Many Brands Claim to Be Customer-Centric. Is Yours?
Every business believes itself to be customer-centric, but few put in the hours and effort to actively pursue customer centricity as a central pillar of their business strategy and culture. Whether your customer is an individual or another business, effective customer-centric marketing demands this investment. It requires outreach and introspection in equal measure to understand the wants and needs of your audience and apply that insight to the way you do business. Truly customer-centric businesses proactively seek out opportunities to engage with their audience, then feed that data back into the organization in order to foster continuous improvement—and they reap the benefits; Deloitte found that customer-centric companies are 60 percent more profitable than their product-centric counterparts.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, three quarters of businesses consider themselves to be customer-centric—however less than a third of U.S. consumers believe that companies truly listen and understand their needs. How can a business evaluate itself honestly in light of this significant disparity? First, true customer centricity begins at the top. It must be enshrined in your organization’s purpose and core values, consistently reinforced by leadership and understood by all internal stakeholders.
Once alignment is achieved, expand your vision outward by soliciting external feedback. How and why do customers interact with your brand? How satisfied are they with your services? And, critically, how likely are they to recommend the brand to someone else? Answering these foundational questions will help your business begin to build a strategic framework to target the right customers with the right message via the right channels—when and where those individuals want to hear it. This approach is informed by social listening techniques, which enable brands to capture invaluable data on customers’ behavior, engagement patterns and interests. By getting to know your audience and what is driving their actions on social media platforms and beyond, your business can better anticipate and even preempt those potential challenges—and connect and interact with your audience in a more authentic and meaningful way.
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 and organic leads through the creation of high-quality, relevant content that can be accessed and shared across the spaces and channels your customers already use. For example, consider utilizing your brand’s blog to deliver tangible value and convenience to your audience rather than explicit self-promotion. Offering insight in this way can help your brand establish authority and build trust in addition to converting customers.
Investing in understanding your customers’ behavior and engagement patterns can also illuminate opportunities for your brand to develop and deploy tools that enable customers to solve their issues independently (without, for example, having to waste time waiting in a customer service queue, or for an email response from your customer support team). This is critical, as a single negative experience can irrevocably damage the customer’s impression of your brand. By arming your audience with practical, functional and relevant tools, your business can demonstrate foresight of common pain points and a proactive desire to address them.
Truly customer-centric businesses succeed by taking an outside-in approach to their business:
- Develop and deploy internal communications to foster strategic alignment; inform, educate and reinforce customer priorities as they relate to every employee
- Actively solicit external feedback
- Gather insights (via chat, email, SMS, mobile, Net Promoter Score, social listening, etc.)
- Conduct surveys and one-on-one interviews
- Launch user testing initiatives
- Infuse insights from 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. 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 consumers 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.