In the world of business where buzzwords tend to pile up like dead leaves in the fall, it can be easy to dismiss new concepts as retreads, or ideas that have barely evolved since the last time a similar term was labeled the next big thing. In fact, it can a little too easy to dismiss new concepts or innovations. There are certainly times these buzzwords deserve to be raked aside, but once in a great while one of these ideas transcends buzzword status to truly become a must-do for companies.
Such as in the case of the customer-centric approach to customer service.
The Age of Effort
There was a time when a customer who had a complaint had to either drive to a store to register that complaint, or explain it over the phone. In that era, the customer had to hope he or she would get a fair resolution. If that fair resolution didn’t come, that customer could strike back at the company by taking his or her business elsewhere if there was a convenient competing option. That customer could also complain to his or her close friends and family, hoping to maybe influence a few of them.
This is not that time.
Thanks to the internet, ecommerce and worldwide shipping, we’re officially living in the Age of the Customer. Not only do customers have easy access to more businesses and buying options than ever, but they have strong recourse when they feel they have been wronged by a company. A negative post on social media can instantly reach hundreds, even thousands of other users. In the Age of the Customer, providing excellent customer experience has become imperative.
Centricity vs. focus
To understand what the customer-centric approach is, we need to understand the approach that came before it. The customer-centric and customer-focused approaches are often confused, especially in that they both prioritize the customer, but knowing the difference is essential for providing the superior customer experience that will improve loyalty and increase customer lifetime value.
With a customer-focused approach an organization goes to great lengths to rectify complaints, ask for feedback and implement changes and improvements based on that feedback, and measure its performance compared to competitors. Compared to more traditional customer service approaches these are all valuable steps, but the customer-focused approach is a very reactive strategy, only bothering to work a little harder once an issue or pain point has been identified.
Conversely, the customer-centric approach is a proactive one. It harnesses the power of information such as analytics and behavioral insights to ‘think like a customer’ and design a customer experience based on anticipated needs, desires and expectations. Instead of reacting to pain points, a customer-centric approach seeks to avoid those pain points altogether by providing customers with effortless interactions with the brand.
Main benefits of the customer-centric approach
The effortlessness mentioned above is important because, as research by Harvard Business has found, reducing how much effort a customer has to put in with a brand is the number one thing a brand can do to improve customer loyalty.
Also important for customer loyalty? Creating a personal connection between customer and brand. A customer-centric approach provides a consistent customer experience that is seamless across all channels, and this consistency allows customers to feel as though they know what to expect from a brand at all times. By delivering on those implied promises, a brand deepens the personal relationship with customers and increases a customer’s lifetime value by positioning themselves as the reliable go-to brand.
There’s no one checklist when it comes to implementing a customer-centric approach, however there are a few important starting points.
- Embrace analytics. As digital customer service solution provider nanorep says in their guide to adopting a customer centric approach, anticipating the needs and wants of your customers is of the utmost importance. Therefore, using the huge amount of analytics available to your organization as well as powerful Voice of the Customer technology to identify those needs and wants is also of the utmost importance.
- Eliminate the seams. A customer-centric approach has to provide that effortless customer experience seamlessly across all channels in which a customer interacts with a brand. To provide that level of consistency, invest in solutions such as Customer Relationship Management software for your sales and customer service employees. Automated customer service tools like chat bots are also valuable as they can provide high-level customer service in a number of channels and can automatically pick up where an interaction left off even when a customer has to switch devices or channels.
- Create a customer-centric culture. This point is about talking the talk and walking the walk. There’s no way to fake a customer-centric approach or put in a half-hearted effort. A successful customer-centric approach requires a company-wide adoption of the customer-centric mentality, and everything from hiring and training to tools and technology to the way you empower your sales and customer service employees has to reflect it.
Customer-centric companies have been found to be 60% more profitable than companies that aren’t. There aren’t many “buzzwords” that can claim stats like that. Implementing a customer-centric approach isn’t a quick and easy endeavor, but when done well this strategy results in long-term gains that have a major impact on the bottom line.