According to a survey conducted by Teradata in 2015, a full 90% of marketers report that providing customer-centric services (such as personalization) is a top priority within their company. On the customer side, 86% of consumers report they would pay more for a product in exchange for superior, customer-centric service.
Unfortunately, as digital analyst Brian Solis has found, though most companies claim to be customer-centric, the vast majority of them are not.
This isn’t to say that these companies are pretending to be customer-centric, or are lying about being so; but clearly there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what it actually means to operate as a customer-centric company.
Let’s get into some of the most important qualities of a customer-centric organization – and how similar qualities appear in a “faux customer-centric” company.
How You Can Tell if Your Company is Really Customer-Centric
Companies all too often think they’re operating in a customer-centric manner – but (and we hate to do this), it’s mostly superficial.
Customer centricity does not equate to bending over backward for your customers at all times, or adopting “the customer is always right” mantra. While well-intentioned, these acts simply give off the appearance of customer-centricity without getting to the actual heart of the matter.
To truly become customer-centric, you need to consider:
- Which metrics you analyze and focus on
- How you decide to make improvements within your organization
- How you provide customer service
- How your teams and employees interact
What Metrics Does Your Company Focus On?
Anyone in the world of business understands (or should by now) the importance of collecting and analyzing data to learn more about what their company is doing right – and where they need to make improvements.
Picture the stereotypical meeting where the C-suite discusses the company’s performance over the past year. More than likely, they’re throwing around data involving ROI, sales numbers, and profit margins. These metrics all have one thing in common: they all focus on what the company has gotten from its customers.
These are definitely important metrics to identify and discuss, but they aren’t the only metrics that should come into play during these meetings.
While customer-centric companies certainly take note of the above-mentioned metrics, they place more importance on metrics that provide insight into their customers’ satisfaction and engagement levels:
- Rate of retention (and churn)
- Overall and early repeat rate
- Win-back rate
These metrics allow organizations to see both sides of the company-customer relationship. An increase in retention is not only an indication that the company’s customers are happy with the service they’re receiving, but it also indirectly shows that the company is efficiently generating revenue (since retaining customers leads to a higher ROI than acquiring new ones).
An increase in sales could be due to a number of factors, but an increase in retention will almost certainly come back to the fact that the organization has provided exemplary services to its customers.
How Does Your Company Decide to Make Improvements?
Another way in which customer-centric organizations differ from their inward-facing counterparts is in the way in which they define improvements to be made.
Let’s go back to our hypothetical boardroom meeting at a company-facing company. The numbers on the whiteboard (ROI, profit, etc.) are…well…less than stellar. The CEO and other executives take one look at these numbers and realize something needs to change.
So, without much (or any) research into why their numbers were down throughout the last quarter, they decide to make drastic changes to the way things are done throughout the company. It doesn’t matter how these changes are received by their ground-level employees, or even their current customers; it was the CEO’s dsion, and it’s final.
A customer-centric company understands that while metrics certainly should factor into a decision to make changes to the organization, it’s more imporecitant to look at the context that caused these metrics to be what they are.
And what better place to look than the original source: their customers. Through structured surveys and candid conversations, customer-centric companies can figure out what their customers want from them – and then begin making improvements to make it happen.
Now, this isn’t to say customer-centric companies just do whatever their customers want them to do; that would lead to chaos. But, rather than making decisions strictly from the top down, these companies solicit buy-in from everyone involved in the process of delivering services: managers, ground-level employees, and consumers. Then, they use their expertise to make informed improvements to their organization that optimize the experience for everyone involved. It’s a revolutionary concept, we know.
How Do You Approach Customer Service and Support?
The importance of providing customers with high-quality service and support is no secret, and is usually a major focus of both company- and customer-centric organizations alike.
In company-centric organizations, customer service and support is rather mechanical. From scripted conversations to rigid protocols, such companies provide the exact same support to all customers who reach out for a given reason. The whole process ends up looking something like this:
- The customer contacts customer service, and is met by a list of choices regarding the problem they’ve encountered
- Once the customer selects a choice from the list, they’re provided with a list of potential solutions to their problem
- If the solution works, the customer goes on their merry way. If it doesn’t, they’re provided a phone number or email address to contact for further assistance.
Even when customers actually come into the store, the protocol is similar: they’re sent to the customer service department→A representative robotically enters their issue into the computer→The potential solution either does or doesn’t work.
While this might not sound all that bad, it can definitely cause issues when the company isn’t able to help the customer solve their problem. Support staff members within company-centric organizations are used to a programmatic approach to customer service, so when nuanced issues arise, they’ll have a harder time dealing with the problem.
Customer-centric organizations understand that providing customer doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Common problems and technical issues can often be solved mechanically through a one-size-fits-all approach, but they know better when it comes providing support to customers.
Of course for customer-centric companies to provide personalized service and support, they need to ensure their employees are talented, knowledgeable, and capable of thinking outside the box. They also need to make sure their team functions as…a team.
How Do Your Teams and Employees Work Together?
The way in which an organization’s employees interact with each other can be hugely telling of whether the organization is company- or customer-centric.
When ground-level employees work exactly as they’re told, regardless of whether or not the methods are even effective, this can cause rifts between employees (and entire teams). When bosses hand down directives from the top of the organization, they remove any sense of autonomy from their employees.
Can you guess what happens next? Employees may become focused on doing their job specifically as they’ve been told to do it – and no more. Once a company’s employees have adopted this mindset, they’ll become averse to doing anything that’s outside the scope of their typical duties – even if that means ignoring their customer’s needs.
All employees in a customer-centric organization understand that their duty isn’t about performing a specific set of tasks, but satisfying customers in any way possible. Customer-centric companies bring separate teams and departments together for a seamless handing-off of the baton, in order to do what’s best for their customers.
You’ll never hear an employee of a customer-centric organization utter the phrase “that’s not in my job description.”
So…the question remains:
Is your company really customer-centric, or faux customer-centric?
If, while reading this, you’ve realized that you haven’t truly adapt a customer-centric mindset, that’s okay.
If you begin focusing on becoming more customer-centric right now, you’ll be a step ahead of most everyone else in your industry.
So get moving!