There is no question about it. Customer-centric companies perform better and are far better able to drive customer loyalty. If you‘re a company looking to adopt a more customer-centric culture, where do you start and how exactly do you make that transition?
Insight: The most common barrier to customer-centricity is culture.
Data: Only 14% of marketers say that customer centricity is a hallmark of their companies, and only 11% believe their customers would agree with that characterisation. (CMO Council via HBR)
Key Action Point: Embed customer-centricity in the heart of your company from leadership down to the very last employee.
Redefining your company with the customer in mind is a sure-fire way to cut to the core of what your business means to them. But if your customers don’t feel a connection with your business, there‘s still room for improvement.
Read on to find out what makes a customer-centric culture and what you can do to start creating one.
Embedding Customer-Centricity at the Heart of Your Business
We live in a continually expanding world. Digital media and on-demand services make us more connected now than ever before. But we continue to crave real human connection. By providing this connection to your customers, you build up brand loyalty and create long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.
To start building customer-centricity within your business today, you need to —
Give more importance to customer empathy
Align HR and recruitment
Provide employees with an opportunity to engage with your customers
Sustain the culture by rewarding them
Let’s take a deep-dive into each strategy and then explore how we can measure the impact of a customer-centric culture.
Instil Better Customer Empathy among Employees
Empathy is about truly understanding your customers’ motivations and drivers. It is both a learned skill and a talent, and it has to be fostered among employees to be effective. Even the kindest employee may not always understand why a customer does what they do or what their motivations are. Structured exercises can help your employees put themselves in the customer‘s shoes, in addition to learning about how they can react to certain scenarios.
Being empowered with the ability to actually work with your customers rather than against them is important as this makes them see things from a customer‘s point of view. If an employee feels disempowered, this apathy will trickle down to their treatment of the customer.
Employees must also be made aware of the challenges customers face. Understanding what customers are going through and what they need from them are the first steps towards building true empathy.
Empathy isn‘t the same as kindness. It‘s a learned skill that requires that employees be able to see things from the customer‘s point of view.
Through structured exercises and scenarios, employees can learn how to better interact with customers in a variety of contexts.
Understanding the customer‘s motivations is a key first step towards better understanding a customer‘s actions and emotions.
Align Recruitment, Hiring, and Training to Enforce Customer-Centricity
Building a truly customer-centric business requires improving your business from the ground up. This begins with recruiting the right employees. It‘s easier to acquire employees who believe in your company‘s purpose and values than it is to convert employees to your customer‘s values.
To find people who truly believe in your company‘s purpose and values, promote your company‘s culture and values online and offline. This makes it clear what type of person would be a fit for your business. Emphasise how important your customers are to your business.
Hiring employees who already believe in a customer-oriented environment is a “short cut” towards company culture success.
By broadcasting your company‘s message, you‘ll be more likely to attract employees who already believe in your core values.
Employees who believe in the purpose and values of the company are more likely to spread these values, reaffirming the customer-centric culture.
Facilitate Direct Interaction with Customers
The more direct interaction employees get with customers, the more they can improve upon their customer relationships.
Every interaction is an opportunity to further the client-business relationship. This ensures that customers are satisfied and that there aren‘t any lingering doubts that may need to be addressed. But this isn‘t something an employee can do on their own; it has to be built into the company structure from the very start.
Regular meetings and methods of touching base with customers can be the perfect time to find out opportunities to improve. If employees are not in a customer-focused position, they can still find out more about their customers by being allowed to listen in on calls, looking at customer satisfaction surveys, and participating in large events such as conferences.
Direct customer-to-employee interaction builds the customer‘s relationship with the company, while also offering them opportunities to improve.
A company must take care to introduce opportunities for customer-to-employee interaction within their business processes.
Reward Employees to Reinforce the Culture
Don‘t just tell employees what to do: reward them when they do a good job. Employees with high customer satisfaction scores should be given rewards to show that their efforts are noticed and appreciated. Not only will they strive to continue their performance, but they‘ll also serve as role models for other employees.
Some ways of rewarding employees for a positive, customer-centric culture include —
Rewarding employees with “employee of the month” for going above-and-beyond with customer service and support or giving them more paid time off, and the ability to work out of office.
Making sure employees who don‘t have direct customer reaction are also offered opportunities to be rewarded, as otherwise they may fail to see how the company‘s culture directly relates to them.
Have some visible goals that employees can work towards, such as an improved customer satisfaction rate. Transparency in goals can help employees as otherwise they may feel as though they don‘t know what they‘re doing.
By rewarding your employees, you can make sure that they are enthusiastic about working towards better customer satisfaction. Working with customers can be stressful, and with an emphasis on a customer-centric culture, employees need to know that the business is on their side as well.
To improve upon your customer-oriented culture, make sure employees are rewarded for their efforts. This shows them that the business doesn‘t only care about customers.
Even employees who are not directly connected to customers must be given the opportunity to shine.
All of these methods, taken together, can be used to improve the customer-centricity of a business. Depending on the type of business you have, some strategies may be more effective than others.
Overall, it‘s about reaching out towards customers, understanding customers, and attempting to anticipate the customer‘s future needs.
Measuring the Success of a Customer-Centric Company
As you continue to evolve your customer-centric attitude and strategy, you‘ll be able to fine-tune and optimise it by tracking the right metrics. Here are a few of the most important metrics to track.
This speaks to the relationship that existing customers have with the business. These metrics include customer retention rates, word-of-mouth referrals, customer satisfaction rates, and customer purchasing.
These metrics tell you directly whether customers are finding good value in their relationship with your company. Among all metrics, this is the most important subset: all other things aside, if your customers are satisfied, your business is likely to be successful.
Where do you stand in your market? Are you performing at par with the competition? In terms of growth, are you outperforming or underperforming?
Whether or not your customers are happy, if your competition is growing faster, that means that there‘s still some room for improvement. And if your customer growth is outpacing your competition but your revenue is being outperformed, it‘s possible that you need to take a look at your internal business operations.
Future metrics govern whether your company is moving in the right direction. It‘s important to focus on two things: new customers and new products.
Not only do you want to know that your existing customers are satisfied, but you also want to see how many new deals you‘re closing, how many new customers are being brought in, and how satisfied they are.
In addition to new customers, you also need to pay attention to your products and services. How swiftly are new products being adopted? If it‘s fast, you‘re accurately predicting customer needs. If it‘s slow, you aren‘t.
Customer-centricity improves all elements of a business, so there are many metrics that you can use to determine your success.
When it comes to current customers, the most important metrics are retention, lifetime value, and referrals.
When it comes to future-proofing your business, the most important metrics are product adoption, new deals closed, and new customers.
Meanwhile, comparisons with competition can also help: total revenue, total growth, and total satisfaction.
Gallup discovered that 70% of the variance between “lousy, good, and great” company cultures rests on leadership. Your leadership is what forms your company culture.
Building a customer-centric culture from the ground up is the first step towards creating a business that is able to both meet and anticipate a customer‘s needs. The more you value your customers and anticipate their needs, the more likely you are able to build a solid relationship with your customer base.