Customer centricity is an attitude towards doing business. It’s not about creating customer ‘buzz’ about your brand, but, if executed with a laser focus on the customer’s needs, it will grow brand value.
Over time, the tangible effects of operating a customer-centric business model can translate into monetary value. However, it’s a long-term project that begins at the grassroots within the culture of your company.
In this article, we’ll explore how to tailor your business’ personnel strategy towards becoming truly customer-centric.
But let’s take a step back: who exactly is your customer in 2017?
Today’s customers are different even from 20 years ago (or even 5 years ago), where the relationship between brand and consumer was a one-way portal often through the television or broadcast media. This was a time when brands communicated at customers rather than with customers.
Consumer behavior and most importantly their expectations have evolved in the social media-era. The market is pushing businesses to become more customer-focused. Today’s customer is always-on and always connected, and they expect brands they buy products or services from to be the same: always-on, always available, and always ready to resolve problems immediately.
Recent survey data from Econsultancy confirmed that customer centricity is the leading characteristic required to connect with a digitally-native consumer culture:
Now to the business of actually building that customer-centric business. This is what the traditional conversion funnel looks like for a customer-centric company:
Your business is defined by what your customers say about you. According to TrustPilot, consumers make the effort to highlight a negative experience but remain silent after a positive one, because their expectation is, of course, to have a positive experience.
Even prospective customers will do their research: they’ll check out the content a brand posts on social platforms. They’ll search their favourite platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, to find what others have said – both positive and negative – to inform their decision to buy.
This digital word-of-mouth has particular influence among the digitally-native consumer, as a whopping 81% of consumers have admitted their purchasing decisions were influenced by their friends’ social media posts – that’s even higher than the percentage of customers who deemed referrals from friends and family more influential over direct marketing (77% according to Nielsen). It’s clear that a generating a positive experience for the customers you already have is an essential step towards customer centricity if your business has any hope of reaching more.
Businesses committed to customer-centricity are transparent, and truly believe the adage that the customer is always right. This has to permeate from every aspect of the company and every employee.
That task is made easier with a workforce that buys into company-wide employee advocacy scheme. The benefits of employee advocacy are threefold:
- employee-advocates generate positive awareness for your brand, both digitally and in-person.
- They feel a level of accountability to represent the values and best interests of the company, both internally and externally.
- They’re an expert on your product or service, and it’s just easier for a customer to buy into a company’s marketing when it is channeled to them via a human being.
The overarching effect of all of these implications is creating a transparent brand for your business, which is why customer-centric hiring should no longer be an operational consideration, but a branding necessity.
Honest, high-integrity marketing is built on agility and transparent customer experiences. Is your company better off in the hands of an agency, or would your customers’ experience benefit from agile responses facilitated by having an in-house team?
For the chance to get closer to your customer, evaluate the long-term investment of hiring highly-skilled marketing talent to manage media and technology partners – the direction as much as 73% of customer-centric marketers intend to go by 2020.
If a customer-centric business can execute just one function, it must meet the needs of customers, period. This is the most basic premise of customer-centricity, and it requires a deft touch.
A salesforce willing to forego accepted sales strategies in order to provide the right product or service for the customer, understands the trade-off between sales for sales’ sake, and the opportunity for repeat business by providing value and establishing relationships based on the customer’s needs.
This opens a greater window to retain your customers.
Churn, or turnover of customers, is a make-or-break KPI for customer-centric businesses, as it is a barometer of customer satisfaction.
A poorly-performing business will hemorrhage rather than churn customers, and end the year with a different set of customers than they began it.
You only have one chance to cement the customer’s perception of your brand, because positive word-of-mouth means little after a negative experience. According to our own research, 60% of consumers said they would not return, even if someone they trust said the service improved.
Once they’re gone, they usually stay away – and let’s not underestimate how difficult it is to acquire a new customer in the first place.
Beyond superior customer support, companies win by providing genuine value to the customers past the point of transaction. Doing so requires analysing customer support metrics to inform a customer-centric strategy.
One such example is British Gas, whose social engagement team proactively monitors keywords related to its customers (even when they don’t mention British Gas) to develop better relations. As a result, the energy provider engages in around 800 proactive conversations per month, shifting the brand 5% towards more positive customer sentiment – in the utilities industry where tariffs can only ever go up, this makes a huge difference and an outward indicator that British Gas is a customer-centric company.
Start your customer centricity philosophy today
Becoming a customer-centric company doesn’t happen with one hire – it takes a shift in the attitude of your entire workforce, an acceptance that customer-centricity is a hallmark of the business’ values.
A company like Zappos is famous for being so customer-focused that they will make hiring – and firing – decisions based on customer-centricity. This goes to show that changing company culture isn’t just about the next hire but just as importantly, leading from the top, living those customer-centric values and holding every team member to a higher standard of customer support.
When you think about how you can become customer-centric and build a brand your customers love, it starts with you and the team you build.