“There may be customers without brands, but there are no brands without customers.” – Anonymous
There has been a surge in data and information readily available for use and in addition, there are consistent advances in technology and modes of communication too. This has given more power to customers, allowing them to access this information from anywhere and at any time. This ‘power’ has in turn translated to a new breed of customers – more demanding and unwilling to settle for anything but the best. Companies are now realizing that if they must keep this new set of customers happy, they would need to move towards a customer-centric business. Customers now have many choices and are easily able influence attitudes towards a company and its products by a single comment over highly visible social media platforms. Customers remain connected to each other and are more likely to trust the recommendation of their friends and associates rather than believe the best advertisement of a company. With so much information and a plethora of choices, customers are quick to switch loyalties and business. This is now true across all industries and unless a company has a customer-centric business attracting and holding on to customers will become an impossible task.
A customer centric business is one that focuses on providing unique and memorable customer experiences, customized products and personalized customer service. This is turn puts a company at a market leader position, more customers and gains for it competitive advantage. A customer centric business would seamlessly integrate the skills of its employees with technology, collect and analyse market trends, meticulously study customer behaviour and predict their needs and expectations in order to give customers exactly what they want. The customer of today understands their power and is not hesitant to use it. This means that unless companies can comply with their needs, demands, their understanding of customer service and provide customized offerings, customers are unwilling to stay. Anyone running a business knows that without loyal customers and with regular customer churn, they would ultimately meet their doom.
The message is clear – put your customers first – ensure your company has a customer centric business and mind-set – or be ready to ‘vanish’. To make matters even tougher, customers also demand uniform yet distinct messages via all channels of communication. They expect to get messages through the channel of their choice and one bad experience can drive them to ‘share’ negative feedback for all to see. The disadvantages of not having a customer centric business are many and each one with the potential to destroy a company’s efforts built over years. The face of business has changed rapidly and suddenly, which in turn has added complexity to the world of business and customer service. Such rapid change has caught many companies by surprise and those that were not quick to adapt, have suffered serious damages. As discussed previously customers tend to stay with companies that are able to match pace with the trends, technological advancements and the various innovations taking place. All these factors combined with the best products, lowest pricing and top class service are associated with a customer-centric business.
It is therefore not easy to achieve the standards set by customers or even overcome the many obstacles that prevent customer-centricity. The frenzy to beat the ever-growing number of competitors and to stand out from the melee are the major challenges being faced by companies today and in order to remain a customer-centric business they have a lot of ground to cover.
With companies becoming global and customer needs, now more fragmented and tough, companies must retain a customer-centric business. Companies must focus on turning every challenge into an opportunity to drive customer satisfaction and loyalty. Companies that have a customer-centric business will seek to build strong and one-to-one relationships with customers, provide personalized products and expand their understanding of each customer. In addition, such companies will ensure that every member of their organization understands that customer service and centricity is each person’s responsibility in order to provide a holistic and seamless view of the company. This will keep customers engaged and interested in the company and would be more inclined to provide repeated business.
To build a customer-centric business, companies and their leaders need to understand that simply collecting and collating customer data is no longer sufficient. With so much information available, it would be a waste if it were not analysed and used to advantage. Extracting insights into customer behaviour, gaining competitor information, predicting future buying patterns and providing relevant and useful content based on this information are some of the ways that companies can leverage the data. A customer-centric business provides the customer with what the customer considers valuable rather than what the company believes to be so. Building trust and unshakeable rapport with customers is a highly time-consuming and uphill task but for any company to become successful, they must go beyond just their brands and offerings.
Even the messages and content a customer-centric business sends out would have the interest of the customer in focus. The communiqués would be relevant and valuable to the customers rather than sent out with the sole objective of selling and promoting ones services and products. When customers perceive commitment and passion to engage, they are more likely to read the company’s messages with interest and over time would turn to the company for business. A customer-centric business first seeks to engage and win over the customer by giving them that which would add value to their life and business. As a customer, you would know that an outright sale communication tends to put you off as compared to content that you would find useful and gain knowledge.
A customer-centric business is also more accountable to its customers and more mindful of how their actions would affect their customers. With digitization there is never a time that companies can be apart from their customers – customers too demand round the clock service, be it in the form of self-service or on-line service through company representatives. In addition, with a single click of a button, companies are able to broadcast information about their company and its products and similarly customers can respond and give their feedback. It is a proven fact that happy customers are less likely to post comments or share their experiences with others, but a greatly disgruntled customer will most certainly express their displeasure via social media where thousands can view it. So unless a company is able to keep all its customers happy and away from a disgruntled state, it would find itself in trouble and this is one of the reasons why companies lose focus on being a customer-centric business to one that is ‘fire fighting’.
Ensuring consistent interest in customers and driving a customer centric business is about creating a brand of engagement that is superior and well beyond the ordinary. It starts with understanding their motivations to do business, the reasons that will ensure that they remain with a company and provide repeat business. A customer-centric business will also gain understanding of why the customer was attracted to their company to start with and what is possible to sustain and enhance that interest. They do not stop making efforts to keep their customers happy and engaged. Customers are willing to forge strong and lasting relationships with a company but they must perceive consistent value and benefit from them. A customer-centric business ensures that they do!