Customer-centricity has become a common guiding technique in today’s business world, and it is so much more than just a buzz phrase—it is a principle around which today’s most successful organizations align themselves.
Let’s prove the value of putting customers first and help you integrate this principle into your organization’s activities.
What is customer-centricity?
Customer-centricity, customer-centrism, and customer-first all essentially mean the same thing:
- Understanding customers’ needs, expectations, perceptions, and situations.
- Developing mechanisms and engaging in activities to remain in sync with customers.
- Ensuring that customers are positioned at the strategic heart of the organization’s activities.
Making customers the focal point of your company’s strategies is a strategic imperative that delivers real bottom-line results.
Amazon is a well-known example of a company that, according to Jeff Bezos, has built its brand on its customer-first strategy.
Bezos said that of Amazon’s four core values, “customer obsession” was by far the most important principle that contributed to Amazon’s success. He went on to say that although many companies claim to be customer-focused, “I believe they are competitor-focused, which is a completely different mentality.”
For those who want to be truly honest with themselves about their organization’s strategic concerns, the issue that should matter most is how to actually integrate customer-centrism into the business at the systemic level.
What does a customer-centric organization look like?
One mode of operation that utilizes a distinctly customer-centric set of values is the agile methodology.
Unlike traditional, sequential business methods, agile activities are deliberately organized around customer feedback, input, and data. Rather than designing processes that incorporate customer feedback at specific points, agile methods build processes, products, and services based on continuous customer feedback.
Since agility is born from a set of values, the exact design of agile business practices can differ from organization to organization.
Here are examples of what customer-centric business practices can look like across a few different departments:
Marketing. Marketing that is customer-centric would rely on real-world data, such as customers’ engagement with marketing activities, to develop new marketing strategies and tactics. When customer sentiment or behavior changes, so too would the marketing initiatives.
Sales. In a similar way, sales tactics would also revolve around the customer, rather than the business. Sales professionals have long emphasized this approach, which is why experienced sales professionals focus on personalizing the benefits of a product rather than on a product’s features.
Product design. A product’s success—or failure—in the marketplace can be directly tied to its design. Those who follow process improvement methodologies such as lean pay very close attention to customer input during design, prototyping, and the development of minimally viable products. The goal is to reduce the number of irrelevant features and create products that are the most useful, relevant, and lovable for customers.
Customer service. In customer service, personalization can create customer experiences that are tailored to specific circumstances and needs. Customer data, for instance, can help customer service specialists—or even self-service apps such as chatbots—solve problems more quickly and effectively. Feedback from customers can also be used to improve and optimize the customer care program.
Culture and management. When the entire culture of the organization is centered around customers, this means that business processes, mindsets, and behaviors are geared towards one thing: customer success.
Strategies such as these can drive improvements in key customer metrics, such as customer satisfaction and retention, which then translate into other benefits, including everything from an improved brand reputation to increased revenue.
How to develop a customer-centric strategy
To ensure that customer-centrism becomes an actual centerpiece of your organization’s strategy, rather than just something the cool kids are doing, it is important to both articulate this approach and take actions that embed customer-centrism into your business practices, processes, and culture.
Here are a few tips on how to do that:
Implement methods such as lean and agile. Agile and lean methods, covered above, have become popular in recent years, in part due to their customer-centric approach. Although they are not the only performance improvement approaches that focus on customers, they are relatively easy to understand, test, and adopt.
Use data-driven, customer-first methods. Data is key to understanding and meeting customers’ needs throughout the customer journey. The more data you have about customers, the easier it is to create experiences and products that are personalized, relevant, and useful.
Hire a Chief Customer Officer (CCO). A CCO, unsurprisingly, is in charge of customer success. WalkMe, for instance, recently hired a Top 25 Customer Success Influencer of 2021, Wayne McCulloch, as CCO. Wayne will lead all post-sales functions, including customer success, service, and support, and he will ensure that the voice of our customers is represented at the highest levels to keep WalkMe’s efforts closely aligned with the needs of our customers.
Build a customer-first culture. A customer-centric culture, as noted, keeps customers top-of-mind for employees. Having a customer-centric culture ensures that employee efforts stay focused on customers as the top priority, rather than on, for instance, competitors or other metrics that don’t drive customer success.
Naturally, implementing strategies such as these is easier said than done, and for some companies, it may require significant pivots. However, in today’s disruptive, fast-paced economy, an organization’s success will often depend directly on the customer’s success.