How to become a customer-centric organisation


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So you want to become more customer-centric? Well, that’s the first step. Knowing that you want to become more customer-centric puts you ahead of many businesses who either don’t know, or think they already are (but aren’t).

But how do you go that next step and become the business that customers really want a piece of? It’s easier said than done, but I don’t believe it requires £250,000 of consultancy fees. Here are a few steps along the way…

Start to listen more

We frequently forget to listen to our customers. Many of us are in broadcast mode, or we are simply talking too much to listen in the first place. Worst, we give the impression that we’re listening but we’re only picking out the information that we believe is relevant.

There are many ways of listening properly – you could, for instance, carry out an NPS survey and semantically assess the qualitative feedback you receive. NPS is great, but it’s what you do with it that really matters. You can split it, segment it, slice it, and really understand what customers are saying about you – any way you want.

If you’re really being customer-centric, you’d split and slice it along customer segments, but from an internal point of view, you could split it among service centres, for instance, and understand how those independent customer-facing silos are working.

Remove yourself from the equation

Michael Hinshawe is on the money when he talks about customer perception being reality. It’s a nice way of putting it, because we often don’t have the customer’s perception in mind – we have our own. Or we have our own idea of what the customer perception is.

But what’s the next step to achieve this? Remove yourself from the equation. It’s almost a form of mindfulness, taking all emotion and internal context away from your thinking and cooly analysing the situation from the point of view of a customer. What do you look like? What do you sound like? What’s that first impression and what’s the long-term relationship like?

Get yourself out there, become a mystery shopper and get away from the desk. The more you immerse yourself in the customer’s landscape, the better.

Mimic customer language

No, that does not mean impersonating your customers, but if your business is network security, and you’re talking about “products, services and solutions” then you’re not talking customer language, you’re talking internal jargon. This is where people start to glaze over. If you present your potential customers with a list of internal product names they’ve likely never heard of before, then you run the risk of losing their interest before they’ve got any further.

This is dangerous. If you’re not using their language – not just in the way you speak or write, but in the way you label your services, products, solutions, whatever you call them, then you’re not communicating with your customers. You’re shouting at them.

Learn their language – and more importantly, do a bit of keyword research – so that you can discover what they’re truly seeking.

Develop systems around customers

Warren Butler talks about Magento and CRM integrating, and this is a pretty solid example as Magento is one of the most commonly used ecommerce platforms online. If they don’t integrate, what’s the point of either?

If they don’t integrate, you run the risk of losing crucial customer information. For instance, you might have a web front, but you have a back-end, and you have sales people out in the field. A lack of integration means that you might contact someone about a product they’ve already bought. Not good.

Instead, develop a customer view, and flow everything into a customer view. Everything should revolve around the customer view – systems should integrate into this, from Twitter and LinkedIn comments, to purchases, conversations, notes, mailshots… if you can develop a customer-centric system, then you’ve made a head start.

Reward the right behaviours

Your employees are the front line. They’re the ones who are out there talking to customers every day, so what goes in has to come out. What they hear from customers has to come back into your internal customer knowledge ‘hub’.

A truly customer-centric organisation doesn’t let employees become a barrier to customer information. They reward their employees for collecting data and knowledge about customers, they reward them for helping customers and for demonstrating brand values. For instance, every employee who has anything to do with a customer should have access to CRM and should know what to input and where to input it. It should be a routine, and completing these actions should be rewarded.

Develop agility of service

Customer centricity is partly about agility – and if you can be agile about what you provide, you have an edge. This means your people on the front line have to be able to identify current and future customer needs, and need to be empowered to deliver this information and do something about it.

Agility of service means being less entrenched about what you do. Again, going back to the previous point about removing yourself from the equation, it’s not about you or your systems and the things you provide, it’s about your customers and the things they want to buy. If you are able to adapt, you’ll develop customer-centricity all the quicker.

Hire entrepreneurial people

If you’re going to reach this stage of customer-centricity, a lot revolves around the people you hire. And this might involve a change. Find people who have an entrepreneurial spirit. People who have that “win at all costs” mentality and who aren’t afraid to challenge you and rip up the playbook.

This means reorienting your interviews and your whole hiring process to pinpoint the people who disrupt, the people who take a fresh approach to problems – the customer’s approach. When you do that, you’ll find customers engaging better with your people, and as a result, with your business, because you’ve got the processes and the people to match their needs.

And that, for me, is customer-centricity. You know what the customer wants, before the customer asks for me, because you’ve listened, you’ve adapted, you’ve got the people in place who understand an agile service model – and you can deliver on customer needs.

Gareth Cartman
Gareth Cartman is Director of Digital Marketing at Clever Little Design, and blogs frequently on tech, marketing, customer service and Human Resources.


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