Five steps to becoming a more customer-centric company
Every organization collects customer feedback and creates an expectation with the customer that something will be done with this feedback.
However, most customer feedback goes straight into a company’s analytics and reporting software after it is captured.
Often, if the feedback is used at all, it is used by an analyst who aggregates the data and pulls it into a chart on a report. This results in marketers flipping through reports filled with pages of charts and percentages. And while such information is useful on a large scale, the actual voice of the client has been lost in the translation.
Real customer focus means treating customers as individuals rather than as an aggregate.
Unfortunately, it is easy for customers providing feedback on a service or product to be overlooked as the business-customer connection is often broken. When an issue can’t be resolved, they may wonder whether their feedback has been tossed aside or ignored because it hasn’t reached a response threshold that will make the company take action. You can rightly ask: why give feedback if it doesn’t work out?
It can be tempting to rely on the Net Promoter Score (NPS) and other popular metrics for success. However, it is not enough to just take the pulse of the customer in order to build a truly customer-centric organization. This reduces the customer to numbers and reduces the customer’s voice.
Let’s examine five steps it takes to create a more customer-centric business.
1. Start at the top
Customer focus starts with knowing the hearts of your customers, not just their voices. The only way to effectively support them is to understand who they are. The path to this hyper-personal and customer-centric relationship starts at the top.
In order to bring about cultural change, management must consider and communicate the need for greater customer orientation. Executives are the role models within a company, and their customer philosophy will permeate the business – from processes to software decisions to branding – and influence decision-making.
“A strong customer-centric leader is critical,” writes Guatam Thakkar in the Chief Executive’s article, “How we evolved into a customer centric culture.” Thakkar is a board member and former CEO of SE2, which provides third-party administrative services to the US life and annuity industries. The company used five attributes to support customers – accountability, responsiveness, transparency, innovation and collaboration – and called the approach ARTIC.
“The CEO sets the tone in organizations and customer focus is from the inside out,” continued Thakkar. “As CEO, I am responsible for communicating and demonstrating the characteristics of a customer-centric culture, including ARTIC.”
2. Appoint a customer champion
HubSpot recently named its first Chief Customer Officer (CCO), Yamini Rangan, who previously held the same title at Dropbox. Rangan oversees a team tasked with reducing friction for customers. In a video by the founding institute entitled “Advancing with customer-oriented thinking”, she talks about what a company can benefit from a customer-oriented approach:
The better you can achieve this customer-centric thinking, the better. There is literally nothing like tracking down your first target customer or pilot customer’s steps and seeing how they actually went through the process: what worked? What not? Now I always say one is a data point, three is a trend. So if you do this for your first couple [customers]When you see the same patterns coming, you know exactly what is happening.
Not all companies can hire a CCO. However, once a company’s executives – including the CEO – endorse a customer-centric plan, an employee should be designated as the company’s customer champion.
The customer centric champion should be knowledgeable about the company’s customers and support the company’s goal of providing them with a better customer experience. This employee should also have the power to influence others and hold colleagues accountable.
3. Make customer feedback transparent and accessible
While a single person can lead the process as a customer champion, customer feedback needs to be shared across the company. Customer orientation only takes place if the customer feedback is transparent and accessible to everyone.
How to do it:
- Don’t direct customer feedback to your customer relationship management tool. Instead, add customer feedback on the various systems and tools that users use on a daily basis.
- Internal agendas should not replace customer requirements.
- Don’t bury bad news. Uncover it, bring it up, and bring it up.
- Recognize and celebrate great customer news to remind reps why it is important to deliver to customers.
- Get to know your customers from all sides and from all angles. This has always been a priority for marketers, but there is always room to dig deeper.
4. Respond to customer feedback
If you look outside your house and see a bush burning, don’t waste time calling a family reunion to talk about how the fire started. They put out the fire first and then take the time to find out what started it.
Likewise, customer-facing organizations do not discuss customer complaints when they could take action to help that customer. They solve the customer’s problem before doing the analysis to determine the root cause. Therefore, upon receiving the feedback, organizations should assign an executable task to a specific owner who has the authority to act immediately.
The best way to ensure this is to ensure that customer feedback across all of the applications and communication tools teams use on a daily basis is incorporated into the business. When a marketing team researches product improvements or campaign improvements, they should receive the data in real time and not keep it until a formal final report is published. (Although both are necessary to become a customer-centric organization.)
5. Discuss customers in every meeting
One important way to embed the customer in everything the company does is to include them in your meetings. If every meeting begins or ends with a customer story or data point, it reminds the organization that it exists because of its customers.
The aim is to change the corporate philosophy by involving the customer in every activity. To do this, make one or more of the following items a regular item on the agenda:
- Present new ideas in the style of an Amazon Executive Meeting by asking questions like Who are the customers? Answer. Why should this idea please her?
- Share and discuss a customer’s story.
- Talk about a new data point for customers.
- Review a customer dashboard with NPS, churn rates (a metric used to measure customer change), or verbatim feedback captured by the support team.
- Ask employees to share personal stories about interactions with customers.
Of course, meetings can also be a good place to celebrate the customer-facing actions of employees and to commend them for their effect in helping the company’s customers.
Additional resources for customer orientation
Create a customer-centric marketing automation strategy
Four tips for customer-oriented copywriting
Embrace Irrationality: A People- and Customer-Centered Marketing Approach