“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” Peter Drucker
We all have heard of Customer related concepts such as Customer Service, Awareness, and Sensitivity. These concepts further evolved as businesses increasingly place Customers at the center of their business. This led to the introduction of relatively new approaches to improve Customer Experience (Cx); Centricity/Focus, Obsession and Devotion.
Across the industries, a significant percentage of companies are still stuck in old ways of interacting with customers. However, this trend is changing as more and more organizations are embracing new ways of driving experiences for their customers.
In this article, my focus will be on Customers; customer Centricity/Focus, Obsession and Devotion. Here, I will be providing clarity around these approaches and the business impact it creates. This directly impacts Customer Experience (Cx) to a varying degree. Thus, Cx is an effect while the cause is one of the approaches.
Every time organizations take a decision, it considers the impact that decision will have on customers. Customer-centric organizations are aware that for them to be successful, their customers need to succeed. It’s not about selling your products or services but about helping customers solving their problems or getting work done for them.
Customers are understood and valued to an individual level. The performance measurement is more about emotional value than satisfaction. There is emphasis on communication and collaboration with customers, between employees, and vice versa. Customer-centric organizations demonstrate committed leadership, courage and a number of specialist competencies.
Examples of Customer-Centric Organizations:
- Leading IT organizations are using a hybrid design-engineering approach to put users (rather than features) first in the planning process. They try to achieve Customer Confidence through Reengineering - breaking the silos between departments in the product development process. Instead of a lengthy route of marketing chasing down R&D, QA, regulatory, packaging, and plant contacts with a new feature request from a client, they have taken a new cross-functional approach that responds quickly to customer needs.
- Happiest Minds: Core culture is about ‘Happiest People. Happiest Customers’. It’s about an organization creating customer-centric culture with happiness as a foundation for operating business. The belief is that happy and empowered employees make happy customers. For example, SMILES values stand for Sharing, Mindful, Integrity, Learning, Empathy and Sharing. This culture of happiness is a corner stone for customer-centricity which resulted into 100+ customers in over 4 years of operations.
Obsession with customers is the next level. Everyone in the organization (cutting across the functions) is involved in providing value to customers. Throughout the organization, customers’ needs and expectations (functional and especially emotional) are well understood and response is often proactive and appropriate.
These organizations focus on complete customer life cycle, and much more on retention, loyalty and risk mitigation, win back than acquisition. Multiple sources of data are used to develop insights and invest in altruistic content creation to communicate proactively and in as personalized a manner as possible.
It appropriately makes business sense because these organizations focus on what matters most to their customers, and this directly translates to what monetizes most through customer loyalty, bonding, advocacy and emotional connect.
Today, e-commerce companies understand that the needs and wants of customers keep changing. They are proactive in anticipating such changes and consequently are ready with products/services that will cater to these new needs. They do what customers want – it completely crafts its business practices, systems, and its people to support it.
Let’s look at customer scenarios and how a leading online retailer is handling customer obsession culture.
Purchasing a wrong item online, such as a DVD - the online retailers allows easy return or exchange for DVDs without restrictions; even if the customer is outside the return window or is otherwise technically not entitled to do what the person is asking to do. The company will go out of its way to bend its policies in the interest of happy customers and the enduring customer relationship.
Damaged Item – When a customer complaints of damaged items shipped by its logistics partner, customer service agents don’t just take complaints, rather, they ensure they resolve it in real-time if possible. They call the logistics partner on the other line and commit timelines to pick up the damaged item. It means, they are helping customers to resolve their complaint instead of customers having to make multiple calls to more than one service provider.
Every interaction with the customer is an opportunity to engage, excite and build relationship. Organizations need to gain insights into individual customer’s rational and emotional needs. It requires progression from personalization to individualization. In other words, it’s a canvas called personal portrait.
Often, organizations are grappled with the sheer volume of customer complaints. Instead of looking at these complaints as problems, can organizations perceive them as opportunities? The answer is a resounding yes!
Leisure/hotel industry as an example;
- 8 out of 10 Leisure Guests are influenced positively when an issue is resolved efficiently while ‘re-booking’
- Attentive Staff is the number 1 driver for great customer experience in hotels
- Over half of positive customer experiences are driven by customized support by Attentive staff
This culture of devotion will inspire customers to buy more, spend more and be the advocate of your brand to their family members, friends and colleagues.
I believe, the more attention we give to the customers’ needs, the more valuable they become to a business.