While customer-centricity has been trending in recent years, it’s a concept that is easy to misconstrue. At its core, customer centricity is a marketing strategy asserting the importance of putting customers first–always considering the positive experience of the consumer over other factors.
The issue is that there is some confusion around the term. It can either be abused (for example, allowing poor customer behavior to go unchecked at the expense of valued employees) or underused (all hype and buzzwords with no real customer benefit). In this article, I’ll discuss what pure customer centricity looks like, and how you can utilize it to enhance your brand in real, practical ways.
A Holistic View of Customer Centricity
Customer centricity should be viewed as an all-encompassing approach, holistically applied across functions of a company. Everyone from product designers, to sales, to management need to be working together in concert to ensure that all aspects of the business are run in this frame of reference.
As a leader, you want to encourage a breakdown of barriers between the different departments. A set of unifying metrics should be established that focus on customer value, expanding the traditional roles of each department. Loop your sales team into new product development. Encourage product designers to be a part of customer meetings. Each department should have enough of a working knowledge of the others to value their contributions and understand how it relates to the overarching customer experience.
Another way to lead in customer-centricity is to innovate through empathy. What this means is that you need to see your product through a customer’s eyes–you need to understand what will help the customer most. The needs of customers (even satisfied ones) can and will change over time. You and your team should use your own service or product to look for areas of improvement.
Examples of customer experience innovation can be found all over the world. Here are some examples of how companies took the next step in customer service by understanding and identifying a need:
- In Singapore, a line of taxis called Grab offer convenience stores right in the car. For travelers who’ve forgotten a charger or need a quick snack, this company has solved a common pain point.
- Several hotel chains have started offering smart rooms for their guests. Virtual assistance is a major help for any traveler and an absolute lifesaver for persons with disabilities.
- Whole Foods has a chatbot that can help a customer find recipes for food they’ve purchased in-store.
In each of these cases, a company took an offered service and found a way to improve the experience for the consumer.
Customer Centricity from the Inside Out
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” These words spoken by Gandhi have an impact that reaches even the business world. There are formulas and tactics for just about anything, but true revolution comes from changing the hearts and minds of people. As a leader, you want to lead in a way that engages your employees.
Be a leader who communicates in a way that includes all departments in decision-making. Share actionable customer data with every department, and be able to mediate any disputes. Use positive reinforcement to encourage employees from across all functions to identify opportunities to improve customer experience.
Having invested employees creates a positive feedback loop of talent and creativity. High retention and satisfied workers draws top talent from the outside, and keeps them innovating on the inside.
What this kind of integration requires is mentor leadership? What does a mentor do? Train new leaders within sections to promote customer centricity through example, and really understand the nuances of this business model.
Pulling the Threads Together
A company should aim not only to succeed, but to exceed expectations. Customer centric thinking is the only way to truly innovate in a way that brings real value to the consumer experience. It’s not about being a yes man to customers on the floor, it’s about shaking things up from the floor to production. It’s about truly understanding the needs of the customer across all departments, and working together as a larger team to meet those needs. This can be inspired by the right kind of forward-thinking leadership.
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