Creating Customer-centric Strategies

“A customer culture is as fundamental to your business as breathing is to living. It is the life force of your business.”- Dr. Linden R Brown

Everyone agrees that a focus on customers is essential and that to do so customer-centric strategies must be in place. However, do companies have a clear understanding of what customer-centricity / customer-centric approach is? Having such an approach means conducting business with a focus on ensuring that every experience customers have with the company must be happy, which in turn would lead to higher profits and a competitive advantage for the company. This goes beyond simply putting the customer at the centre of whatever a company does – it means actually putting customers first. Customer-centric strategies therefore, are processes to conduct daily operations, putting the customer first, and these strategies should involve a plan that ensures attracting and retaining customers for the longest time.

Today, in the age of the connected and intelligent customer, customer-centric strategies have an increasingly important role to play. This is so because customers today expect to be top priority for any company and demand consistent levels of service across the multi-channels, seamless experiences, and top quality products. Customers know they have several options today, and can get what they want and need fast and a lot more easily than ever before. Customers are not interested in how organized a company is or how great its products maybe – for the customer it is important to be treated as a person (not a sales figure), receiving priority status, and the confidence that whatever would be required, the company would be able to provide it swiftly and without a fuss.

Companies that understand the importance of customer-centric strategies know that customers are not interested in corporate jargon or ‘small talk’ or in the flashy advertising and promotional tactics. Of course, customers want information, but only when they need it, and as much as they deem appropriate. Customer-centric strategies would revolve around ensuring that companies make such strategies only after they understand their customers thoroughly, such that the strategies lead to the fulfilment of customer expectations. Another important aspect of customer-centric strategies is a focus on CRM – strategies, software, training, et al. Of course, there are several views and theories about what customer-centricity ought to entail. They are good to understand, not only to strategize or for marketing tactics, but also since customer-centricity must not be just an idea or a concept that people have a vague notion about, and it goes beyond lip-service.

While every company must be empathetic, focused on, and transparent with their customers, the fact is that it is not possible to be everywhere at all times, and with the same amount of effort. Resources are limited for all. However, customer-centric strategies ensure that everyone in a company at least understands the basics of customer focus and service, ensuring that no customer ever has a poor experience at any touch-point. In other words, customer-centric strategies define how everyone in a company works. The strategies would be effective when each person would have mind-set of customer service, and the company purposefully drives it as a culture.

It would be understandable that any change within a company would find its share of challenges and resistance – no one likes to let go of ‘power’, and with power shifting to customers, the change in attitudes and mind-set of companies has been perhaps, one of the hardest things to strive toward (and still not completely there). Customers are a lot more selective and take into account several considerations before actually spending their money with a company / brand. The companies that ‘win’ their attention would be the ones who treat their customers with respect, provide top class service, and have customer-centric strategies in place to build and sustain strong personal relationships with them. No company today can remain successful without a sustained focus on customer-centric strategies – especially since customers hold more power given their ability to share information about companies via social media, and other online sites. Customers now have the ability to compare several products and companies in the current time, and do so across multiple channels and devices. This newfound accessibility and knowledge for customers proves to be a major challenge for some companies – the ones who are unable to keep pace with customer expectations, possibly because they refuse to change their overall business strategies to include customer-centric strategies.

A great advantage of customer-centric strategies is that they provide companies with the ability to not only fulfil customer needs, but also anticipate them even before customers realize them. Such companies are able to delight customers with offerings that they may not have thought possible, but would fall in love with the products instantly. The more a company can surprise and delight its customers, the more likely it is that customers would stay and recommend the company to others. A company with customer-centric strategies would be able to support customers with top class experiences, and help them achieve their goals faster. These are some of the top reasons that customers ‘stick’ with a company today.

The basics of customer-centric strategies are simple to understand and implement. Companies using such strategies would be passionate about serving their customers, truly believe, and demonstrate that customers come first, and display in everything they do that without customers their business would not exist (let alone succeed). Everything such companies do would be from the customer’s point of view because they would understand the needs and wants of customers. A company with customer-centric strategies would be better equipped to capture customer insights and data from various sources and use this information to develop products and services such that the offerings would be instantly useable and beneficial to the customers. The more consistently a company can do this, the stronger relationships it would be able to foster with its customers, which over time would lead to customer loyalty, profitability, and brand advocacy. With these ‘assets’, any company could remain successful even in a tougher market than the one that exists today.

A quintessential part of customer-centric strategies is disseminating them to everyone in the organization. The company should be able to articulate its customer-centric philosophy in the most lucid terms to both the company’s employees and customers. The more a company’s leadership speaks about customer focus, the better the chances of it becoming part of the culture, and finding acceptance across all ranks in the company. In addition, such a company would ensure that its employees receive relevant and useful training such that they would be able to translate the company’s culture and philosophy in their dealings with the customers. Smart companies, imbibing customer-centric strategies would know also that they must first treat their employees well – when ‘internal customers’ are treated right, the company’s external customers would receive the same special and courteous treatment.

The shift towards customer-centric strategies is not an overnight endeavour – it is long, tough, and would find resistance. However, companies must focus on the results and the benefits rather than the challenges in order to forge ahead of the market and their competitors. Having customer focus and putting in place customer-centric strategies is the sure shot path to success, and for unlocking the full potential of every customer to contribute the maximum value to a company. Focus on the customer – put yourself in their shoes – maximize value for them – and minimize the effort they would need to expend to conduct business – all norms of customer-centric strategies. Is your company running on customer-centric strategies and can you see consistent and tangible benefits?

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