Customer centric is defined as “creating positive consumer experience at the point of sale and post-sale. A customer-centric approach can add value to a company by enabling it to differentiate itself from competitors who do not offer the same experience” (www.businessdictionary.com). If the concept of customer centricity has truly been around since the inception of free enterprise, then why is it the idea garners so much attention today? What has changed that makes customer centricity an important concept for businesses to grasp? It’s simple, really. The empowered customer!
Customers are loyal to themselves. They know what they want and how they want it. And yet for years advertising and marketing trends suggested that brands tell customers what they wanted, and then deliver it. Now, with the continued use of social media, the customer has a much stronger voice. They are empowered through technology to speak up and speak up they do!
Businesses must embrace the idea that customers are empowered and customer centricity is critical to success. Since customer centric thinking is not new, what do businesses need to do in order to really embrace this idea and listen to the strong voice of the customer?
Challenge the Norm: Businesses must now understand that building a brand requires an outside-in approach with the customer at the core. The trend is for customers to expect and reward the experience they have, not the brand they choose. Expectations are high, and customers are ready to switch at the first sign of poor customer service. Furthermore, they have a platform to let all their friends, followers, links and connections know they are unhappy – over one single poor experience.
Businesses must now leverage the ever changing technology landscape to provide continuous communications with customers. This requires a strategy that integrates customer centricity with a thorough understanding of the empowered customer. Start with these foundational elements:
- Bottom up listening – top down support – Customers interact with all levels of your organization, so choosing to engage with the front-line employees is critical to understanding the customer experience. But don’t just listen – act on what you discover.
- Listen to the customer – Empowered customers expect to be heard. Engage in a campaign that not only solicits the opinions of existing customers, but also include prospects and former customers. Gathering these insights provides a full picture of the total customer experience.
- Create a strategy that places the customer in the center – just listening and surveying will not complete the task of truly becoming customer centric. Create a strategy that places the customer in the center of every decision. From accounting to invoicing to shipping to marketing – it’s not just the customer service teams that impact the customer experience – it’s every department that has anything to do with the product or service the customer receives. Basically, it’s everybody in the organization as well as contractors, freelancers and consultants.
- Create full-circle communication tactics – getting the information from the customer and determining a course correction is critical. But even more important is communicating back to the customer. Good news is always easy. Bad news and the resulting changes, while not easy, will win you more fans. Empowered customers demand authenticity and transparency. Make sure your organization lives by those or you are not truly customer centric.
Whether is customer centricity, then empowered customer, or vice versa (chicken or the egg), the most important take-away is to understand the symbiotic relationship between the two. Empowered customers make the best brand advocates. They can also tromp your brand in a moment. Create a solid customer centric strategy and the empowered customer becomes your best friend!