time going through customer calls and customer personas. Explain to them how their work impacts the end customer experience.
→ Have regular company-wide huddles where customer learnings are shared. This ensures even the non-customer facing teams are in sync with what’s happening with the customer and can align their everyday work accordingly.
3. Prioritize collecting (and acting on) customer feedback
To be customer-centric is to include the customer’s perspective into every company discussion, debate, and decision.
But, how would you factor in your customers’ opinions without knowing what they are?
What do they like about your brand? Where do they think you can improve? What frustrates them the most?
To find answers to such questions, you need to collect customer feedback.
You might be thinking, that’s not new advice. Well, it’s not. Most brands collect feedback. Yet, very very few action them. According to a study by Microsoft, 52% of people around the globe believe that companies need to take action on feedback provided by their customers.
Not making use of customer feedback is one of the main reasons why companies aren’t able to drive customer centricity.
Here’s what an effective feedback collection strategy should encompass:
→ Identify the channels to target. Find out what touchpoints your customers use the most (email, chat, IVR, social media, and so on) and accordingly run targeted surveys.
→ Define an end goal for your feedback process. Are you looking to improve service efficiency? Are you looking to measure customer experience on your website?
→ Identify metrics you want to measure. If you’re looking at standard metrics, NPS, CSAT, and CES are pretty reliable. But, it’s important to know when to track what metric.
→ Most importantly, close the feedback loop. Like I mentioned earlier, collecting feedback is only one part of the process. How you act on it makes all the difference.
4. Shift the focus on relationships
Companies today are looking for ways to bring in more customers and improve sales.
What’s wrong with that? Nothing.
But, the problem arises when brands are merely fixated on objective targets, without paying attention to emotions and feelings. Sold X% more products this quarter? That calls for a party. Solved Y number of customer queries this month? Amazing!
But, take a step back and ask yourself – how did your company make customers feel? Did you do your best to make them feel special, or did you resolve those queries just because it had to be done?
To become customer-centric, you need to build genuine relationships with customers. In the B2B sector, this is a tad easier. But B2C companies would find this difficult given the sheer volume of consumers they serve.
But if you’ve heard of the kind of stories coming out of Zappos, you’d know that it’s definitely doable. Zappos, for instance, doesn’t worry about call times. Support staff are told to not follow scripts and converse naturally with customers. And whilst their call center experience is one of the best in the world, what’s surprising is that only 5% of their sales happen via telephone.
Some tips to build better relationships with customers:
→ Empower employees to go the extra mile for the customer. Give them the tools and the freedom they need. The more rules you place on them, the more transactional relationships become.
→ Encourage employees to understand context and look at the larger picture. For instance, if a customer reaches out regarding a product malfunction for the fourth consecutive time, don’t just simply fix the issue. Talk to them and get an understanding of how they use the product to find out where the real problem lies.
→ Make note of instances where employees truly ‘delight’ customers. Reward them at the end of every quarter.
→ Ensure that your employees understand the ‘WHY” behind doing what they’re doing. This is extremely important if they’re to show genuine interest and enthusiasm, and not just treat it as a 9-5 job.
Building a customer-centric culture isn’t the responsibility of your support team alone. It requires the cooperation and participation of everyone across your organization.
You need to get everyone to buy into it, by breaking down the vision into achievable targets and incentivizing employees in the right manner. And when that happens, you’ll notice how every function in your company not only works in sync, but for the well-being of the customer.
This is great stuff, Ganesh.
I agree: DOING SOMETHING with what you learn from the VoC is vital… And if you’re emphasizing it as a leader, the whole organization can see you walking the walk!