Earlier this year, we published a two-part series on the ongoing shift toward customer-centricity and how your organization can follow suit. To begin the process, we’ve researched a few examples of this model in action and the key lessons to take away. Read on for five tips from companies that put customer centricity up front.
More from PostFunnel on Customer-Centricity:
eComm Product Marketing: ‘Failing’ Better by Putting Customers at the Center
Customer Centricity Done Right: Impressions from PostFunnel Forum
How Companies Can Embrace Customer Centricity
1. McDonald’s Learns from Its Customers
Whether you’re “lovin’ it” or not, you have to hand it to McDonald’s: in recent years, the company made several upgrades to its menu items, services, and overall customer experience. They’ve switched to using only antibiotic-free chicken, made their breakfast menu available 24 hours a day, and introduced digital kiosks where customers can quickly place their orders.
McDonald’s didn’t make these changes arbitrarily or to replicate a competitor’s actions. These improvements were based predominantly on customer data and feedback. By listening and paying attention to their customers, McDonald’s was able to discover that they wanted:
- Healthier (or less harmful…) food items
- Breakfast items past 10:30AM
- Heightened convenience throughout the ordering process
Many McDonald’s customers were more than happy to provide feedback with no prompting; the company’s Twitter page received more than 120,000 requests for all-day breakfasts throughout the year leading up to the change. Additionally, the company uncovers customers’ needs, expectations, and experiences by soliciting feedback. McDonald’s continues to engage via social media, questionnaires, surveys to loyal customers, and “on the fly” reviews.
The McDonald’s team readily admits they’d been behind the times in making the changes their customers wanted. By revamping the brand’s overall approach, implementing their customers’ feedback, and adopting a customer-centric strategy, McDonald’s managed to weather economic uncertainty and regain its footing in the fast-food industry.
2. Southwest Airlines is Open and Honest
Communication between brands and customers should be a two-way street, which is why Southwest Airlines’ #Transfarency campaign made huge waves.
To stand out from the competition, Southwest amended their pricing policies by doing away with all hidden fees—and promised to inform customers about any additional charges. Though every consumer would appreciate transparency in any industry (let alone one that flies ‘em through the air at 700 miles per hour), customer centricity begins with open and honest communication. But Southwest knows that to really embody this model, you must reach customers where they are—not where you want them to be.
In their case, this meant taking their Transfarency campaign to social media via Facebook and Twitter:
Basic Economy? How about some Basic Compassion? No fees to change your flight, check your bags, or have fun on your flight.
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) November 1, 2018
They also created a standalone website to help communicate the message of #Transfarency in a variety of ways:
What’s more, their Transfarency policy is communicated in a way that matters to the consumer. Look at the example above—the “Mad Libs” exercise states their message loud and clear:
“We know how frustrating it is to be hit with hidden fees, so we make your flight costs clear from the start.”
Keep them in the loop, communicate with them where they ‘are,’ and speak to them in a way that they’ll understand your message.
3. Chick-fil-A Gets All Hands on Deck
If you’ve been a PostFunnel follower for a while, you know we’re huge fans of how Chick-fil-A treats its customers.
For Chick-fil-A, customer support is an “all-hands-on-deck” affair. While individual employees perform their own tasks, it’s not uncommon for team members to step out of their assigned roles to offer assistance to a customer in need.
Last week, my wife and I went to our local Chick-fil-A and ordered two meals and a milkshake. When our food was brought out, I realized my milkshake was missing and notified the cashier. She was busy with another customer but told me she’d get right on it. In the meantime, another team member who overheard the problem stepped in and poured the treat for me straightaway. Two minutes later, the cashier brought out the milkshake she had just made, and I came out with two milkshakes.
Did Chick-fil-A lose a couple bucks here? Sure. Am I going back to Chick-fil-A after I finish writing this article? Absolutely.
There are two things to take away from this anecdote:
First and foremost, it’s clear Chick-fil-A’s team members care about their customers and want them to be happy with the service.
Even more crucial is that Chick-fil-A’s team members are enabled and encouraged to do whatever it takes to ensure customers have a positive dining experience. There are no silos or red tape to inhibit an employee’s ability to provide for their customers.
It’s great to create a customer-centric culture throughout your organization, but that’s not enough. No matter how dedicated your team is to helping your customers, they’ll never be able to do so if their hands are tied.
4. Crate and Barrel Facilitates an Omnichannel Experience
I’ve mentioned the importance of maintaining lines of communication with customers. But you also want to use these channels to enhance your customers’ overall experience with your brand in a variety of creative and innovative ways.
For a prime example of what I mean, look no further than furniture retailer Crate and Barrel.
A few years back, their team realized something: a sizeable chunk of its customer base uses the company’s physical locations for “showrooming” purposes—but often ends up finalizing their purchase online.
As COO Michael Relich explains: “(Customers) use our stores as a showroom first and can see an extended assortment online. We actually see a lot of transactions start in one channel and finish in another. Brick and mortar is good for us.”
In recognizing this trend, the team decided to focus on streamlining the “physical-to-digital” pipeline by introducing tablets to the customer’s in-store experience.
In store, customers are handed tablets to create a virtual shopping or wish list, scan item barcodes for more information, or search for other items online. They can then have a sales associate collect their desired items and ring them up, submit an order for delivery, or save their list for later. Side note: while customers don’t need to log in to their Crate and Barrel accounts while shopping, those that do are treated to “a little something extra” in the form of personalized recommendations, streamlined checkout processes, and more.
The takeaway here isn’t to introduce newfangled omnichannel experiences just to appear forward-thinking and innovative. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. As VP of eCommerce at Crate and Barrel, Joan King, explains:
“We definitely put the customer at the center of everything we do and try to focus our efforts on things that are going to resonate with customers… (we don’t) take technology for technology’s sake but instead make sure that we’re delivering a really inspirational experience that’s seamless and easy for customers.”
The goal of omnichannel is not just to “be where your customers are,” but to make it convenient for them to get what they need from you with ease. As Relich mentioned, it’s not uncommon (in any industry) to see consumers use more than one channel throughout a single path to purchase—so it makes sense to make it easy for them to do so.
5. Marriott Caters to Individual Needs and Circumstances
I can talk strategy, tactics, and innovation all I want, but the key to true customer-centricity is to forget about the customer/company dynamic. Instead, start seeing—and treating—your customers as individual people with unique needs.
Brian Whetten, president of Core Coaching, says that most companies “pay lip service” to this idea—but fail to put it into practice. When it comes down to it, they don’t actually differentiate between one customer and the next.
In other cases, though, it’s clear when a company’s team members care about the people they’re serving. Consider Whetten’s unforgettable stay at a Marriott with his family:
Whetten’s wife had just given birth, but Whetten had already committed to speaking at an event within the hotel. So he brought his wife, newborn, and young daughter along with him. The staff was as accommodating as possible. Here’s a quick rundown of what they did for the Whetten family:
- Upgraded their room to an executive suite
- Provided a gift basket for Whetten’s wife, complete with a handwritten note from the hotel’s manager
- Opened a private room to the side of the dining area for Whetten’s wife to calm her fussy baby
- Entertained their toddler while the baby was nursing
You might argue that the last two items were done in the interest of keeping all patrons happy, but the staff could have easily taken a “not my problem” approach to the entire situation—which makes their actions all the more commendable.
In striving toward customer-centricity, the most important thing to keep in mind is that no matter what business you’re in, you’re in the business of helping people. Period.