“Customer-centricity should be about delivering value for customers that will eventually create value for the company,” – Robert G. Thompson
Every business enterprise seeks to grow and diversify in an attempt to expand its operations and to generate greater profits. One of the methods to achieve these goals is to institute customer-centricity in every aspect of business operations. The customer-centric business organization places the customer at the centre of the values, ethics, norms, beliefs, mind-sets, and the general practices that power and inform a business enterprise. A customer-centric approach aligns technologies and business processes to support and drive the various aspects of customer engagement. We could say that the philosophy of customer-centricity should be deeply embedded in the various tangible and intangible aspects of the commercial business organization.
The leadership of modern business organizations should incorporate customer-centricity into core business processes. This is important because the creation and multiplication of choice in both product and service industries, is forcing a new trend: a general decline in customer loyalty, growing instances of customer impatience, rising numbers of customer attrition, and fundamental challenges to brand loyalty. These trends can be arrested by placing the customer at the core of the business enterprise wherein, the organization braces itself to deliver to the customer what he or she wants, at a time and place of the customer’s choice. Customer-centricity is essentially valuing the customer’s perspective and then designing both processes and products around that perspective.
Consider this – traditional banking and financial service institutions operate on set norms that are predicated in orthodox industry practices. These service providers are now working to achieve operational excellence and top-rate customer relationships in a bid to stay relevant to the emerging needs of the customer. The change in service standards is evident in the many actions that banking institutions are undertaking. From creating a customer-friendly image by implementing Omni-channel strategies, deploying digital technologies to provide faster services and to harvesting customer feedback, building bank branches to offer the customer more choice in terms of visiting brick-and-mortar banking branches, creating bespoke banking products. These institutions use predictive analytics to infer future customer demands. In light of the above, we could say that modern banking institutions are truly committed to customer-centricity and this is manifest in the above.
In the age of the digital enterprise, businesses should bear in mind that the digital domain cannot entirely replace human interaction. Digital channels are known to reduce firm-wide costs and therefore have been widely embraced by modern businesses. However, the modern business organization would be advised not to entirely excise the human factor from its operations. This is an important aspect of building customer-centricity into the business. An overly digital approach to conducting business poses the danger of reducing the customer experience in terms of its total worth. Consider this: a cosmetics and personal care business cannot afford to have only touch screens, product displays, and self-service options in its flagship showrooms. The human element is critical in fashioning a wholesome customer service experience, because human interaction enables customers to create an emotional connection with the business. A positive emotional experience can help the enterprise to win repeat customers, boost customer loyalty, and fashion a meaningful customer experience. Therefore, highly trained showroom personnel can offer the customer options to try out products before a purchase decision is achieved. In this instance, we may say that the traditional ‘shop talk’ is an important aspect of the customer experience and this aspect can only operate through human interaction.
Businesses that pursue customer-centricity should respond to changes in customer behaviour. This is an important aspect of the customer-centric service paradigm because it tells customers that the business is interested in listening to the customer’s point of view and values the perspective of the latter. Consider this: salespersons at an automobile showroom should work to inform the customer on the various features of a certain automotive product. Traditional selling practices dictate that selling is about highlighting all the features of the product to be sold in an attempt to win the customer’s attention, and subsequently, dollars. On the other hand, a customer-centric salesman should acknowledge the fact that modern customers have access to all kinds of information and therefore, should seek to complement the customer’s knowledge base with his or her own unique insights into a product. This approach to selling may require the sales personnel to start a conversation with the customer and then steer him or her to the various products that are on offer. Further, the sales person may choose to compare various classes of the said product in an attempt to outline the choices available the customer. A different angle in the said conversation may emerge when the sales person narrates the many complementary aspects between product features and the specific requirements of the customer. We could say that customer-centricity is in play wherein, the seller proceeds to execute a deep conversation with the buyer.
The modern business organization should overhaul certain aspects of its operations to achieve customer-centricity. Customer data generated through the many interactions with customers should not be restricted to business silos. For instance, the sales and marketing department of an enterprise should make genuine attempts to share customer information and insights into customer behaviour with the research and development group. This sharing of data can lead to brainstorming sessions through which new products or upgraded products can emerge. Additionally, such information can be shared with senior management personnel in a quest to tap their inputs or opinions before the firm proceeds on new product development trajectories. The key aspect here is sharing of information, because every part of a business enterprise can wield its own perspective. Further, the management group of an enterprise should encourage the adoption of data analytics in pursuit of gaining a holistic picture of the modern consumer. Data science has the ability to process large volumes of structured and unstructured data to arrive at useful business insights. The use of such technologies hinges on their ability to use all kinds of information to create a final picture that is both granular and comprehensive at the same time. We could say that this is another means of creating customer-centricity in an enterprise.
In the preceding paragraphs, we have attempted to outline the various approaches to creating the customer-centric business organization. The customer’s needs and requirements always take centre place in such an organization. Its management cadre and business executives need to read the mind of the customer and anticipate (and respond) to the customer’s needs before the customer has a chance to articulate the same. This approach can help the organization to consistently achieve customer delight and widen its customer base at the expense of business competition. A customer-centric approach to doing business can also help to attract high-value customers who would spend significantly higher than the average customer would. The retention of these business assets should be among the foremost priorities of the enterprise. Any deviations from the norms of such customer service should be dealt with strictly and must be remedied at the earliest. That said, we must acknowledge that customer-centricity should be an on-going project at all times, because the modern commercial organization cannot afford to rest on its laurels.