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.