Embracing a customer-centric business model in 2021 is becoming more and more vital as businesses look for ways to stand out, increase loyalty, and improve the user experience of their products and services. Internally, customer-centricity reflects well on employees, who feel that being able to listen and hear the voices of their customer base allows them to make a far bigger contribution to the whole organization. In short, the competitive edge is highly achievable through this culture and mindset change.
In this ultimate guide, we will aim to answer ‘What is Customer Centricity and How to Implement it in Your Business?’, giving you actionable advice on which behavior changes can be most useful.
What is customer-centricity?
Customer centricity is when every professional in an organization begins thinking and acting out ways to create more positive and wholesome customer experiences. It is a mindset, a culture, a way of doing business. Some companies see it as their entire business model, whereas others simply see it as the ‘right’ way. Ultimately, customer-centricity is about putting the business focus on the customer, rather than the product or service. That doesn’t mean simply working out how to sell more. Rather, it’s about how to connect, how to make things more pleasant, and how to put yourself in the shoes of a customer and ask big and small questions about their experience.
When the company puts the customer first, both the customer and the company win, but only when it’s done genuinely, from the first step to the last. If a customer-centric approach is deemed disingenuine or an afterthought, customers will pick up on that quite quickly, losing the connection they had already built up with the brand or service. For that reason, if a company is not customer-centric already, it’s important that they don’t pull an immediate U-turn and change everything overnight, but instead strategize a sustainable approach that genuinely places more importance on the customer.
Why is customer-centricity important?
Much like nations are measured on their GDP, looking at how productive and profitable they are, many businesses continue this approach into their operations and introspection, focusing on sales and production. How many businesses, we wonder, look more deeply at customer happiness, reviews, feedback, and market sentiment as a measure of their success? Like Bhutan, the Buddhist mountain kingdom that began measuring gross national happiness rather than gross domestic product, be a beacon of positivity and more care about what your customers think, and less about what they produce and earn. It seems easy when we put it like that, but in reality, it’s difficult, time-consuming, and liable to fail, especially if the whole organization is not on board. Discover our article on how particular businesses have implemented customer centricity, in the form of customer insights.
When a business does manage to make the change towards customer-centricity, what sort of benefits might they expect to see?
- Customer retention improves, which as a knock-on effect, creates new customers in the form of referrals. Those who love a brand or product and have been treated well by it will happily promote it without a second thought.
- Non-customer-centric rivals will become a point of comparison, potentially attracting disappointed customers away from them and towards the customer-centric business.
- Profit improves when you focus on the personalized experience of the customer, who feel that they are being treated uniquely well and finish each interaction with the business feeling better about themselves. To provide a figure for this growth, 43% of customer-obsessed companies report a 10% or more year-on-year growth, compared to just 18% of businesses who don’t make any customer-centric efforts.
- This survey from Forrester Research found that employees benefit massively from working in a customer-centric organization, with 93% happy to continue working there, compared to 20% of people happy to stay loyal to a non-customer-centric business.
- Product or service satisfaction is higher, leading to few rejections, returns, refunds, or complaints.
What qualities does a customer-centric organization need to display?
Businesses are sectioned into departments, which are then sectioned into teams. All of this division can make it a little difficult to effectively share customer data and give other departments a chance to act on it. In order for all customer-contacting employees to have great experiences, the customer data must be shared internally, with all notes available for collaboration.
Place yourself in the shoes of a consumer. If you take the time to craft a review for a product or service on Google, TrustPilot, Tripadvisor, or something along these lines, would it matter to you if the company replied? In most cases, yes, having a positive final interaction ends the customer journey on a high note and increases the likelihood of repeat custom. Equally, customer-centric businesses should be reactive to complaints, aiming to resolve them as quickly and amicably as possible, as this may just turn the complainant back into a supporter.
The employees who transition from the old way to the new customer-centric way will need some motivation, investment, education, and confidence. Through education, you give them the skills to support customers, and through investment, you give them the tools. Those two things, plus some motivation and a sprinkling of inspiration will give them the confidence to deliver. It won’t happen at the same time for all employees and some might need longer than others, especially if being customer-centric doesn’t come naturally to them. Don’t worry, though, focus on the growth and progress rather than success and failure - customer centricity is not an overnight change.
Confident, reactive, and transparent. These are some great qualities, but how can you actually get to that point?
Steps towards customer excellence - how to start your journey today
Teamwork makes the dream work
This rhyme might be a little clichéd, but especially in regards to transparency and confidence, there are few better methods for improving these qualities than developing the foundations of good teamwork. Transparency requires inter-departmental teamwork and collaboration, and that requires trust. Upper management can enforce this change, but it takes mutually beneficial policies and proven results to ensure that the transparency doesn’t result in competitive behavior or defensive responses.
Not everyone will want to share their notes and knowledge at the start, not until they see value coming from others. In fact, there may be friction from the offset about this culture and mindset change, stopping past behaviors and starting new ones, but all of the friction can be converted to energy and momentum! This momentum can carry the new actions and behavior forward, acting as the catalyst for a shared sense of the vision for a customer-centric future.
Collaborate or collapse: input is key
Teamwork, ultimately, is the sum of all its parts, and one breakdown in the chain can harm the customer-centric efforts of an organization, thus negatively affecting the relationship with customers. If transparency is making your knowledge open and available, then collaboration is putting it to work. Seeking the input of employees when it comes to evolving the customer experience is key. These are the people who actually communicate with the customers and they may feel that past policies could have been a hindrance, stifling their most customer-centric efforts in the pursuit of maintaining a neat corporate front. Remember also that your employees have worked for other companies, maybe even larger competitors, and so they know how other businesses and industries think and act, offering fresh perspectives.
Our concluding thought
Now that you know what customer-centricity is, what benefits it can bring, the desired attributes, and some of the first steps towards getting there, the onus is on you to start the communication that brings this change into effect. We’ve previously stated that it will take almost everyone in your organization to be on the same page for it to work, but when it does work, your business will enter a new era of sustainable success.
Where to next?
- Looking for tips to boost customer centricity in the workplace? Discover our blog 3 Actions to Enhance Customer Centricity in the Workplace.
- Find out how your company fares on the customer centricity scoreboard by taking our How Customer-Centric is Your Organization Quiz.
- Start your organization’s customer centricity journey by getting in touch with our team to discover more about our experiential learning programs.