In the first post of this series, we emphasized the following idea:
Unless your company is a true unicorn in your industry, it’s very difficult to stand out based on product alone. Product-centric companies focus more on their offering than the customer experience, which is reasonable – except that most products in a given market are pretty similar in terms of quality. Because of this, the modern consumer places substantial importance on customer experience. Consumers want to know that brands see them as more than just a dollar sign; they want to know these organizations care about their success.
They’ll also pay more for a product if they have a positive purchasing experience. Let’s dig into the five most important steps companies can take as they begin their journey toward true customer centricity.
Revisiting Your Company’s Purpose, Vision, and Mission
Your company’s purpose, vision, and mission describe who you are. Harvard Business Review defines these terms as follows:
- Your company’s purpose revolves around what you do for your customers and why it’s important
- Your company’s vision is where your organization is heading in the years to come
- Your company’s mission is the services you provide to your customers
Your purpose, vision, and mission statements should permeate every aspect of your operations, so it’s essential that you revisit and re-rank them in terms of importance as you move toward customer centricity.
Restructuring and De-Siloing Your Organization
The following graphic depicts a traditional organizational structure:
If shifting toward customer centricity is the name of the game, there are two glaring problems here.
First, only two of the ten departments have much – if anything – to do with customers. Companies should think beyond sales and marketing and add a department specifically focused on the customer’s experience. As shown in the graphic below, this customer team should consist of:
- A Customer Strategy Group, responsible for developing a customer journey map and marketing plan
- A Customer Analytics Group to analyze customer data and communicate their findings to other departments
- A Customer Promotions Group for putting the Strategy Group’s marketing plan into action
- A Customer Technology Group for enabling omnichannel communications with customers
Going Beyond Your Products
There are any number of ways you can go beyond your product. Below are a couple of examples from two top customer-centric brands that found creative ways to cater to customers:
If you’ve ever been to a Chick-fil-A, you know the extent to which they value their customers.
From the friendly employee greetings to paying attention to customers’ needs throughout their visit (refilling drinks, disposing of refuse, etc.), Chick-fil-A’s team members pride themselves on providing more than just food.
There’s also the company’s ridiculous Cow Appreciation Day, which invites customers to dress up like cows in exchange for a free meal.
When a brand can get its fast-food patrons to dress up on a day that isn’t Halloween, you know it’s doing something right.
Trader Joe’s is a grocery store that has differentiated itself from other supermarkets in a number of ways. Perhaps most apparent is the company’s focus on eco-friendliness. This is reflected not just in their products and suppliers, but also in the company’s efforts to actively protect endangered areas of the world. The eco-conscious consumer can shop at Trader Joe’s serenely, knowing their business is furthering a cause they believe in.
In terms of the direct service Trader Joe’s provides its customers, we need look no further than the story of a TJ employee who hand-delivered an elderly man’s groceries to his house during a blizzard. The employee was under no obligation to make the delivery at all, but fulfilled the order because it was the right thing to do for the customer.
This story transcends marketing and business – and that’s the point: to go beyond product centricity, you need to see your customers not as marketing figures, but as people who need your products to enhance their lives. Your job isn’t just to supply a product – it’s to help customers attain their goals by using your product.
Putting Your Customers at the Center of All Decision Making
Customer centricity is all about putting your customers first. It’s too easy, however, to forget the fact that every action impacts customers.
In some cases, the impact of customer centricity is obvious:
- A company’s marketing campaigns resonating with a particular audience
- Sales teams engage with specific prospects to nudge them towards a purchase
- Support teams ensure that customers get as much value out of their products as possible
In other cases, the impact is less direct:
- Decisions made by a company’s accounting or finance department can hinder the ability of certain customers to pay using their preferred method
- Changes to supply chain processes can slow or stagnate the delivery process for certain locations
- IT issues can cause delays for customer-facing teams and the people they’re assisting
Shifting toward customer centricity requires companies to accept that everything that occurs within the organization will impact their customers’ experience with the brand, and act accordingly. Before making a business decision, ask yourself the following question:
“How will this affect our customers?”
In fact, changes shouldn’t be discussed unless they’re tied to a specific customer-facing benefit, to ensure that CX remains at the forefront of every decision the company makes.
Evolving With Your Customers
Product-centric companies focus on evolving with current industry trends, but customer-centric companies know the importance of evolving with the modern consumer.
But again, the difference comes down to the question of why you’re adding to, changing, or revamping your offering. If your rationale is something along the lines of:
- “This new technology is the wave of the future!”
- “Our competitors are doing it, too!”
- “There’s a huge market for this type of product right now!”
…you’re going along with the change in tides – and will likely sink sometime in the near future.
Instead, the evolution of your offering should revolve entirely around your customers’ needs and expectations, as well as how they view your brand overall. A few examples of customer-centric rationale for product and brand evolution:
- “Our longtime customers love this feature, but say this other feature shows room for improvement”
- “Our unhappy customers say x, y, and z are the main reasons they’ve decided against doing more business with us”
- “We’ve found that this new segment of customers also needs a solution for x, so we should introduce our product to them”
Overall, your company should remain laser-focused on its customers’ goals. Once you truly understand what your customers want and need, you’ll be equipped to continue developing new products and offerings that will continuously provide value as they evolve and grow over time.