Customer Centricity – The Hero Behind Good Business
In today’s hyper-connected world, consumers expect a wonderful experience along every step of their journey with your business – and that you fully understand them and their needs.
While it may sound like an impossible – even unfair – task, achieving this as best you can, is increasingly important; especially when everyone has more choices than ever before. Now, you may have barely one second (one mouse click) before they choose another business. If there’s an obstacle to purchasing, some negative social media commentary, even a delivery charge where another supplier has none – it doesn’t matter what – the consumer has the power to move on.
Long gone are the days when the in-store, one-on-one experience determined how they felt about you. Through the Internet, they can do their research, discuss your products and services online, connect with you how they want, and use an ever-growing list of smart devices to buy products and services whenever they want, wherever they are.
They expect more from businesses than ever before. Personalized service. On-demand convenience. Multiple contact points. True engagement. Experiences, not just products. And more. Always more.
That means organizations need to place the consumer right at the forefront of their strategies and embed them directly in the heart of their operations. To become a truly customer–centric business that focuses on providing exceptional customer experiences.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
– Warren Buffet
Power to the people
A customer may have felt insulted or ignored in your store. Your Twitter campaign may have offended some people. Maybe you just made finding help too confusing and difficult. It doesn’t matter.
If someone feels upset about it, they can now amplify their feelings across the world. For good or bad, that’s the reality of business today.
You may have the best product and the consumer loves it, but if they’ve had a negative experience (at any point) when it was purchased, that’s what will linger in their minds. They’ll talk about it and if you’re unlucky it can hit your bottom line and damage your brand.
Ignoring this new reality can only harm your business.
In his book, ‘Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000: Running a Business in Today’s Consumer-Driven World’, author and Executive Vice President of Strategic Services at Nielsen Online, Peter Blackshaw, wrote about the three truths in today’s world:
- Businesses no longer hold absolute sway over the decisions and behavior of consumers.
- The longer companies refuse to accept the influence of consumer-to-consumer communication and perpetuate the old ways of doing business, the more they will alienate and drive away their customers.
- To succeed in a world where consumers now control the conversation, and where satisfied customers tell three friends while angry customers tell 3,000, companies absolutely must achieve credibility on every front.
This means truly embracing customer–centricity. Not only can it provide a positive customer experience, in which the customer feels respected and valued, it can make your organization 60 percent more profitable than a company that is not customer-focused, according to Deloitte Research.
But this doesn’t just mean taking a piece-meal approach. A business can’t just throw in a role and say, ‘that’s our Customer Centricity Manager’, it has to come from the top, down. A customer–centric mindset needs to exist throughout the business, simply because there are so many touchpoints that can influence opinions. It also doesn’t mean throwing expensive resources at it, you just need to be smart in how you build your strategy, and always keep the customer in mind.
“Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.”
– Tony Hsieh, CEO Zappos
What then does it take to become customer-centric? Let’s have a quick look.
Lead by example and empower everyone
Leaders must encourage the right behavior and practice what they preach. They should then take a detailed look at every point of contact a customer has with their business.
Only then can employees be empowered to deal with interactions positively, proactively, and quickly at those crucial touchpoints – without the need to further escalate issues. To be effective this must include everyone who interacts with customers, including frontline staff, IT, HR, procurement, etc. If their role can impact a customer’s relationship, they must adopt a customer-centric attitude.
Know your customers
“Until you understand your customers — deeply and genuinely — you cannot truly serve them.”
– Rasheed Ogunlaru
Where someone lives, their habits, likes and dislikes, what they routinely buy, family and friends. Nearly everything about your customers is at your fingertips, and it’s all relevant.
The good thing is that today there’s no excuse not to know your customers. It’s never been easier to mine the mountains of data being sent out every single second.
Twitter users send 500 million tweets every day (roughly 6,000 tweets every second). On average, the 3.78 billion social media users worldwide spend two hours and 25 minutes on social media per day. Facebook generates some 4 petabytes of data daily (that’s 4 million gigabytes), and in 2018, it was estimated that worldwide – each day – 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are produced.
Additionally, the rise of omnichannel and smart retail solutions is seeing a true digital connection between customers and stores.
Data is truly king. By embracing a data-driven mindset that looks to deeply analyze customer information, utilizing Voice of the Customer programs, and developing customer insight teams, you can capture valuable information everywhere customers interact with your business – and that’s good for building long-lasting relationships and meeting their needs.
All of this data can also be used within your key performance metrics, including churn rates, Net Promoter Score, and Customer Lifetime Value to measure the success of your customer–centric efforts. Just don’t forget to pass on that information to all who need it!
Use customer feedback to your advantage
One of the great benefits of online comments is that they’re in real-time. Whether talking about social media, feedback on an app, even comments left on a blog, they all provide a chance to quickly identify issues and opportunities as they happen (especially if it’s in response to a marketing campaign or new product launch).
Combined with a strong feedback strategy, customer comments can then be appropriately identified, prioritized, and fed back to the right people. Even to those developing your products and services – where end-to-end testing is essential. Using empathy mapping at this stage can also be highly beneficial to better understand the emotional world of your customers.
