Most companies strive to attract and retain as many customers as possible. But in the pursuit of larger bottom lines and increased market share, focus on the customer sometimes gets lost at different points of the relationship.
The Difference Between Customer Service and Customer Centricity
Customer service occurs between the individual who takes the money from the customers and the customer who receives a product or service in exchange.
Customer centricity occurs when everyone in the organization makes decisions with the customer in mind.
Being customer centric is all-encompassing. It means making the customer the top priority and the focus of every function and deliverable. It also delivers two huge benefits. One is a competitive advantage, because customers feel so well treated that they will remain loyal and refer the company to others. Customer centricity also creates customers for life, for the exact same reasons.
Here are three giant steps to take toward being customer centric.
Give Customers What They Value
Customers define value as an exchange between what they are giving and what they are getting. When customers perceive value to be high, they will continue to purchase. A customer-centric organization focuses on what the customer actually values as well as on what product or service the company is providing.
For this to work in practice, a customer-centric organization must identify how its product or service affects each of the seven areas that the customer value, and then act accordingly. These seven areas are:
- Personal preference. Customers make decisions based simply on what they like.
- Reputation. Customers make decisions based on what they hear from others.
- Packaging. Customers make decisions based on what comes with the product or service as part of the purchase.
- Price. Customers make decisions based on the cost of the product or service.
- Differentiation. Customers make decisions based on how the product or service differs from the competitors’.
- Impact. Customers make decisions based on what the product or service will do for them.
- Quality. Customers make decisions based on the predicted reliability of the product or service.
Each of these values is influenced by many more people in the organization than the actual individuals who talk to the customer. If an organization is to be truly customer centric, then every individual within the organization must think about how they can contribute in each of these seven areas. They then are empowered, and required, to act in a way that ensures that customer values have been considered and addressed.
Know and Meet Customer Needs
A customer-centric organization pays attention to what the customer needs, which is often more intangible than the practicalities of what they value. At times, the customer may need to feel heard, need to be understood, need to know that their expectations will be satisfied or simply be assured that some promised outcome will occur.
There are practical needs, such as the customer actually getting what was purchased. This is a relatively straightforward process. However, understanding what customers need can often vary and can include far less tangible, yet extremely important, things that touch on the emotional or intellectual side.
When a customer actually feels heard, that their needs are being met and that the organization they are interacting with sees them as a human being with specific needs, then customers think very favorably about that organization and are inclined to continue dealing with them. We should not underestimate the affect that customer emotions and perceptions have on their decisions.
Leaders and staff must understand that helping the customer get what they want is key to creating an outstanding customer experience.
To satisfy these less-obvious customer needs, build a culture where individuals have the ability to address customer needs and are equipped to do so. Give employees the skills and authority to take the necessary action, and make sure line managers support them when they do so.
Meeting the customer’s need often requires interaction with many individuals within the organization. These employees might never actually talk to the customer in person, but they will be influential in giving customers they need. So, unless the organization is truly customer centric, the people who are not in customer-facing roles will fail to recognize the important part that they play in helping their colleagues who are customer-facing meet the customer need.
Leaders and staff throughout the organization must understand that helping the customer get what they want (as long as it is appropriate and reasonable) is key to creating an outstanding customer experience. This can only happen when the organization itself is customer centric.
Customers are one of the greatest sources of information about what is going on in the marketplace, what changes are necessary and how products or services need to evolve. Customer-centric organizations have mechanisms in place that allows information to flow from customers through the customer-facing staff and into the company, where it can then be processed and an action taken.
Without this flow of information, the customer-facing staff gets valuable information but completely ignores it. These employees feel as though their job is simply to complete a transaction, not to stay attuned to customers’ needs, input, observations and comments.
If the organization wants this information, encourages the customer-facing staff to share it, and then ignores it, that source and flow of information will very quickly stop. The organization then loses the benefit of that insight. Customer-centric organizations appreciate and have a process for capturing that information and acting on it.
When everyone sees the point of view and input of their customers as vital, then the organization is truly customer centric.
A customer-centric organization both empowers its employees to share information, even if that info is not welcome or anticipated, and does so knowing that this actually benefits the company. It also equips leaders to absorb this information, know what to do with it, and see that it is actioned appropriately, knowing its benefit to the company.
When these things are in place, there is a constant connection between the customer and their views and the organization and its strategies. Everyone in the organization values what the customer is saying and knows their role in being influenced by it where appropriate. When everyone sees the point of view and input of their customers as vital, then the organization is truly customer centric.