Many Brands Claim to Be Customer Centric—Is Yours?
Less than a third of U.S. consumers believe that companies truly listen to them and understand their needs, yet the vast majority of businesses believe themselves to be customer centric. This dramatic dichotomy speaks to a profound disconnect between the values brands hold (or purport to hold) internally and the external touchpoints at which those values are expressed. How can brands begin to break down these walls and bridge an enormous credibility gap?
First, customer centricity must be enshrined in your organization’s purpose, core values and corporate culture. It must be consistently reinforced by leadership and understood in concrete terms by all internal stakeholders. Whether your customer is an individual or another business, effective customer-centric marketing demands this critical initial investment (click here to read more about the importance of internal branding).
Once internal alignment is underway, expand your reach outward by soliciting external feedback. Brands must acknowledge and own the premise that true customer centricity is a continuous, ongoing process—not only of understanding the present wants and needs of the market—but of engaging customers to monitor their satisfaction in order to foster continuous improvement in the way you do business every day.
How do customers shop your category? Where are the gaps? Why do they choose to interact with your brand, and how satisfied are they with those interactions? Answering these foundational questions will help your business begin to build a strategic framework to target the right customers with the right message—when and where those individuals want to hear it.
Every touchpoint, both digital and physical, is an opportunity to better understand and ultimately better serve your customers. All forms of engagement, whether in-store, in a meeting, on your website or via email, SMS, text or voice chat, yield terrific insights that will enable your business to connect and interact with your audience in a more pointed and purposeful way moving forward.
Leveraging social listening techniques is also key, as they provide invaluable insight into your customers’ behavior, engagement patterns and interests. Social listening can also illuminate opportunities for your brand to help customers solve potential issues independently (without, for example, having to wait in a customer service queue or for a call or an email response from your support team). By arming your audience with practical, functional and relevant resources and self-help tools, your business can demonstrate foresight about common pain points and a proactive desire to address them.
Truly customer-centric businesses succeed by infusing the voice of the customer into every aspect of their business:
- Establish customer centricity as a foundational element of the brand; be sure it is directly reflected in your purpose and core values
- Develop and deploy internal communications to foster strategic alignment; inform, educate and consistently reinforce customer priorities as they relate to every employee
- Actively solicit external feedback from the market
- Gather insights (via chat, email, SMS, Net Promoter Score, social listening, etc.)
- Conduct surveys and one-on-one interviews
- Launch user testing initiatives
- Infuse insights from the data into your organization at every level
- Proactively anticipate and address customer needs
Misunderstandings around what it means to be customer centric are common—keep in mind that it is a continual process, not an outcome. A keen awareness of your customers’ short- and long-term wants and needs empowers your brand to continually refine its messaging strategy as new information comes to light. This insight can help direct your inbound marketing efforts, generating brand awareness as well as organic leads.
The most successful customer-centric businesses ensure all internal stakeholders collectively and individually understand their responsibility to the customer—prioritizing a positive experience at every step along their purchasing journey. There is significant ROI to be gained from this approach as well; with more than 80% of individuals willing to pay more for a superior customer experience, any business not taking urgent action to humanize their brand is sacrificing an enormous competitive advantage.