For any business wanting to be more agile and change-ready, receiving such valuable information as it happens can make a dramatic difference in their competitiveness. In addition, by making customer feedback available to all employees, a collective understanding of what customers need, want, and expect can be achieved, and that means everyone can feel responsible for solving issues.
Address their problems
“Solve the small problem before it becomes big.”
– Lao Tzu
While certain problems aren’t an easy fix and some customers have impossible expectations, the end goal should be to focus on building long-term relationships. A dissatisfied customer can quickly turn into a single–sale customer.
That means proactively striving to solve problems (even before the customer encounters them).
Ask appropriate questions. Listen to what they’re saying. Bring in employees from different backgrounds to provide alternative approaches to solving issues – an especially critical point if you have a diverse customer base.
Anticipate their needs
“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”
– Steve Jobs
Nobody wearing a Walkman asked for an iPod. Those enjoying all their albums on the iPod never thought of streaming a world of music to a smartphone. But look at the difference these changes have made.
This is the problem when asking customers what they want. They’ll always under-sell what they think they need. The Walkman–wearer never imagined they could walk around with every album they own; they just wanted to put in two tapes (or CDs).
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
– Henry Ford
Until you have it you never realize how much you needed it. That’s why it’s important to fully understand what customers are using your products or services for and be open to exploring potential improvements. This can also mean how you communicate, solve issues, and treat your customers. Not just products and services. Yesterday a call center was enough, now you need people to also respond to emails, social media posts, contact forms, and more.
Listening to feedback from current customers is also essential in order to anticipate what they may want tomorrow – and also what potential customers may be looking for.
Create positive experiences
“Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement.”
– James Cash Penney
In many ways, this is the foundation of a good customer-centric strategy. Everyone wants to feel special, to feel rewarded, to look forward to something. Customers and employees.
This can be as simple as providing a fast response. It can be supplying a color-coded basket in your store – red means I’d like some help, black means I want to be left alone. Maybe it’s enabling customers to personalize products to suit them best.
Providing such positive experiences is all about encouraging customers to buy again, develop a long-term relationship, and even help sell your brand through positive word of mouth. It’s also about not ignoring them once they’ve made a purchase, it’s about constantly engaging them and showing they’re valued.
Embrace the bad things
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
– Bill Gates
When it comes to customer centricity and experience, it’s also about taking the good with the bad. To be open to the negative things your customers may say about your business, products, or services, and addressing them appropriately. Getting angry, being sarcastic or dismissive, overly defensive, or simply ignoring such feedback can only make things worse – especially in our ‘always online’ world.
This isn’t to say, of course, that one negative review means immediately apologizing and removing a product from sale. But it does mean considering it, which may require, as this company did, bringing the negative comment to an open forum (nicely) and asking their customers if the comment was valid.
What is most important, and which can be a true competitive advantage, is recognizing the negative feedback and quickly addressing it; even making changes if necessary. If you do it right, especially on a public forum, it could even win you more customers.
The customer is NOT always right
“Great customer service doesn’t mean that the customer is always right, it means that the customer is always honoured.”
– Chris LoCurto
Even if you’ve fully embraced customer centricity and are globally recognized as a leader in keeping customers happy and coming back, there will always be someone you cannot satisfy. This can be a bitter pill to swallow. Especially if you have a ‘the customer is always right’ policy.
But the truth is, some customers can harm your business. Dealing with them can tie up resources, reduce employee morale, even scare off other customers. This is especially true if you run a brick & mortar business. Having an irate customer ‘lose control’ within a store is stressful for all involved, employees and customers.
If someone is constantly abusive and negative on your social media page, even after repeated attempts to deal with them, it may be best to simply ban them.
You and your employees should be helpful and try to meet their needs, to treat them with respect, but not without limits. Rude customers cannot be allowed to take over.
“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”
– Dale Carnegie
They may never remember what you said, or how long your product helped them, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel. That’s the hidden power of customer centricity.
Interested in learning more about Customer Centricity and how it can transform your business?
On May 18, we’ll be hosting the next edition of our free online event, the Testbirds Digital Thinkers Forum, which will reveal insights on the topic “CX – Lessons Learned From Superheroes”. Join us to find out what we can learn from superheroes about customer experience and how you can be a superhero for your customers too!
Be sure to save your spot now!
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About the author
Content Marketing Manager
When Simone is not working on superb texts for Testbirds, she and her horse live it up on the tournament areas in Bavaria.
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Testbirds specialises in the testing of software such as apps, websites and Internet of Things applications by using innovative technologies and solutions. Under the slogan, “Testing Reality”, the company offers various testing methods to its clients looking to optimise the user-friendliness and functionality of their digital products. With over 250,000 registered testers located in 193 countries, Testbirds is one of the world’s leading crowdtesting providers. In addition, the IT service provider utilises cloud based technologies to support customers in the optimisation of their digital products. The combination of the two testing methods delivers a unique and extensive portfolio that takes the quality of software to the next level. Testbirds was founded in 2011 by Philipp Benkler, Georg Hansbauer and Markus Steinhauser. Today, the company has over 100 employees. Other than its headquarters in Munich, there are now offices in Amsterdam, London and Stockholm, franchises in Hungary and Russia and sales partners in Italy.
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