Six Ways to Become Competitively Customer-Centric in 2014

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Customers are faced with more brand choices than ever before. It’s a trend that’s not going away. Restaurants, hotels, stores, and services alike are all growing in variety and choice. There is one thing I’m certain of in today’s evolving marketplace: For any business to remain competitive, the customer must be at the core of its brand, cultivating loyalty and advocacy, driving engagement, and safeguarding trust.

Companies that are able to place the customer at the center of their strategies will undoubtedly beat out the competition. Here are six ways that any organization can become more customer-centric and rise above the rest:

1. Leverage your differentiators to predict loyalty and grow sales

When it comes to consumers and the brands they choose, they buy differences not similarities. Because of this, they select brands that engage in differentiating dialogue with their customers and respond to the challenges of creating consistently great experiences.

For your brand to become a loyalty predictor and grow sales, you need to know what makes you different from your competitors—take the horse by the reigns—and become an industry leader. Take the opportunity to go above and beyond the market average when it comes to your customer journey. The experience that you deliver from the moment the customer makes contact with your brand to the end of their journey will be the driver in increasing your sales.

2. Use competitive intelligence to gain wallet/market share

In a highly competitive world, what you don’t know can hurt your brand. Knowledge is power and it’s not overly difficult to find out what your competitors are up to in this digital age. Performing a competitive analysis in any business is good practice. When you understand how your brand compares to the market and identify your key differentiators, you can put any fears about the future to rest and drive a well-informed business strategy that gives your brand a competitive edge that capitalizes on your rival’s weaknesses.

3. Coach locations to drive customer experience improvements

Exceptional customer service begins with managing the customer experience at the local level. To drive action and improve the customer experience, location managers need to be empowered with streamlined visibility into their location-specific customer feedback insights. When local decision-makers are armed with research-based advice and the proper tools and technologies, they gain the ability to accurately coach employees and adjust the experience in response to your customers’ stated needs.

4. Find value in solicited and unsolicited data

Historically, many brands viewed solicited feedback (e.g. online customer surveys, call center data, etc.) as the primary drivers of customer experience improvements. But while these data sources can and do highlight areas for improvement, they can’t be isolated from feedback captured through other channels. Unsolicited feedback from customer reviews, social media mentions and other sources can be just as valuable as solicited feedback. In fact, unsolicited feedback is often more beneficial to consumers because it directly influences their buying decisions.

Brands must improve their listening capabilities by bringing solicited and unsolicited feedback together. Leveraging both types of feedback, brands will have the insights they need to avoid inconsistent customer experiences.

5. Get credit for your efforts and leverage loyalty

Consumers trust recommendations and feedback from friends, family, peers and other acquaintances. In fact, a 2012 survey by Forbes found that 81% of US respondents said that friends’ social media posts directly influenced their purchase decision. This closely resembles a recent Empathica Consumer Insights Panel survey which found that 3 out of 4 respondents indicated that Facebook comments and reviews influenced purchase decisions.

This continuous upward trend in social media references makes it critical for brands to amplify the great experiences they provide to customers by encouraging them to share their positive experiences through their social media networks and online review sites, like OpenTell, Yelp, and TripAdvisor.

6. Place your focus on the consumer with a customer-centric culture

Designing your brand’s operations with the customer in mind is critical when it comes to creating a customer-centric culture. This includes making a great customer experience the job of every employee. To create accountability and action for employees, start by implementing clearly defined performance measures, and build on that by quickly recognizing, disseminating, and reinforcing best practices. This will help your employees bridge the gap with customers and demonstrate a genuine commitment to service experience.

Research has shown that companies who do this have high customer centricity and are more profitable than their peers, with an average of more than double the revenue growth rate at 15% less cost. We have also seen our clients’ locations experience an 8x growth rate when delivering consistent customer experience drivers.

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