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Why Customer-centricity Wins Out Every Time Customer-centricity is synonymous with successful businesses, especially as markets are saturated with more choice than ever, and savvy customers are increasingly empowered to explore their options

By Gero Decker

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Have you ever considered how technology changes, and it almost goes unnoticed? For example, late last year Instagram quietly phased out the "activity' tab within its app because users were not engaging with it anymore. Or how Apple's latest iPhones no longer have 3D Touch, because the feature was inadequately responsive.

The world's most disruptive and innovative companies are building their offerings around the needs and desires of their users, otherwise known as taking a "customer-centric' mentality. This shift away from product obsession proves that the modern customer is more powerful than ever, and businesses - be they startups or established organisations - must rise to meet the demands of their growing expectations.

Customer-centricity is synonymous with successful businesses, especially as markets are saturated with more choice than ever, and savvy customers are increasingly empowered to explore their options. It's not just about the lowest price anymore - modern customers expect to be understood too.

So why is the modern customer so powerful?

Despite a saturated marketplace, the customer voice is louder than ever.

No other era has experienced such readily available information as today's digital age. The internet and the rise of social media has given customers a platform to express their opinions, reviews and recommendations - it's also created market comparison tools so customers can find precisely what they're looking for at the click of a button.

There are pros and cons of this; word-of-mouth has the potential to become free-user generated content, and companies can now deliver new products that gain visibility instantly, without needing to spend vast amounts of money on global marketing campaigns. Conversely, a bad review can be seen by thousands - collapsing a brand's reputation almost readily.

Research shows that 87 per cent of consumers now begin their product search online. Any successful business has an online presence, whether they have actively built one or otherwise. Relinquishing the control of your business' reputation to cyberspace can be challenging, but it's a reality for modern organisations.

Customers are demanding more, and only businesses that adapt to customer-centric processes will survive such a volatile market.

The Customer Experience and Your Operations

Operational excellence must now be inextricably linked to customer experience, with the connection of persona, journey, and process giving a 360 degree view of improvement.

The "customer experience' describes the journey a customer goes on through interactions; from how they first encounter your business, right through to the delivery of a product or service - every touchpoint counts.

The key to delivering a seamless customer experience begins by comprehending their behaviours, and predicting future interactions. This is a much more complex process than enforcing polite customer service standards, because it requires an extensive understanding of the customer.

The most efficient way to gain this understanding is through customer journeys. It allows you to track how a customer interacts with your business by providing detailed insights into their motivations or frustrations throughout each touchpoint. But it is important to remember that these journeys are critical across all personas, not just the customer. This includes patients, citizens, employees, and the end-user.

Instead of assuming how customers interact with your business, journeys provide evidence-based insights - typically through a graph or other visual representation to put the customer perspective into even sharper resolution.

Whether you have 50 customers or 5,000 - this approach lets you see your company from the outside in.

Before diving head-first into designing customer journeys, consider the following three things:

1. Know your objectives

While the overarching aim of customer journey mapping is to better understand how your customer interacts with your business - starting with more specific objectives allows you to ease into the process.

For example, that might mean revising a current process rather than dismantling it entirely - or focusing on a specific type of customer rather than tackling your entire user-base at once.

Setting yourself narrow objectives within a broader vision will help keep things manageable.

2. Find your key people

Collaboration is your most powerful asset when designing comprehensive customer journey maps.

When internal processes undergo significant change, it's common practice to rely on your C-suite executives for all the answers. However, utilising workers that are closest to your customers will provide first-hand observations of the type of customer-personas you're dealing with, as well as the most common pain points within existing customer journeys.

3. Test, then test again

For a truly representative customer journey, you need to hear the facts directly from the source, meaning you must factor in extensive customer research to help define KPIs for continuous improvement.

Interviews, surveys and workshops - even analysing data from your business' social media accounts - will provide helpful feedback on the various touch points throughout your initial design.

Keep it simple by focusing on the most important elements to include in your journeys, and remember customer experience is a process, rather than an end-game.

Customer Loyalty

The rise of disruptors - for example neobanks, ride-sharing companies and coworking startups - have all found a niche solution to modern consumer pain points. On the other hand, we are seeing established organisations scramble to compete. In part, this is due a legacy problem; the belief that past success will translate to future prosperity, often with an emphasis on developing products to entice new customers rather than rewarding their loyal users.

Shifting focus from an organisation's traditional areas of strength, to instead focus on the customer experience can be challenging for even the most agile and responsive businesses. But the fundamental objective of customer-centricity is to gain customers' loyalty and trust - a commodity that's becoming more and more rare in today's volatile marketplaces. In order to build that trust authentically, customer-centric businesses understand that they must provide it too, by investing in understanding the needs and desires of their customers.

No matter how good a business' offering is - if it doesn't have customer loyalty, it won't survive.

Gero Decker

Co-founder and CEO, Signavio

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