What does a customer-centric culture look like, and what are the benefits of designing such a culture?
Customer-centric companies put the customer at the center of all they do; they ensure that they make no decisions without first thinking of the customer and the impact that decision has on the customer. The customer is infused into everything they do. I like to say: No discussions, no decisions, no designs without bringing in the customer and her voice, without asking how it will impact the customer, how it will make her feel, what problems it will help her to solve, what value it will create and deliver for her.
I refer to it as putting the “customer” in customer experience, which means that companies are taking the time to understand their customers – through listening (e.g., surveys), characterizing (i.e., personas), and empathizing (i.e., journey mapping) – and then using that understanding to design a better experience for them. Too often, companies believe they know what’s best for the customer and design an experience based on inside-out thinking, only to end up with customer frustration and dissatisfaction. Why? Because they really haven’t put the customer into the experience (design) at all.
Customer-centricity can’t be solved for with technology. Technology is a tool to facilitate and support the customer-centric culture you are developing and the experience you are delivering. But it is not the most-important thing. Customer understanding is; it is the cornerstone of customer-centricity. Once achieved, that understanding must then be socialized and operationalized throughout the organization. It’s woven into the fabric of the organization.
When you think about companies that are customer-centric or even customer-obsessed, which ones come to mind? Amazon, Zappos, Salesforce, The Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom, Lego, Emirates, USAA? The usual suspects.
A customer-centric culture is deliberately designed to be this way, and it requires CEO commitment to do just that. It becomes a mindset shift, a behavior shift, and a culture shift.
So, what are the benefits of designing and living a customer-centric culture?
According to Deloitte, customer-centric businesses are 60% more profitable than their product-focused counterparts. That sounds pretty compelling!
What else? There are certainly two sides to every story, and this one is no different: there’s the business side and the human side. Let’s start with the human side.
When the business is customer-centric, customers feel it. (Just think about your own interactions with any of the brand examples I gave earlier.) Customers know they matter to the business; they know you listen; they see how you solve problems and deliver value. When you deliver value for customers, you also create value for the business. When this happens – when they know you listen and in turn deliver value – you are on the road to building longer-term relationships with your customers.
But customer-centricity isn’t just about customers. In order to have a customer-centric culture, you must put employees more first. As you know, without customers, you have no business. It’s all about the customer. But you won’t have customers if you don’t have employees to build, to sell, and to service the things that
In order to have happy, loyal customers, you have to care for your employees and treat them well. Without employees, you have no customer experience! At the end of the day, your business focus has to be on the people who drive your business—both employees and customers (and vendors, partners, etc.). There can be no customer-centric culture without focusing on your employees first. Employees reap the benefits, for sure!
Customer-centric businesses also value consistency and delivering consistently. Customers always know what to expect from customer-centric businesses because they have heard the brand promise and have experienced it. No smoke and mirrors. That consistency also builds trust, which is a solid foundation for any relationship.
Innovation is another benefit of customer-centric businesses. This benefit bridges the business and the human sides of this story. Customers provide feedback. Businesses listen, co-create, and innovate to solve customer problems.
On the business side of the story, the benefits of customer-centricity are numerous. A good segue from innovation is growth; when you innovate to solve for unfulfilled needs and other problems, you are bound to attract potential/future customers who didn’t even know they had these problems to solve – or for whom these problems appear at a later time. New problems solved = new customers = growth.
Customer-centricity provides a competitive advantage for the business, too, both from an employee and a customer perspective. Who wouldn’t want to work for – or buy from – a company that cares about people? Again, think about your own experiences with the brand examples I provided earlier. If you don’t know anyone who works for these brands, head over to Glassdoor or to Great Place to Work and read there what employees are saying.
Other benefits for the business include:
- Increased retention and CLV: customers want to continue to do business with brands that listen to them, care about them, solve their problems, and create value for them.
- Increase loyalty: not only do customers stay, but they buy more, spend more, etc.; customer-centric organizations focus on journeys, not just on touchpoints, which means that they focus on relationships, not transactions.
- Increased referrals: all of that customer love leads to a supplemental marketing and sales force (your customers!) that can’t wait to advocate for your brand.
- Reduced costs: when brands listen to customers and use that feedback to make improvements, they realize operational efficiencies through process improvements and more.
- Increased revenue: it’s easier to sell products when they solve problems for your customers, and they solve problems because you took the time to understand customers.
If there’s any doubt in your mind that customer-centricity is good for employees, good for customers, and good for the business, these benefits should clear that up.
I originally wrote today’s post for Customer Contact Week (CCW). It appeared on their site on November 8, 2019.